I just returned from the TD Ameritrade Institutional (TDAI) conference in Orlando, Fla. Outside it was cold and rainy, by the way.
Inside, the overlying theme was technology. From announcing easy access dashboard functionality for advisers to the Veo Village of current or future Veo-integrated solution providers, to a variety of speakers on the use of technology in advisers' practices, TDAI's message to advisers was clear: It's time to embrace technology.
(Plus: See more of InvestmentNews' coverage of TDAI 2014)
What fascinated me was not just the push for technology's role in an efficiently run practice. Rather, it was the need for client-facing technology.
Panels and speakers such as Bill Winterberg and Joel Bruckenstein emphasized that as investors become more tech savvy and younger investors enter the client pool, advisers must utilize sophisticated technology and communicate using cutting-edge tools to woo and keep clients.
Using himself as an example, Bill Winterberg explained his approach to choosing his new CPA. Beginning with a Google search, Bill narrowed the field to those who had websites that were easy to find. He scrutinized each site, looking for clues on the firm's client approach and use of technology.
Did they focus on the client (words like "you" and "your") or on themselves ("we" and "our")? Were they tech savvy enough to use video on their website? Was the site easy to navigate and uncluttered? The firm that ultimately won his business had visible evidence of efficient technology use: each employee had dual monitors and their own scanner!
Looks and image aside, Joel Bruckenstein and technology "Next Gen" panels suggested that advisers use advanced tools such as client portals, interactive client sites, two-way online messaging, virtual meetings and secure file sharing for communicating with clients.
There was much talk about "robo-advisers." Rather than feeling threatened by these offerings, the experts recommended learning from them. By combining the convenience of online tools and personal contact, registered investment advisers will be able to grow and thrive.
The bottom line: As far as technology goes, advisers need to talk the talk and walk the walk.
What do you think? Are you talking the talk and walking the walk? What hurdles have you overcome and what remains troublesome? Join the conversation below.
Sheryl Rowling is chief executive of Total Rebalance Expert and principal at Rowling & Associates. She considers herself a non-techie user of technology.