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Advisor iPad App Allows Client Reviews to Go Anywhere

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Registered investment advisors have been notoriously resistant to mobile apps, but using web-based performance reporting to review client portfolios is a game-changer, according to one wealth manager who won’t travel without his iPad.

Ted Rich, principal of Orlando-based Vinoy Capital, a wealth management firm with $160 million of assets under management, says the Black Diamond mobile app for iPad lets him meet with clients on the fly and review their portfolios away from the home or office.

 “From the advisor standpoint, we don’t really prepare anything ahead of time anymore. As long as I have my iPad with me, there’s nothing I can’t access. I can run into a client in a restaurant and do things on the fly,” Rich said in an interview on Thursday.

‘An Uncomfortable yet Amazing Feeling’

Black Diamond's Blue Sky appWhether he’s attending financial conferences or traveling on far-flung continents, Rich said he uses the iPad almost to the exclusion of any other web-enabled devices, whether a laptop or mobile phone. A week after Black Diamond’s BlueSky app for the iPad launched in October 2010, Rich attended an advisor conference in Tampa and at the same time was able to meet with a client to review his portfolio.

 “A few advisors saw me while passing us by in the hotel lobby in Tampa, and they later asked me if I’d been in a live client review with the iPad, because they weren’t aware that it was possible,” he recalled. “Smartphones are great, but they’re too tiny, and many times we review data with clients that they want to see. We use the Black Diamond mobile app almost exclusively.”

With face-to-face reviews becoming an increasing rarity, Rich said, he can walk clients through their portfolio data page by page online. Currently, he’s preparing for a trip to Africa, and he’ll be able to “meet” with clients via wireless access on his iPad. “All I have to take is my iPad. It’s an uncomfortable yet amazing feeling. I don’t know what will happen on that trip, but all the data will be with me,” he said.

Is 2012 the Big Year for iPad Launches?

This year looks likely to be the year when the iPad becomes a normal part of the advisor-client relationship, despite many RIAs’ skepticism. Joining the Black Diamond app for iPad are Polaris Financial Technology’s Intellect FABX advisor workstation, launched April 20, and TD Ameritrade Institutional’s Veo trading app, launched in early April.

Earlier in 2012, Franklin Templeton launched an iPad app with fund information and portfolio manager perspectives for advisors and investors, and Fidelity Investments announced that its IRA clients could make deposits using the Fidelity Investments for iPad app.

“This might be the way of the future and advisors who aren’t on board could be left behind,” wrote Liz Davidson of Financial Finesse in a commentary for AdvisorOne that was shared nearly 700 times via social media such as Facebook and Twitter. “It’s not that I’m a techie. I’m just a huge fan of anything that makes my life easier.”

Busywork Outsourced to Black Diamond

On Black Diamond’s website, Philip DeMuth, a managing director at Conservative Wealth Management, Los Angeles, noted that he used to spend at least two weeks every quarter reconciling downloads, running reports, printing reports and mailing them off to clients.

“The only valuable piece of this was the review of client accounts that happened along the way,” DeMuth said. “Now all the busywork is outsourced to Black Diamond. Clients can log on and see for themselves how they are doing any time they want, and I can concentrate on the important part—managing their portfolios. I can instantly see how a client is doing compared to my model without reconciling data, running reports and exporting the data to Excel spreadsheets for analysis.”

Last year, Advent Software acquired Black Diamond Performance Reporting for $73 million. In their announcement, the companies said Black Diamond’s management team, led by founder and CEO Reed Colley, will operate as an independent business group that will lead Advent’s advisory strategy.

BlackRock Goes Mobile With Social Media

In another sign of the times, BlackRock on May 16 released study results showing that its iShares exchange-traded funds (ETFs) business, the world’s largest manager of ETFs, was also the No. 1 asset manager in terms of social-media use. The study by kasina, a financial marketing services firm, evaluated 53 investment managers and focused on how each engaged with advisors, policyholders and investors.

Rankings were based on the availability of content, the quality of that content and users’ experience on five social media platforms, including blogs, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter.

“The results of the kasina study recognize our ongoing commitment to meeting the needs of sophisticated investors in an increasingly digital world,” said Eileen Loustau, head of iShares digital and social marketing at BlackRock. “Social media has allowed iShares to create a dialogue with financial advisors and end investors in a way like never before.”

It’s no surprise, then, that just last November, iShares ETFs launched a free iShares app that can be downloaded on an iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Read more about Black Diamond in Top 10 Mobile Apps for Financial Advisors at AdvisorOne.