As Apple Watch details emerge, what's in it for advisers?

Apple released more information on its much-anticipated smart watch on Monday, the first of the company's products since founder Steve Jobs died.

Mar 9, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

By Alessandra Malito

As Apple gets ready to take the wraps of its much-anticipated smart watch, financial advisers — and some of the companies that work with them — see a bigger role for wearable technology in the years ahead.

For most financial advisers today, smart watches — and other wearable technology — offer more promise than practicable applications. But in the not so distant future, advisers may be able to use such technology to access client data, trade securities and transfer funds between accounts.

In fact, the promise of financial services applications within smart watches has already arrived.

Fidelity Investments has announced it will be one of the apps available for the watch on its first day. On Monday the company said it would have an app that offers users real time market updates and alerts on stocks and investments.

"Wearables is another extension, another point in the digital ecosystem and in the whole continuity of digital experiences," Velia Carboni, senior vice president of mobile at Fidelity, said.

Going forward, Ms. Carboni said the app may offer account-specific information and, she added, transactions like trades and money transfers are not off the table. Having an app that lets advisers see market updates right from their wrists allows for another level of staying informed, since they wouldn't have to interrupt a meeting to take a call or seem rude by checking their phones during a meeting, Ms. Carboni added.

Salesforce, the popular customer relationship management management software provider used by advisers, is also readying an app for the watch. That app will allow users to do everything from access data to receive important notifications to launch customized apps of their own.

“When it comes down to it, it's so important to be prepared when you're engaging with customers and giving advice,” Anna Rosenman, director of Salesforce Analytics Cloud, said.

The app, which will allow advisers to see client data in rich visualizations, is geared toward helping advisers engage in data-driven conversations with their clients, she added.

The Apple watch, which is expected to be released on April 24 and will cost anywhere from $350 to $10,000. It is expected to supplement the iPhone and will will allow users to send and receive text messages, phone calls and email.

It is the first of the company's products since founder Steve Jobs died in 2011.

There are already smart watches on the market from vendors including Samsung, LG, Microsoft and the Pebble. Some advisers have already dipped into the new technology pool with these watches as a way to stay on top of their time – literally and figuratively – and business.

Michael Anderson, a certified financial planner at True North Advisors in Dallas, wasn't looking to use his smart watch as a business tool when he first got it. His intentions were to use it as a fitness product. But now, while there are no finance apps on his Microsoft band, he still finds it helpful for work.

“Whenever anyone gets an email or text, you check your phone and see if it's something to address,” Mr. Anderson said. “You can get that information easier from your wrist if it's a notification.”

All of the smart watches on the market can help with time management, but their evolving features may benefit advisers even more as the technology evolves.

For AndroidWear, Android's platform for wearable apps, there is a portfolio management app available from Personal Capital Finance, which allows users to see all of their accounts in one place on the watch.

Firms and companies are looking into how advisers will respond to wearable technology.

Jon Patullo, managing director of technology product management at TD Ameritrade, said the firm doesn't see much demand for wearable technology products from advisers just yet, but will be able to jump on the trend when it does.

“It's definitely something we're keeping our eye on,” Mr. Patullo said. “We're well positioned with open access and our API to be able to jump on the trend if need be.” Mr. Patullo added the company's Veo software, which can be integrated in various platforms, would be a way into a smart watch application.

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