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Steve Jobs and Advisors: His Legacy and Ongoing Influence

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Why Jobs Makes a Difference

In 2010, Investment Advisor magazine celebrated its 30th anniversary. In May of that year, in the issue wherein we normally announce the IA25, we included Steve Jobs as one of the 30 most influential people in and around the advisor universe, such as cover “boy” John Bogle (below) over the prior 30 years. With the death on Oct. 5, 2011, of Jobs—cofounder of Apple and the marketing and design genius behind the Macintosh, the iPhone and iPad—we thought it appropriate to share the reasons why he was included in that list of notables, and why his influence has and will be felt not merely by consumers but by advisors for years to come. 

At the time we acknowledged that “the average advisor does not use a Macintosh at work, and Blackberries are far more common in advisor cellphone holsters than iPhones” (though that is one area that is changing). But we also wrote that “independent advisors couldn’t exist without the user interface approach that Apple’s Steve Jobs popularized, and his company’s commitment to making personal computers that could easily be used by non-technical folks.” 

We invite you to scroll through the following slides to hear from Investment Advisor Group contributors and staff over the years on the why and the how of Jobs’ influence in advisors’ lives and the current and future economy.

The iPad’s Growing Influence

As recently as late September, Investment Advisor Managing Editor Danielle Andrus reported on how announcements of new applications from Advisor Software and Pacific Life highlight mobile technology’s increasing influence on the way advisors do business.

For example, Advisor Software’s new app, goalGetter, allows consumers to drag icons representing financial goals like buying a house and paying for college or retirement onto a savings timeline. GoalGetter computes the affordability of the goal based on a user’s savings and annual growth rate, and determines how much the user would need to set aside each month.

Consumers can then email the findings to their spouse or advisor to create a more detailed plan.

More prosaically, perhaps, but just as telling, Pacific Life’s Retirement Solutions Division launched an iPad app for its sales team. 

Using the Tools Available: Putnam

Pacific Life’s wholesalers aren’t the only ones using iPad apps. In announcing in April its new Fund Visualizer website for advisors, and which received a major update in September, Putnam Investments’ Brian Kelley said that all of Putnam’s salespeople are now equipped with iPads.

Kelley suggested that the use of mobile technology at Putnam has been spurred by CEO Bob Reynolds, who in an earlier interview pointed to an iPad and said, bluntly, “That’s the future.”

Alexei Bayer: Finding the Next Google

In his December 2007 column for Research magazine, Alexei Bayer (below)  recalled his arrival at Columbia University’s school of engineering in the mid-1970s. One student explained why he was transferring to medicine, Bayer recalls. “’Technological progress is pretty much over,” he explained to me. ‘Most of the obvious things have already been invented.’ That was probably the misstatement of the century, coming as it did when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were welding together the world’s first personal computer.

Over the next three decades, the technological revolution wreaked dramatic changes in society, … The financial services industry was probably the most profoundly affected by the new technologies, in a variety of ways ranging from how we save and invest to what we invest in.”

Bayer concluded: “One lesson from the technology revolution is that it doesn’t produce products to fill existing needs. On the contrary, many new products generated demand by altering behavior, starting with the personal computer.”

The original iPod in 1999, and an iPhone 3GS in 2009.Apple as Paradigm for the Future

In June 2008, Research magazine celebrated its 30th anniversary with a look ahead at the next 30 years. Author Shoshanna Zuboff asked “How Will the Industry Transform Itself?” and suggested that we stood at “a classic turning point in the history of capitalism, when changing social values and needs outrun the pace of institutional change.”

To address that mismatch, Zuboff called for a new “enterprise logic, which she defined as a “commercial framework that links producers and consumers together according to an entirely new pattern.” Henry Ford accomplished that new enterprise logic with mass production.

“One of the most stunning recent examples of this kind of breakthrough,” she wrote, “came from Steve Jobs and his team at Apple. Between 1999 and 2003, sales of recorded music fell 25 percent as people shifted to peer-to-peer networks like Napster and Kazaa” downloading music for free.

“But instead of seeing a nation of criminal mass consumers, Jobs perceived a new kind of individual with unique desires. He launched the twin lifeboats of the iPod in 2001 and iTunes in 2003 which bypassed the old mass consumption industry structures and reunited music with each listener. Apple’s expedition into I-space was rewarded with loyalty and cash as the iPod became the Model T of a new age of individualized consumption.”

ipadDan Skiles: A Mac in Your Firm’s Future?

“For a majority of advisors,” wrote Investment Advisor’s technology coach Dan Skiles (below) of Shareholders Service Group in July 2011, “personal computers and a Microsoft Windows-based environment is the technology backbone for their office. In fact, just several years ago you would have had to search high and low to find advisors who deployed Apple products in their office.

“Today, we see many advisors using iPhones, and now iPads are becoming more common, even though this device has been available for less than 18 months. Is it now time for you to think about purchasing Macs for your office as well? I certainly wouldn’t call this a cutting-edge technology decision, because there is a growing group of advisors using Macs, but nonetheless it is not a simple decision. As with most technology decisions, it primarily depends on the specific needs of your firm to determine if this is a good idea.”

Tablets as a Differentiator

Investment Advisor’s October 2011 cover story tells the story of Trust Company of America, an upstart custodian with a TAMP heritage that is making waves partly through the use, wrote IA Editor-in-Chief John Sullivan, of a “cutting-edge push into tablet technology.” TCA President and CEO Frank Maiorano credits Chief Information Officer Dennis Noto with matching the functionality of the company’s legacy technology with a modernized “user experience and functionality.”

“He does a tremendous amount of homework and research,” Maiorano says of Noto in the article. “We’re not trying to be an Apple shop, but he is an Apple fan. The fact that the technology we’re releasing doesn’t have to have a user’s manual, needs only three screens to achieve any needed function and the client experience looks exactly like the experience the advisor sees.”

That in itself is a clear expression of Steve Jobs’ legacy, and of the high bar he has set when it comes to technology. Technology not only has to perform functions well and quickly, but the user—the human using that tool—must be able to intuitively work with the machine.