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Question for advisers: Why did Verizon buy dial-up dinosaur AOL?

Because the company has its sights on mobile, and so should you

May 15, 2015 @ 4:43 pm

By Alessandra Malito

Advisers can learn a thing or two from Verizon Inc., which last week said it would spend $4.4 billion to acquire AOL. It seems strange, given that AOL is known for its archaic dial-up system and the scratchy tone that comes with it, but Verizon saw value in the company.

Why? Because its sights are set on mobile.

Maybe this story might sound familiar to financial advisers, given that they have heard time and time again about the inevitability of a mobile-centric mentality. But the Verizon-AOL deal is yet another confirmation that any antiquated system is going to have to get a mobile makeover or it won't survive.

“It does make a great example for financial advisers,” said Walter Lis, a digital marketing strategist who works with financial advisers, referring to the big deal. “The percentage of mobile traffic is increasing exponentially every month.”

It's true.

In a memo from AOL chairman and chief executive Tim Armstrong to his employees, he credited the rising mobile movement to the company's potential success. He said that in order to lead, the company would have to lead in mobile.

Investors have already caught on.

According to a recent InvestmentNews research study on the future of advice, 82.5% of investors under 35 years old use smartphones to access their financial account information. For investors 35-44 years old, that number is 71.9%. Tablets weren't too far off, with 51.7% of investors under 35 using them for financial account information and 48.1% for investors 35-44.

FINANCIAL INFO IN ONE PLACE

One way in which advisers can provide that personal, mobile experience is by offering client portals, where clients can view their portfolios and track their goals from their mobile devices.

“The phone becomes a primary device to review things whenever you want and in any environment you want,” Rich Ellinger, founder of Wealthminder, a online financial planning platform for advisers with whom adviser Sheryl Garrett recently teamed up. Whether they're sitting on their couches or out and about one evening, clients can have peace of mind knowing they can always review their accounts.

Mr. Ellinger said in the financial services industry, there's been a slower rate of growth in mobile, due in part to the average older-aged adviser. But mobile adoption isn't too far.

“That will come with the next generation of advisers,” Mr. Ellinger said.

The next step for Wealthminder, he added, is to have an app that will direct clients' to their portal and provide push notifications about their accounts.

MOBILE CHECKUP

The benefits of using mobile devices are ease and efficiency. How quickly users can find a business on a search engine and then connect with those business owners usually determines how successful that company is at engaging with clients via mobile.

Google began its Get Your Business Online initiative this spring to promote local businesses by providing searchers with a quick Yellow Pages-styled entry at the top of the results.

When advisers register their businesses on Google for free, mobile users searching for the business will see contact information, business hours and a picture. Advisers can check if their businesses show up to mobile users with another Google test.

“Claiming your space on Google and allowing them to know who you are … so much is driven off of that, and a lot of that shows up in search results,” Mr. Lis said.

That's how Tyler Gray, founder of SageOak Financial in Tulsa, Okla., gained two clients. They told him they had contacted him specifically because he had a mobile-friendly website.

Google recently switched its mobile search engine algorithm to weigh mobile-friendly websites more heavily in search results. Advisers can check if their websites are mobile-friendly with a Google website test.

“That's one thing about the adviser community I noticed when I made the transition to financial planning. It seems whatever everyone is doing today, the adviser community might get to it in five to 10 years,” Mr. Gray said. “If we're lucky.”

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