Overall, half of all respondents said they will take a wait-and-see attitude toward Windows 8 PCs, with 16% saying they plan to purchase one. Only 4% of bank advisors expect to purchase a Windows 8 PC, versus 22% of CPAs.
We attribute the initial lack of enthusiasm for Windows 8 to a number of factors. First, not all of the B-Ds, custodians and vendors are prepared for a new OS the day it launches. Second, many advisors have not been educated about the potential benefits of Windows 8 yet. Third, the new Windows 8 Start page can be intimidating the first time you see it. We have no hard evidence to support the notion that advisors will adopt Windows 8 more rapidly than the survey numbers indicate, but we think the new OS, combined with the attractiveness of Windows 8 tablets and phones, will win over advisors sooner rather than later.
One new question this year focused on social media usage. LinkedIn was the most popular social media site by far; in fact, among bank-affiliated advisors, it was the only social site with a substantial following. LinkedIn is most heavily used by independent RIAs, probably because for many RIAs, the compliance process is more streamlined.
There are a number of reasons for LinkedIn's popularity. First, it is perceived primarily as a business site. It is designed for networking among professionals, and it can also be used for prospecting. There are many advisor-focused groups on LinkedIn that readers can subscribe to. In addition, LinkedIn can help advisors stay informed about conferences that may be of interest.
Although many advisors use social media in some business-related fashion, many do so infrequently. Only 30% use social media at least daily, while 36% use it once a month or less.
About one-in-three advisors plan to purchase a tablet soon. It will be interesting to see if 80% stick with the iPad, or if a meaningful number decide to give the Windows 8 tablets a try. We suspect that Windows 8 tablets will attract a following within the advisor community, although adoption will vary greatly depending on the business model.
We also believe that Windows 8 will have a larger impact on the business sooner than the survey numbers indicate. Although only 16% of advisors said they plan to install WindowsĂ˘â‚¬â€°8 in the next year, 47% told us that their next major technology purchase will be a PC. That number jumped to 68% in our CPA subgroup. We expect many of those new PCs to come with Windows 8 installed.
Most of the focus in the popular press has been on the new WindowsĂ˘â‚¬â€°8 Start page, which some see as an impediment to adoption, but there are many benefits as well. WindowsĂ˘â‚¬â€°8 is more secure than previous versions, and it boots faster. It is also more closely tied to the cloud, and plays well with WindowsĂ˘â‚¬â€°8 tablets and phones. We think it is particularly well-suited to the needs of advisors. Furthermore, the upcoming version of Microsoft Office 2013 will not be compatible with Windows XP or Vista, so many advisors still using old operating systems will need to upgrade soon.
Although the custodial and B-D satisfaction numbers fall short of where some in the industry think they should be, relatively few advisors say they are "very unsatisfied" with the technology these firms provide. Hopefully for those advisors and those firms, there will be an upward trend next year.
The average advisor's technology is better than it was a few years ago, but there is still much work to be done. We sometimes question why adoption is so low for applications that are proven to deliver ROI, such as document management software and rebalancing software. The only logical conclusion is that it is a problem of perception. Too many advisors still view technology spending as an expense, as opposed to the investment in their business that it is.
Attitudes are changing, but they are changing slowly. As more advisors become aware that technology is a necessary investment that provides a good return over time, they will become more willing to invest more. Over time, this will lead to additional productivity gains and improved profitability. Barring a significant market decline, which tends to put the brakes on advisor spending, we expect 2013 to me another bright year for advisor technology.
Joel Bruckenstein is a Financial Planning editor-at-large and co- creator of the Technology Tools for Today newsletter and confer- ence series. He is also president of Global Financial Advisors in Mira- mar, Fla. For more info, visit JoelBruckenstein.com.