January 28, 2010

Apple's iPad Is Example of "Disruptive" Technology, Says Black Diamond's Reed Colley

Portfolio reporting firm makes its own inroads into advisor market; hires former Schwab executive Welling

Apple Inc.'s new iPad tablet computer--or expanded iPhone or Apple Touch, depending on your point of view--is an example of a disruptive technology that may change advisors' lives, says Reed Colley, CEO of Black Diamond, the portfolio management and reporting software company whose product competes with the likes of Advent. Colley, 33, knows something about technology's impact on conducting an effective advisory practice: while he says his company has been "relatively flying under the radar," it now has 175 mostly RIA firms using his Web-based software, reporting on $35 billion held in 110,000 accounts.

Black Diamond hopes to get onto more radar screens--and advisors' workstations--by hiring this month Dave Welling, the former Schwab Advisor Services practice management expert, to raise its profile among both RIAs and within the independent broker/dealer community. Welling said one of the first things he did as a strategic advisor to Black Diamond before going fulltime was to form an advisory board of clients to both help guide the firm's efforts, and to provide a community that could help each other.

Colley, who built "our entire application--the original version," says Black Diamond plans a new version of that application in the second half of this year called Blue Sky that he thinks represents "a paradigm shift--though I hate that term; it's overused--for the industry." Blue Sky will permit advisors to take a "Next Gen platform that allows them to build the application themselves. They take the content we have and select those pages of content into objects that are meaningful for them and what they do." On the mobile side, "we're moving to more of a digestible content, but it better have a ton of power behind it," he says. That content will then be "distributed into mobile devices, to iPads--technology that is social, networked, shared--there will be a huge shift coming into the mobile world in this industry," if not this year, then in 2011, he says.

Welling adds that "most advisors don't have the time or expertise to think about these things; our clients rely on us to think about the future, to apply the technology that's out there for them and their businesses."

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