Can you believe the summer is already upon us? For me, it is amazing to think this also means we are into the second half of 2013 (or that 2013 is half over, for those of you who think of the glass as half-empty). Time ticks by faster these days. From a technology perspective, this can be both good and bad. The good part is that you have more new choices and features, and opportunities to increase efficiency are continuously introduced. The bad thing is that you can easily fall behind the times if you are not keeping up with today’s technology solutions and tomorrow’s as well. Allow me to offer four thoughts and ideas that you should understand in order to maintain your firm’s place in the technology world.
First, your clients are likely much more confident using technology to conduct their affairs than you might believe. It is so easy now for anyone to become a competent user of today’s technology devices. Unlike yesteryear when it was very common to wait before purchasing new technology products, people now pre-order or even stand in line to get the latest smartphone or tablet. The message for advisors is that you need to ensure your client-facing technology keeps up with the rest of the technology world. For example, if email is one of the primary channels you use to communicate with your clients, then it is important to recognize how this medium might change for them. Specifically, new technology products provide the ability to have dynamic home screens that automatically update content from multiple sources identified by the user. This could be news stories, blogs, social media or websites. This might sound high-tech, but it is intuitive and easy to use, even for a non-tech-savvy user. Ultimately, it means your clients’ inboxes might not get as much of their attention as they used to. Now, some advisors might be saying, “That’s not my client”—that is, that engaging with your firm via technology is not important to them. That certainly could be the case, but I would urge you to view this as a temporary condition at best.
Second consideration: Is cloud technology really taking over the desktop world? Actually, it is. Don’t get me wrong: The desktop is not dead, nor is it going to be extinct in the near future. However, a significant majority of technology service companies are building new technology for advisors that is cloud-based. Another large majority of existing desktop solution providers are also building new cloud-based solutions to either replace their current platform or to augment their current offerings. It is also getting easier to leverage the cloud. There are more choices available in each product category that offer a variety of cost/benefit options. The question is, for firms that have one or several core systems that are desktop-based, what is the cloud strategy for these desktop products? The cloud strategy could come in various forms. The most common course for advisors to take is to either use the cloud version of these products or to switch providers. However, you might have come to love and rely on a desktop system that may never be specifically built for the cloud. If so, don’t give up; you might consider using the cloud as part of your network, and try using an outsourced server solution to host your core application. Bottom line, if a majority of your current technology products are not cloud-based, then you have some work ahead of you to become familiar with how cloud-based services can improve your firm. Otherwise, I do believe that your firm will not be as efficient and scalable in the years to come versus your peers.