January 8, 2013

Kitces on Top 3 Topics for Advisors in 2013—Topic 2: Tablets

In this, the second in a series of blogs, we’ll take a deep dive into the second of three big issues for advisors in 2013. In the first posting, we looked at the key regulatory issues, specifically the SEC and DOL fiduciary rulemakings and prospects of an SRO for investment advisors.

In part two below, we focus on the seemingly inexorable rise of tablet technology use by advisors.

The Rise of the Tablets

Although tablets like the iPad aren't exactly new, the reality is that new technology takes time to be adopted, for software to be adapted and for advisors to begin to implement them (not to mention clients beginning to use them). As tablets begin to hit their stride, though—according to the recent Advisor Technology Survey covered in Weekend Reading, half of all advisors now own a tablet—the number of users is reaching a critical mass where the offerings of software will soon explode. Being able to use a tablet, and provide clients tools to interact using them as well. is quickly transitioning from a nice-to-have to a minimum requirement to do business. As a result, advisors are rapidly transitioning to cloud-based software—in part, because it can be easily accessed anywhere using a tablet—and software providers from CRM to portfolio reporting to financial planning are following suit.

The tablet trend will be accelerated by the fact that prices on tablets continue to decline, rather drastically. Acer is anticipated to launch a 7-inch version of an Android tablet in 2013 for a mere $99 (although it's not clear if/when it will be available in the U.S.), undercutting the $159 Kindle Fire (which already undercuts the iPad), and the Aakash 2 tablet in India may soon launch in India at a partially-subsidized-by-government price of approximately $20. If you think the trend towards tablets has been explosive so far, wait until they're cheaper in the next year or two than what you paid for a smartphone just a few years ago - not to mention becoming cheap enough you could actually have several around your house, for each family member or even installed in the wall controlling the lights and thermostat of every room. Just add voice activation and it will be like living on the Starship Enterprise with a central computer to respond to your every whim and demand.

Granted, the ubiquity of a tablet controlling every room of your house may still be a few years out, but the trend is underway. Pew Research recently found that by mid-2012, 25% of American adults already own a tablet; two years prior, it was only 4%. And for most of that astonishing two-year adoption period, the only choices available cost $500+, making them outright unaffordable to a large segment of the population. With the latest Kindle Fire now available for only a third of that cost, and more competition driving prices even lower, 2013 is poised to become the year when not just advisors, but most clients have tablets, and those clients will expect to interact with their financial plan in the same way they do all the other key aspects of their lives.

While the software and technology choices to support this trend are now still in the early stages, expect an explosion on this front in 2013 as the rapid growth of the tablet marketplace makes "available on tablet" a requirement instead of a feature for most software providers serving advisors and their clients.

The good news is that means the tools and choices available for advisors to deliver a better experience to clients will soon be incredible; the bad news is that means advisors will have new choices to make about what software to use and how to implement it within their firms and with their clients.

The bottom line is that we are about to see how the delivery of financial planning and the ongoing monitoring of a plan will really begin to change as financial planning enters the digital age.

Look for the remaing posts in this series on AdvisorOne.

For additional reporting on what 2013 will bring for the economy, the markets and advisors, please visit AdvisorOne's Outlook 2013 home page.

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