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Why You Need a Grown-Up App for Clients

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What You Need to Know

  • Without an attractive, user-friendly mobile application, wealth managers are swimming against the current in today's increasingly digital environment.
  • Out of the 155 minutes a day the average person with access to the internet spends online using a mobile device, 88% of it is on an app.
  • A lack of functionality will limit your ability to offer holistic advice and planning services.

Most people would sooner give up their left arm than relinquish their mobile devices, so it’s no surprise that investors manage more of their financial affairs on their phones or tablets than ever before.

Therefore, without an attractive, user-friendly mobile application, wealth managers are swimming against the current in today’s increasingly digital environment. It’s akin to a retail business not offering customers an e-commerce platform.

Many wealth managers offer clients some mobile experience, but not all apps are created equal. Keep these points in mind to meet your clients’ needs and stay competitive.

Yes, you need a mobile app.

The simple fact is that if one of your clients is online, there is a good chance they are using an app. Out of the 155 minutes a day the average person with access to the internet spends online using a mobile device, 88% of it is on an app.

This helps to explain why app-enabled text and push notifications have significantly higher open and click-through rates than email. Let there be little doubt, having an app allows you to meet your clients where you know they will be — on their phone — and is an entrée to a more open line of communication with them.

While some advisors might be concerned that offering a mobile app could lead clients to focus only on short-term performance, in our experience, the opposite is true. A well-designed mobile application ultimately provides more immediate and effective communication with clients and can be a powerful educational tool for aligning long-term objectives.

Therefore, if you are grappling with the decision about whether to invest resources into getting a client-facing app, stop waffling. This is a no-brainer.

Go native.

Web-based apps are not really apps at all. Instead, they are mobile versions of a desktop website. Without getting into every reason why that’s problematic, native apps don’t have nearly the number of limitations, mostly because they are precisely that: native to a particular mobile operating system.

The upshot is that native apps tend to be faster and more responsive, with developers able to add a string of features core to creating more frequent touchpoints with clients, including push notifications, chat options and other communication capabilities. It also means the app will have added security since it can adopt the operating system’s biometric features.

Yes, creating different apps for different operating systems will require more time, money and effort, but because it will yield a better user experience, it’s well worth it.

Make it fully functional.

Because people spend a lot of time on their phones, you also need to consider the possibility that some clients may not have a laptop or desktop computer at all.

While 77% of adults own one or the other, among 18- to 29-year-olds, that number is below 60%, suggesting that a greater number of your clients in the future could go the all-mobile route.

Therefore, if an advisor can aggregate asset and liability information from different clearing and custodial platforms during a meeting, a client should be able to do the same thing using an app.

The same goes for isolating portfolios at household and individual levels, which is important for family offices. Other similar examples are endless, including scenario analysis and tracking their performance of investments against goals.

The point is that if an app does not have all the functionalities as your advisor-facing platform or web-based client portal, it’s nothing more than a glorified balance checker. Indeed, users want and expect a fully transparent experience.

And make no mistake, in today’s increasingly mobile world — where it’s possible to do everything from watching a movie to starting a car using a phone — people will notice if a tool is inadequate. More importantly, a lack of functionality will limit your ability to offer holistic advice and planning services.

The debate is over. Get your clients an app — and make sure it’s the one they deserve.


Dr. Andrew Aziz is executive vice president of d1g1t, an enterprise wealth management platform powered by institutional-grade analytics and risk management tools for family offices and high-net-worth-focused RIA firms.