Schwab launches software that lets RIAs customize mobile apps

This version lets RIAs use their own branding; apps can be submitted to Apple or Google stores

Feb 24, 2014 @ 10:39 am

By Joyce Hanson

Schwab Performance Technologies announced Monday the rollout of Schwab OpenView Mobile, a customizable application that registered investment advisers can use to create a branded mobile presence for their firms.

A subsidiary of The Charles Schwab Corp., Schwab Performance Technologies will help individual firms create their own branded apps, and then firms can submit the apps to the Google Play and iTunes stores, according to a statement from the company.

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Advisers' customized apps will include their firm's logo along with contact details, icons, colors, a web link, adviser news and real-time data on holdings information and customer accounts.

Brian Shenson, vice president of adviser technology services, said the new product can help RIAs scale their businesses and stay competitive with larger financial services providers by giving them more sophisticated mobile engagement with clients.

“We are open for business,” Mr. Shenson said, noting that OpenView Mobile was first announced at the Schwab Impact 2013 conference in November, but has just now come out of its pilot program.

Already, four customized adviser apps have gone live and about a dozen apps are in development, he said, adding that the Google Play or iTunes approval process takes about two weeks.

“We work with the adviser and guide them through the process,” Mr. Shenson said. “For advisers, this is something they're not familiar with on their own.”

The initial cost to advisers of building an app through Schwab is $5,000, including development and a license fee, and there is also a $2,000 annual service fee.

The new product launch was partly driven by findings in Schwab's 2013 RIA benchmarking study, which showed that 73% of advisers are either now invested in or plan to invest soon in mobile technology. Mr. Shenson also cited a Forrester Research Inc. study saying that 89% of age 55-plus U.S. consumers have a mobile device.

To be sure, big custodians including Fidelity Institutional and TD Ameritrade Institutional also have mobile app products on offer for advisers, but unlike Schwab, no other custodian offers custom-branded apps to advisers, Mr. Winterberg, founder of technology consulting firm FPPad, wrote in an e-mail.

“However,” Mr. Winterberg added, “Orion Advisor Services has been doing this for their clients since January 2011, so this is not new technology. It's just new among custodians.”

Ed O'Brien, senior vice president of Fidelity Institutional's platform technology, said Fidelity WealthCentral's mobile strategy gives advisers and clients online access to account balances and positions, but advisers who want their own branded app must work with third-party data app providers and then retrieve client account data via Fidelity.

“This lets them build just one app with access to multiple custodians,” Mr. O'Brien said. “If they go down the path of building their own, they want one application that their clients can use and go custodian by custodian. It's consistent with offering an open platform.”

TD Ameritrade Institutional's AdvisorClient product prominently displays advisers' information, but the product is co-branded with TDAI.

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