When we asked 600 financial advisors as part of Financial Planning’s 2015 tech survey what single technology had the biggest impact on their businesses this year, financial planning software was the No. 1 response, as was the case in 2014.

Planning software was also cited as the technology that yielded the greatest return on investment.

And the younger the advisor, the bigger the impact: More than 39% of respondents between 25 and 34 said that planning software yielded a greater ROI than any other technology, compared with 27% of respondents overall.

This makes sense when one considers that advisors are using the software to automate that portion of their services that has become commoditized, freeing them to focus on areas that add value for their clients and differentiate their offerings.

If planning software yields such high returns, one could argue that everyone should be deploying it, but 20% of respondents aren’t.

READ MORE: What Will Define the Digital Advisor Space in 2016?


Still, the trend toward adoption is rising. Last year, nearly a fourth of survey takers (23%) said that they still weren’t using planning software, and in 2013, almost a third (31%) said that they weren’t making use of the software.

Firms with less than $25 million in assets under management were less likely than average to use planning software, while firms with more than $25 million in AUM were more likely. If there is one lesson that small firms should take away from these data, it is that they should invest in this application sooner rather than later.

Among the offerings on the market, MoneyGuidePro remains the top choice of respondents, as it has been every year since we began conducting this survey in 2008. eMoney remains the runner up, as it has been since 2010.

Our data suggest that these two brands are likely to maintain their category dominance for quite some time.

How do we know? Their usage among 25- to 34-year-olds and 35- to 44-year- olds is much higher than their market share overall.

Compare this with Money Tree, which has much lower-than-average usage among 35- to 44-year-olds but much higher usage among senior advisors 65 to 74. For Money Tree, that could spell trouble if the trend continues.

MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

The portfolio management and accounting software category remains highly competitive. That isn’t surprising, as it is one of the more expensive apps (or services, if the system is cloud-based) that most advisors are liable to purchase.

Overall, the five most popular offerings were the same as last year: Morningstar, Albridge, PortfolioCenter, Envestnet and Orion. A significant 17% of respondents indicated that they don’t use a portfolio management program.

Read more about the tech survey tomorrow, when we look at rebalancing and risk tolerance software.

Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Planning columnist in Miramar, Fla., is co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today conference series and technology guides for advisors, including Technology Tools for Today’s High-Margin Practice. For more information, visit JoelBruckenstein.com.

This story is part of a 30-day series on leading tech trends for advisors. It was originally published on Dec. 1, 2015.

Joel Bruckenstein

Joel Bruckenstein

Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Planning columnist in Miramar, Fla., is co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today conference series and technology guides for advisors, including Technology Tools for Today’s High-Margin Practice.