Virtually all financial advisors engage with websites and web support from product providers and distributors — firms like American Funds, Vanguard and Morningstar — and the types of web-based capabilities and content available to them are increasingly diverse.
A new report from Practical Perspectives, an independent consultant and research firm, says that broker-dealers, asset managers, insurance companies, platform providers and other service firms now face the challenge of creating and delivering web capabilities that meet advisors’ rising expectations and requirements.
Practical Perspectives based its analysis on an online survey conducted in April with some 750 registered investment advisors, wirehouse and regional brokers, independent brokers and financial planners.
The findings showed that 57% of advisors perceived access to websites as very important and 34% somewhat important. Advisors expressed high regard for web support relative to other capabilities that providers and platforms offer.
“Advisors find benefit in connecting to websites from product providers and other sources and increasingly rely on web support for key functions such as gathering up-to-date product information and research, performing client service, and using tools such as calculators or illustration software,” Howard Schneider, president of Practical Perspectives and author of the report, said in a statement.
According to the survey, most advisors said websites enhanced their overall impression of a provider, influenced their use of products and promoted greater loyalty to a particular provider.
The use of web support was nearly universal among advisors. Sixty percent said they interacted most frequently with their broker-dealer or custodian website, while 41% were frequent users of product provider sites.
Although advisors were generally satisfied with product provider websites, the results showed that opportunity exists for improvement. For example, 27% of advisors expressed dissatisfaction with usability or ease of navigation.
“Many advisors still encounter websites that are difficult to navigate, have content that is not updated frequently enough or which provide information that is too generic or promotional,” Schneider said.
The vast majority of advisors said they accessed provider websites mainly via a desktop computer or laptop or through a broker-dealer workstation. At the same time, alternative modes of access have become fairly widespread, with 67% of advisors using a smartphone to access provider web support and 59% using an iPad or tablet.
“We find that most advisors tend to limit their web use to a few trusted providers they are familiar with and which offer broad capabilities, are simple or intuitive to use, and are designed specifically for financial professionals,” Schneider said.
The report said that although advisors restricted the types of functions they performed through mobile interfaces, their expectations would likely grow over time as they seek to perform a wider range of actions via these platforms.
According to the survey, advisors performed various activities through provider websites, the most typical for 71% being obtaining specific product-related information or analysis.
When using mobile devices to connect to provider websites, advisors tended to be more limited in the functions they perform. They reported using mobile devices more generally to access information or engage with audio or video links and less for more interactive functions, such as preparing a proposal or illustration or screening solutions.
Advisors generally preferred to use websites or support that were specific to their needs, although many advisors said they occasionally relied on sites with a more retail orientation.
Seventy-four percent of advisors in the study said they spent one to five hours each week visiting provider websites.
— Check out Top 5 Mutual Fund Websites for Advisors: Kasina on ThinkAdvisor.