Financial planners and investment advisers are moving broadly and quickly to adopt the Windows 7 operating system for their personal computers as well as the Apple iPad for their personal use, according to preliminary results of the 2010 Software Survey released Sunday at the Financial Planning Association annual conference by Financial Planning magazine and virtual office consultant Joel Bruckenstein.

“Advisers are rushing to Windows 7, which has only been out for a few months,’’ said Marion Asnes, editor in chief of Financial Planning. “And already 35% of advisers have Windows 7 in their office.

A large majority of advisers still have XP in their offices. But the move is swift – and a leap past the prior version of Windows.

“They skipped right over Vista, which was such a disappointment and went straight from XP to 7,’’ said Asnes.

The jump came rapidly, in the product’s first year on the market. Microsoft released Windows 7 on October 22, 2009.


Asnes and Bruckenstein presented preliminary findings from the survey at an early morning session at the 2010 conference of the FPA, held in Denver.  As of Thursday, more than 2,250 advisers, planners and industry participants had responded to the survey.

The other big surprise, at least in operating systems, is how many advisers have Apple computers in their office, Asnes said.  About 6% of respondents, she said, “which sounds small, but Apple is a niche brand.”

More notable, when it comes to Apple and its influence on how professionals compute, is the rapid adoption of the iPad media tablet.

Advisers “are also picking up on the iPad in a big way,’’ Asnes said. “One of the big surprises to me was that already 216 respondents – that’s nearly 10% – said they own an iPad. And another 386 respondents – which is about 15% – said they plan to buy one. ‘’

This has direct implications for how advisers run their practices, she said.

“If all of these advisers are streaming to iPads,’’ she said, “chances are their clients are as well. This is an affluent, highly educated group of people who serve affluent highly educated successful Americans.

“They are on this machine in big numbers and if you are in this business now, you have to think about how does your website look on an iPad,’’ – and how it operates, she said. Practitioners and designers need to look at how easy it is to get advice using the touch screen and navigation techniques of the iPad, how easy is it to download files and whether you need to reconfigure how information gets presented.

There are also two big areas of opportunity where advisers can deploy software to really transform their practices, she said: Customer relationship management and document management.

“Still, to this day, although people keep hearing about how important CRM is, more advisers use Outlook and pretend it is a CRM program, than any other program. So that is a little weird,’’ she said. “A true CRM program is so much more robust than merely a Rolodex with a note capability, which is what Outlook is.’’

A good CRM program, offline or online, will keep track of and connect advisers to all their clients’ documents, from wills to net worth statements to background on family structure and entities, notes from previous meetings, action items and the like.

“So as an adviser, there’s a big return on investment for moving up to CRM,’’ she said.

The need for serious document management is being driven by increasing regulation and the need to comply with it.

“We’re moving into a high-oversight era,’’ she said. “Although you may think that you were heavily patrolled before, it’s nothing like what is going to come as we move into a harmonized fiduciary standard and into a different kind of reporting environment. People are going to feel like they have to come down on you and they have to come down on you hard.

“So what’s the best thing you can do? It’s to get organized,’’ she said. “One way to do that and a very efficient way to do that is with a document management program.’’

Advisers have lots of room for improvement, in this arena, she said.

When asked what document management program they use, “the number one answer was ‘none.’  This is not helpful,’’ she said. “The second most popular answer was Adobe Acrobat, which is not a document management system. It does not create files for you.’’

Installing a good document management system will save advisers and their staffs time, in searching for correctly or incorrectly retained paper. Savings in filing costs and filing space also should create “a tremendous return on investment,’’ she said.

And then there’s where full and complete retention of records really matters: compliance.

“Most definitely, because your records are all there and the day that the SEC shows up at your door, you don’t have to go scrambling to find things,’’ she said. “And you can keep a more complete record.’’

The survey is still open and taking additional input. To respond, click here.