June 14, 2010

For Pershing's Kumar, Mobile Apps Are the Future Now for Advisors

IPad version of NetX360 follows iPhone, Blackberry apps; Android in development

When Pershing's chief information officer, Suresh Kumar, talks about Pershing LLC's NetX360 platform that just celebrated its one-year anniversary, he's understandably excited about the 70% adoption rate of NetX360 among the more than 100,000 broker/dealer and RIA users of the platform, which was rolled out during the Pershing Insite conference in June 2009. (Lucille Meyer, a Pershing managing director in charge of technology products and services, adds that the adoption rate among Pershing's RIA users is at 84%.) He's thrilled as well about the platform's "enterprise-class smart workflow programs," including a checklist application that is undergoing feasibility testing now and will move into beta testing by August 2010, and about its ability to help many of those 100,000 users comply with the IRS's new cost-basis reporting rule for stock, dividend, and mutual fund trading that goes into effect on January 1, 2011, noting that "we have seven years of trading data" on the system.

But what really gets him animated are the mobile versions of NetX360 that the clearing and custody firm is rolling out for its users. On June 11, Pershing announced that it was making available to its users a beta version of the platform for Apple iPad users, following similar versions already introduced in 2009 for the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile users. In an exclusive interview on the prior day that included Meyer, Kumar said his team is also working on a version for Google's Android smartphone technology for release later this year.

In Kumar's vision, the iPad's portability, its connectability to cellular networks with increasingly big pipes for data (such as the 4G networks now being rolled out by the cellular carriers), and its relatively big screen make it the perfect device on which advisors can directly and visually communicate with clients, in person, either at the advisor's office, the client's home, or in places such as restaurants where the advisor might casually encounter a client. Demonstrating an alpha version of the iPad application during the June 10 interview, Kumar displayed the many account views available for client viewing and advisor action, all of which will have the same security levels as the desktop version of NetX360.

Ever the practical technologist as well as a tech visionary (both he and Meyer have been writing code for nearly 30 years), Kumar says that while Pershing took the deliberate step of "investing in creating a native app for the iPad," nevertheless the "greatest single productivity move" an advisor could take would be to "add more memory" to whatever computer they're working on.

Kumar acknowledged that while some advisors might not be so quick to use an iPad, he nevertheless believed that the Apple tablet computer or a similar advice will not only help differentiate the advisor among clients, but marks a major turning point for society that approaches the business and personal world change that widespread adoption of the Internet itself caused.

"We're doing all this to help clients grow their businesses and differentiate themselves," said Meyer, summing up Pershing's approach to technology. "Not efficiency for efficiency's sake, but efficiency so the end client is always happy."

Read about Pershing's overall strategy in an exclusive report from John Sullivan following an interview with the Pershing leadership team, including CEO Rich Brueckner, on June 11.

Pershing advises that NetX360 for mobile devices can be downloaded directly to the iPhone and will be available via iPad by searching for NetX360 in the App store or via iTunes. To access the BlackBerry and Windows Mobile versions of NetX360, users are directed to go to http://mobile.netx360.com/download.

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