From the April 2009 issue of Boomer Market Advisor • Subscribe!

April 1, 2009

What's next for advisor tech?

Gathering insight on the changing technology trends and challenges advisors face, I turned to Marvin Clark, chief technology officer for Woodbury Financial Services Inc -- the broker/dealer arm of The Hartford. Marvin has been in his current position since 2007. Prior to that he worked for Ameriprise Financial where he was director of advisor online servicing.

Marc Butler:
From a technology standpoint, what do you see as industry trends or challenges affecting advisors this year?
Marvin Clark:
Efficiency is a major theme this year amongst advisors and broker/dealers. While the day-to-day activities an advisor performs haven't changed, what has changed is the technology to help drive efficiency. A continued trend that started a few years ago, and that we continue to think is critical, is integration between applications. What I see more of today is a greater willingness and partnership amongst technology providers to offer advisors an integrated desktop. From Woodbury's standpoint, we view this as a very positive development and think it is aligned with the direction we are going in.

Butler: On that point, what are your advisors asking from you in the way of technology tools, and how has the market disruption of the last few months affected that?
Clark:
Advisors want to see that we are still committed to delivering new technology solutions regardless of what is taking place in the market. We are viewing this downturn as an opportunity and are doing more on the technology front than we probably ever have. One of the bigger trends that we have seen and expect to continue to see is the drive towards a paperless office for advisors. We believe the paperless office is the new paradigm. This ties back to the trend we've seen amongst advisors to drive efficiency by minimizing or eliminating paper and the societal desire to go green.

Butler: You've been around technology tools for advisors most of your career. What "must-have" tools advice do you have?
Clark:
I have been a part of studies on this topic which show that advisors who have integrated technology tools, such as portfolio management and CRM, grow their businesses faster as a result of the increased efficiency. One of the things I would stress is that it's not always about the tools with the most bells and whistles; it is more important to have a set of solutions that are capable of integrating with each other.

Butler: What should advisors be looking for in a technology solutions provider?
Clark:
First of all, advisors should look at the technology offerings their broker/dealer makes available. Most advisors don't want to be in the technology business, nor should they have to be. Advisors should also feel comfortable with the strategic direction their broker/dealer is taking as it relates to technology. Woodbury's theme is to load data once, use it many times, and share it with advisors to help them drive efficiency. We also look for how portable the data is. In the event that an advisor needs to move from or to another technology provider, portability becomes critical. Portability also becomes important in succession planning. If it's easy for the buyer of an advisory practice to transition the data of the retiring advisor into their own practice, it will make the transition that much smoother for customers as well.

Marc Butler is managing director with iNautix (USA) LLC, an affiliate of Pershing LLC in Jersey City, N.J. He can be reached at mbutler@inautix.com.

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.