[Editor’s note: Dan Skiles just stepped back from his 10-year role as our Tech Coach columnist. Here’s an abbreviated look at two of his best pieces from 2015, which remain interesting and relevant.]
Let’s take a walk down advisors’ Technology Memory Lane. Do you remember calling your custodian to check account balances, get real-time quotes and place trades? That all involved picking up the phone.
Also, back in the ‘80s, everyone actually opened the confirmations and statements they received in the mail. These documents were critical for staying informed.
Personal computers created a new technology world. Running on MS-DOS, the first versions of portfolio reporting systems were at best difficult to operate; you needed staff with special skills and the right temperament.
Importing data was another challenge. Most of this work was done via manual data entry, and a “cutting-edge” modem was needed to download files.
In the ‘90s, advisors began to embrace desktop technology. The first versions of Windows were gaining traction, creating a new world of desktop applications for advisors. Accessing account information and trade details, retrieving quotes and placing trades were the first features broadly available through a keyboard and a mouse. Email also became a critical part of advisors’ lives.
As the internet grew, it provided the foundation for new Web-based technology products and services. The days of locally installing multiple discs for new software and updates started to fade.
Mobile technology began to have a big impact in helping advisors conduct their business and serve their clients. The new challenge is deciding when not to work.
Should we expect the trend of better, faster and cheaper (relatively speaking) products to continue? While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do believe there are several “themes” that will play an important role in shaping the technology environment of the future.
The personalization of technology will be significant. Each day, you are building a “digital fingerprint” of how you interact with technology. This information can and will be more broadly used across multiple platforms and solutions.
The opportunity is how this information gets further leveraged to customize your experience, regardless of the device or program you’re using. Put simply, it already knows what you prefer based on what you have done in the past.
Another theme will be greater access to faster data connection speeds and how we use it. Will the increase in data speeds be matched with larger data requirements? The answer is probably yes, which will put more pressure on advisors to keep their technology up to date.
In the past, you might have an Apple- or a Windows-based environment. In the future, the distinct functional differences between various devices and systems will not be as great. The underlying capabilities and options available across devices will be more consistent.
We are seeing lots of tech companies focus on advisors, and plenty of acquisitions. Will this trend continue, and will smaller tech companies that serve advisors disappear or become insignificant? Perhaps, but the continued consolidation of coding languages and platforms provides an entry point for new firms.
Yes, larger technology companies might have sizeable market share, but will they continue to innovate? Some will not, and that’s when a smaller technology company or startup sees opportunity.
As for wireless connectivity with automation, we still have a number of cords in our life, but we have made great strides with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; we also are starting to see more devices that provide wireless charging.
The office of the future will have fewer cords and more automatic connectivity. The same way your smartphone connects to your car when you start the engine, your office phone system will know you have arrived and will ring the phone on your desk, and your mobile phone when you leave.
There’s a lot to think about, and there’s also the decision of whether your firm should be an early, middle or late adopter of any new technology. The right answer depends on many factors, but one thing is true — to not adopt is a decision as well.
Dan Skiles is the president of Shareholders Service Group in San Diego. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.