Investments in technology to empower reps at their desks, or virtually anywhere, is a common theme that ties into all aspects of the independent broker/dealer industry, from client relationship management to clearing to statements to compliance. Technology has in some cases leveled the playing field, giving equal footing to small, nimble firms, and large B/Ds that have scale. Technology integration of all services to a hosted environment on the Web is something Commonwealth Financial is working on, says CEO, Joe Deitch, so that a rep can work from anywhere she has access to the Web. This would give reps connectivity in normal times as well as add a layer of risk management–the ability to change their physical location if necessary at the drop of a hat–something that’s top of mind this year after natural disasters displaced so many people.

LPL’s Mark Casady takes a slightly different tack: LPL self-clears, says the B/D’s president, making advisors more efficient and enabling LPL to lower ticket charges. He says the firm has invested significantly in technology service center personnel, and a research department to provide functions that advisors can outsource to LPL–rent-a-capability–so if you need technical assistance, you call LPL’s techs, and reps don’t have to have their own technology personnel unless they choose to.

For smaller B/Ds, it’s not necessary to create everything in house, and from scratch; outsourcing can be extremely helpful. For clearing, technology, statements, and continuing education, American Portfolios’ president, Lon Dolber, argues that if you have a small firm, “you can’t build everything in house. Find the best, integrate it into your platform, and serve the customer. Stick to your core competency,” he says, “and outsource the other stuff.”