Bill Winterberg: The 2013 IA 25 Extended Profile

Morningstar Advisor Tech Columnist

This is Bill Winterberg’s first appearance on the IA 25. Click here to view the complete list and Special Report schedule for extended profiles for each of the 2013 IA 25 honorees.

Bill Winterberg, a certified financial planner with a bullish view on the future of technology in the advisor space, describes himself as squarely positioned in the Gen X/Gen Y demographic.

A tech columnist for Morningstar Advisor and tech contributor to the Financial Planning Association’s (FPA) Journal of Financial Planning, Winterberg also consults with advisors on choosing the right solutions for their practices. His experience comes from his background as an embedded software engineer for Hewlett-Packard Co. and app-heavy LeapFrog Toys.

“I’m financial advisors’ best opportunity or worst nightmare, depending on their technological capabilities,” said the Atlanta-based road warrior who spends about one-third of his year traveling around the country as a consultant and speaker.

For those who can’t see him live, no problem. Winterberg is founder and CEO of FPPad.com, a website designed to provide technology insights about financial planning. FPPad offers regular video broadcasts featuring Winterberg and guests discussing topics ranging from Internet security to reviews of Windows 8 and opinions about the iPad.

“I do my best to walk the walk by embracing video, by pushing out iTunes podcasts and by reaching out to the advisor audience in as many convenient ways as possible,” Winterberg said.

Asked to identify the main tech issues that advisors now face, he said their primary challenge is distinguishing themselves not only against other FAs but also against online financial advice platforms. “You’ve got to be different by focusing on the intangibles of advice, including the emotional factors, the behavioral factors and the aspects of planning that can’t be systematized or automated by a computer program.”

Further, he said, consumers are turning up the volume on their call for transparency, and online companies such as 401(k) research firm BrightScope are providing a window into that world along with information about how advisors get paid.

As for current trends he’s seeing, Winterberg pointed to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s recent decision to allow publicly traded firms to post announcements on social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn and public Facebook pages. He also sees big data making a greater impact on financial advice in the future, with advisors using marketing data about consumers to build portfolios based on demographics such as age and annual income.

Meanwhile, Winterberg said, advisors will do more to use social intelligence to influence their communication with clients. He named his tech-savvy friend and fellow financial-planning consultant (and fellow IA 25 honoree) Michael Kitces as a case in point.

“Michael and I are in a study group together and--I can brag a little bit here--I told him, ‘Michael, you’ve got to get on Twitter.’ I had 1,000 followers at the time, and he had zero. Now, he has more than 7,000 followers, and I’m just below 5,000.”

Winterberg named other trends and issues, from mobile push notifications to whether or not text messages can be used to make trade requests. They can’t – for now – which brings him to make one final point: Five years down the road, all the trends he sees now may have disappeared because tech changes so fast.

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