I'm always leery when someone tells me a technology application changed their life. A colleague's recent "life changing" excitement over a new smartphone was persuasive, but the real reason I looked into it was because my cell phone subscription was expiring. Soon after purchasing, I realized there is much more to it than the "cool" factor.
For financial advisors, smartphones have attributes important in any technology platform. You shouldn't feel the need to get rid of your desktop or laptop computers, but these phones have the potential to change how advisors work for the better. Granted you may already have one, but here are three refresher lessons why a smartphone is worth consideration and how it could do wonders for your boomer client relationship.
It's more than a phone -- Many smartphones also have calendars, GPS systems, connectivity to e-mail systems, Internet browsers, contact management capabilities, a music player and digital jukebox, a camera and the ability to report the weather. And that's just what's included. A number of Web-based applications used by advisors have been modified specifically to work on some of these smart phones, and the number of applications is increasing every day.
For example, if you use Salesforce.com, it has an application that works on Apple's iPhone to manage your leads and view dashboards that you've already set up on the salesforce.com Web site. The Blackberry Storm has a Facebook application for download, which is increasingly popular for businesses that cater to X and Y generations. If you use eMoney Advisor, you're able to access your client lists and see up-to-date information on the iPhone. For your clients, they can update their accounts, view their documents and collaborate with you on the eMoney application.
Ease of use -- We have previously talked about how important it is for technology applications to be developed with ease-of-use in mind. How usable an application is will impact how it is used and how often. While there are usability differences among different smart phones that might be attractive or unattractive based on personal preferences, most provide icons to different applications that are easily understood. These devices have significantly upgraded in an area welcome by most advisors: they now have viewing capabilities for documents similar to what you'd find on a laptop or desktop computer. While the screen is obviously smaller, documents, spreadsheets and presentations can easily be brought up, viewed and expanded.
Integration opportunities -- It is also important for applications to seamlessly share remote data which is centrally stored. Whether you use an Apple Macintosh or Microsoft Windows compatible computer in your office, you'll have the ability to synchronize contacts, email, calendars and files with the smart phone. Each smartphone has different levels of competence in this area, so it's important to understand each before making a selection. In some instances, after an initial setup, this synchronization can be fully automated.
Smartphones are something advisors with a need, or desire, to work remotely should consider. Generally speaking, each of these phones is easy of use and provides the ability to integrate with existing Web-based applications. The ability of smartphones to share data across different computers makes the promise of the virtual office without wires increasingly realistic. Whatever you decide, be sure to do your homework. Each model has its own strengths and areas of needed improvement. Whether or not a smartphone will change your life isn't as important as the potential for it to make you more efficient, and help to better serve your boomer clients.
Marc Butler is managing director with iNautix (USA) LLC, an affiliate of Pershing LLC in Jersey City, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.