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Survey results draw a picture of tech-savvy advisers

Leading trends include greater use of compliance software, a re-balancing response to robo advisers and figuring out mobile

Jul 23, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

By Joyce Hanson

There's a dog-eared copy of last year's copy of InvestmentNews' “most popular tech products” survey sitting on my desk, and it's finally time to retire it. The 2014 Technology Usage and Satisfaction Survey is in — all shiny and new and full of useful information. It publishes Monday, but I can give you a sneak peek.

In taking a closer look at the rich data that respondents submitted, I came away with a picture of a typical tech-savvy adopter/buyer/user in the adviser space. That adviser is more likely to be an independent registered investment adviser than a registered rep at a broker-dealer. Assets under management range from $10 million to $99.9 million. The primary custodian is most likely to be Schwab Advisor Services or Pershing Advisor Solutions, and the top products used are Redtail Technologies Inc.'s customer relationship management platform, MoneyGuidePro's financial-planning system and Albridge Wealth Solutions Inc.'s Wealth Reporting account aggregation tool.

So what trends do the results of this fourth annual survey show? To sum it up in a few words, compliance software is on the upswing, re-balancing software is helping more advisers compete with so-called “robo advisers,” and human advisers are still figuring out how to go mobile.

The rising use of compliance software is striking. Of the 1,100 survey respondents this year, more than 71% said they now use compliance software, whether on their broker-dealer platform, as an outsourced service or in a product provider's offering. In 2013, 66.1% of respondents said they used compliance software, and in 2012, only 38% of advisers were using it.

Personally, I was interested to see whether more advisers would be using re-balancing tools in 2014, considering many so-called “robo advisers” rely on algorithm-driven software to automatically rebalance client portfolios. The results are in, and the answer is yes. Fully 52.2% of advisers as of 2014 are using portfolio re-balancing tools, versus just 45.0% in 2013 and 37.5% in 2012.

As for mobile, the data suggest advisers enjoy using mobile devices, yet they're still figuring out how to use them in their practices. For example, while 66.7% said they use a tablet device, 86.1% of advisers said a skimpy 0% to 25% of their advisory work is actually performed on a mobile device, whether it's a smartphone or a tablet. Out of the 1,062 advisers who answered the question about mobile use, 74.8% said it most often involves contacting clients from their smartphones via e-mail, text or phone call — and very few advisers, only 4.2%, said they make trades on their smartphones.

To be sure, advisers love their Apple iPads, but not as much as they did last year. In 2014, iPad use has fallen to 77.5% of advisers, down from 85.0% last year, as more advisers move toward Android-based and Windows tablets. And a new entrant has arisen in the field of competitors, with 1.8% of respondents reporting they use the Amazon Kindle Fire.

Advisers also named their favorite industry mobile applications, and here, custodians came out the winners. Pershing's NetX360 app drew the largest response, at 14.6% of advisers, followed by Schwab Advisor Center, at 9.7%, TD Ameritrade Institutional's VeoMobile, at 8.7%, and WealthCentral by Fidelity, at 7.3%. Meanwhile, The Vanguard Group is giving the custodians a run for their money, with 5.8% of advisers saying they use the Vanguard for Advisors app.

More will be available Monday when the survey findings are published online at InvestmentNews.com/2014advisertech. Also note: On July 28, InvestmentNews will re-launch its product directory, which currently names 203 products in nine categories. Watch our TechConnect web page for more details.

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