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Industry Spotlight > Broker Dealers

On the Workbench at AFS: Online Trading, but Not Yet Mobile

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Terry Thorsen knows all about mom-and-pop shops. As the founder of New York-based Automated Financial Services, which provides front-office software, Thorsen knows first hand how important it is to build a product from the ground up, especially one that reps will want to use.

A computer programmer by trade, Thorsen originally launched his firm with the online brokerage company K. Aufhauser & Co. in the 1990s. But after Aufhauser was sold to Ameritrade, Thorsen began licensing AFS to other broker/dealer businesses, which then farm the platform out to their own reps.

Because the platform is entirely Web-based, advisors don’t need to spend as much time managing the technology, says Thorsen. “Some have a fear that if they don’t have the data stored on their own hard drive, they can’t get it,” he says. “But that’s a little paranoid. We don’t ever block access.”

Since the firm’s platform is Web-based, the product is fairly mobile as an advisor can log on from any desktop with an Internet connection. However, Thorsen admits he has been getting some requests for building a PDA-friendly version. “In the late ’90s a few firms created mobile trading platforms online for reps,” says Thorsen. “But that didn’t catch on. Now PDAs are more prevalent so there’s more interest.”

Still, Thorsen cautions that no firm is likely to make its full platform PDA-accessible. “I don’t think that’s what people want,” he says. “The whole point is to get quick access to data, like client information, or a quote and maybe place a trade.”

Thorsen says AFS is looking into creating a mobile-ready version of its platform and hopes to offer it at some point in the future. It’s not the time that it would take to create the program that’s holding him back, he says. Thorsen just wants to make sure there are enough advisors that would want it– and broker/dealers that would pay for it. “American society is already putting in a 12-hour workday by checking in on their Blackberries and mobile phones,” he says. “But a full analysis of a client’s portfolio is something an advisor does from his desk chair. We’re turning into a mobile society. But advisors, I think, are more office-bound.”