May 11, 2012

Top 10 Technology Trends for Advisors and Their Partners, Pt. 3: Mobility

In the previous post of our twelve-part blog series on the Top 10 Technology Trends, we discussed how cheaper storage, more and faster processing power and greater bandwidth and communications speeds will—and are—affecting your businesses now. The second trend we will discuss in this post is Mobility.

The world is going mobile, and fast. According to IDC, in 2010, the sales by number of mobile computing devices (smartphones and tablets) for the first time exceeded the number of PC sales. Globally, there are more than 6 billion monthly cellular subscribers. That’s 6 billion, out of a total world population of only about 7 billion that year.

What does this mean for financial enterprises and advisors? Quite simply, firms need to acknowledge that advisors and clients are accessing accounts via mobile devices. In practical terms, firms will need to ensure that their websites and online resources are mobile compatible. What might look good on a PC may not work at all on mobile devices.

For example, some financial advisor websites use Flash as the technology that powers the user interface (Flash is an online software product that enables animation). Unfortunately, Apple devices, such as iPhones and iPads, do not support Flash. That means firms need to focus resources on ensuring that their online tools are optimized to work in a mobile environment. 

In addition, mobile computing introduces an entirely new security issues. Obviously mobile devices are easier to steal. Where does client data reside? How secure are passwords? As mobile computing advances at light speed, it will be important for firms to stay current with the latest technologies to meet clients’ expectations. At the same time, firms will want to step back and not get caught up in the latest mobile “bells and whistles” until the security ramifications are clearly understood.

It is important for advisors and institutions to realize that their clients are going to increasingly expect that the tasks that they can perform on their mobile devices with other businesses such as looking up information, contacting employees and conducting simple analyses will spill over into the advisory space.  Within five years, every advisor and institution will need to have a credible mobile offering or risk becoming irrelevant.  

For example, Orion already allows individual advisory practices to create custom-branded mobile client access applications. Most financial plan vendors also offer mobile compatible applications for client and advisor access.

For advisors and firms who are proactive, mobile computing can be a source of competitive advantage. There are new rules and ways of doing business that are being formed around how advisors can market, sell, communicate, collaborate, educate, train and innovate using mobility. 

Any discussion of mobility would be incomplete without discussing the explosion in tablet computing.  Tablets are becoming the mobile professional’s new device of choice.  According to a March 2012 Business Intelligence report, tablets are expected to pass PC sales within three years.  The explosion in the number and variety of apps that are designed for mobile devices is very impressive – as of today the app market is worth $10 billion, growing at 100% per year (source: Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins).  Advisors can expect that almost everything they can do on their computer they will be able to do on their tablet and smartphone. 

Here’s the bottom line: Enterprises need to invest in determining the optimal way to deliver their functionality to advisors and clients effectively via mobile devices and realize that their users will increasingly expect this.  Financial advisors have a chance to transform and improve the way they interact with their colleagues and clients using mobile tools and devices. 

Those who adopt these trends now will have a jump start on their competitors.  

In the next blog, the fourth in this twelve-part series on Top 10 Technology Trends for advisors and the institutions with with they partner, we will discuss the third trend, “The Integrated Workstation.”

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