IN Daily Opinion/Column

Why the iPad will change the advice business

Brokers, planners, investment managers — everybody's crazy about Apple's ubiquitous portable reader

Mar 2, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

By Evan Cooper

Remember the old days when if you saw someone talking to themselves on the street, you assumed they were nuts?

Today, of course, it seems as if millions of well-dressed, intelligent people walk around talking to themselves. Of course, they are on their cell phones, using practically invisible headsets and other gizmos to discuss important business matters. (And other weighty issues such as whether so-and-so did such-and-such with you-know-who.)

Do you remember when cell phones became ubiquitous? I don't. I remember at one point seeing or reading about gigantic walkie-talkie-boxes that a few executives used to communicate on the go, and then, before I knew it, I helping my mother and mother-in-law figure out which buttons to press.

The same thing is going to happen with iPads and similar tablet devices. Today, everyone's eyes are on Apple as they launch a new version of their wildly popular product. Its features probably will be matched or exceeded by Nokia or Motorola or who knows who else using Google or somebody else's software.

Regardless of the brand, though, tablets will change the way advisers do their business. I predict that not because I'm some kind of technology guru (our tech reporter and expert, Davis D. Janowski, will quickly confirm how technologically bewildered I am), but because I see how advisers and others are already reacting.

At the recent T3 technology conference in Florida, I attended a packed breakaway session in which advisers discussed how they use their iPad. There was active back-and-forth about free apps and low-priced apps that do a variety of different things that make an adviser's life easier.

Aside from the practical applications, what stood out for me why was how much everyone loved the devices. They're fun.

Instead of the serious faces advisers wear when discussing portfolio re-balancing software or which CRM system to buy, advisers are simply delighted to talk about iPads. They love them.

Behavioral psychologists have discovered that the emotional parts of our brain determine within a fraction of second whether we like or dislike someone new. In the case of a job candidate, for example, we then spend the next couple of minutes finding rational reasons to back up our instantaneous — and subconscious — judgment.

iPads and other tablets fall into the category of instant love. Once they have used the devices, advisers love them. As tablet usage increases, advisers will find more ways to apply them to the advice business. I can't predict what those applications or uses will be, but I'll bet real money that if you are an adviser, there's a tablet in your future.

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