LPL Financial on Tuesday announced a number of upgrades to its mobile application, including secure messaging, based on adviser feedback it has received since the app's initial launch last year.
The nation's largest independent broker-dealer initially launched LPL Financial Mobile in August 2013, and though the company has already released about half a dozen upgrades, Tuesday's announcement represents the biggest one so far, according to Victor Fetter, LPL's chief information officer.
Mr. Fetter said advisers now can see their full book of business on their smartphones or tablets, do more with social media, and read real-time news from Thomson Reuters as well as daily commentary from LPL's research team.
In addition, the upgraded app lets advisers answer clients' questions within a secure message system, he said.
“Advisers love the notion that there's a continuum coming and that we're rapidly turning around their feedback so they can build their business,” Mr. Fetter said. “They really have their book of business in their hands.”
Joel Bruckenstein, publisher of Technology Tools for Today and a co-founder of the T3 technology conferences for the finance industry, said that in addition to secure messaging, the most significant part of LPL's upgrade is its redesigned user interface, which has a simpler look and provides a sidebar menu for more seamless navigation.
“Navigation is one of those most overlooked and underappreciated elements of any software,” Mr. Bruckenstein said. “The easier the tools are, the less time a company has to spend training employees. Any time you make it easier for advisers to do stuff, that's big.”
On the other hand, James Cox, an LPL Financial affiliate and managing partner of the Harris Financial Group, in Richmond, VA., said that the biggest improvement he has seen with the app, which he uses regularly, is that he can now view all of his customer accounts while on the go. Previously, only clients who had signed up for LPL’s Account View could be seen by advisers using the mobile app.
“The information is what is most important,” Mr. Cox said. “That’s the major improvement of this release. It was a limitation, but that has been alleviated.”
While advisers have given feedback in phone calls and e-mails, the richest source of information comes from face-to-face meetings with advisers nationwide, Mr. Fetter noted. For example, he said that each of LPL's technology leaders prior to the initial launch visited six advisers over the course of 60 days. And more recently, when Mr. Fetter dined with a group of advisers in Chicago, some of them pulled out their smartphones to show him exactly what they did and didn't like about the mobile app.
“They're not shy about engaging in those conversations,” he said. “Those conversations are the fuel we use to power our agenda.”
LPL is planning further technology upgrades in 2014. According to a company statement, those planned enhancements may include a redesigned e-mail service, updates to performance reporting available in the Portfolio Manager product and a “significant upgrade” to the Resource Center online portal that the company uses to communicate with advisers.