From the May 2012 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Toys or Tools: The Mobile Revolution

Have you fully embraced everything mobile technology can do for your practice?

There’s no doubt that advisors are quickly adopting mobile technology. Everywhere I look I see iPhones, iPads, Droids and a variety of other smartphones and tablets. The question I always ask advisors is: “Do you mainly use these devices for checking email and surfing the Web, or have they really changed the way you serve your clients?” By design, these devices are powerful and should make it easier to serve your clients. Furthermore, they should be leveraged throughout all aspects of your firm—not only how you and your colleagues use them, but also how your clients will use them as they work with your firm. Fully utilizing the benefits of these devices doesn’t just happen; you need to have a defined strategy.

Whenever I speak with advisors regarding their success with mobile technology, I always ask who is in charge of the effort. If everyone at the firm uses their own preferred device as they see fit, there is a real risk that only a few members of your firm are proficient with the technology. You would never take this approach with other hardware or devices used by your firm. Today, mobile technology is reaching this same level of importance in advisory firms. Various technology solutions operate better on certain devices. For example, if your portfolio reporting system operates best on an iPad, then you don’t want your colleagues using it on an Android tablet. Assigning an owner for your mobile strategy will ensure the right device is purchased and will facilitate best practices in using the technology.

The power of truly leveraging mobile technology is greatly amplified when you are out of the office and you receive that critical demand for attention from your largest client. “Out of the office” could mean you are at Starbucks down the street or in another part of the world on vacation. As long as you have access to a secure network, your location doesn’t matter. In fact, true power users of these devices no longer use the “out of office” feature on their email, because their access to information and their ability to respond to requests doesn’t dramatically change. Many advisors take pride in this extra level of service. 

Mobile technology is also changing the way your clients access information. Suppose you email your clients regarding the recent market volatility. How does the email look on their mobile device? Do the links to additional information work properly? It is unlikely that they are going to read the email again on their personal computer if it doesn’t look good.

It is a best practice for advisors to connect and establish some level of relationship with the second generation of their clients’ wealth. Even if you have clients in their 80s who have no desire to use technology, it’s a safe bet that their children have taken the time to review your firm. They might use a mobile device to do this research.

It is easy to leverage mobile technology and see a positive impact in your work. But perhaps it is too easy if you believe it doesn’t require much of your attention or focus. Don’t make the mistake of being too casual about how you use mobile technology. Even if you are not a “power user,” it is important to at least be familiar with the experience or assign this responsibility to someone in your firm who uses mobile devices—someone who can make informed judgments about the usability of mobile apps and the aesthetics of Web pages rendered on mobile devices. In addition, multitasking with mobile devices can easily make you feel much busier, which may mislead you into thinking you are more productive. If you forget that the goal is to make you more efficient, you can easily confuse mere activity with real progress.

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