Wells Fargo & Company will offer a new mobile application for its brokers in 2012 to address a growing need for new advisor tools in digital media.

Advisers regularly seek better ways to serve their clients, and increasingly that means mobile apps, said Wells Fargo's Joe Nadreau, who manages strategic solutions for the company's brokerage business.

"We're trying to optimize more for Wells advisers," Nadreau told Thomson Reuters' 2012 Online Financial Services Symposium on Wednesday. "We really have to separate into client versus adviser oriented - those two worlds are very different."

Wells Fargo already has a general corporate application for mobile devices.

A panel of wealth management professionals from firms including Charles Schwab, Bank of America and Wells spoke at the symposium about the growing importance of using mobile applications to conduct business in real time.

The panelists agreed that the industry is increasingly relying on mobile technology, but a big question is how much to invest in developing those mobile platforms.

Charles Schwab's approach is to start with the core needs of brokers and clients, and create applications for those services before developing additional add-on functions.

"Really nail those, and then start to look at the others around them," said Kate O'Connor, media supervisor at Charles Schwab.

O'Connor said Schwab is consolidating its mobile and web teams because the company views digital mobility more as a platform than a separate channel.

SECURITY AND PRIVACY

As advisers turn to mobile applications, they also must tread cautiously, as the challenges of protecting security and privacy remain.

While there is often no direct risk to using the mobile applications themselves, there is the danger of misplacing a device containing confidential information.

"If you leave it (a mobile device) in a cab, now someone can have access" to confidential company information, said Paul Vienick, who heads Merrill Edge Self-Directed Investing & Merrilledge.com, a unit of Bank of America.

The situation can be even more serious for advisers, who could have reams of contacts and private client data on their mobile devices.

To mitigate some of those issues, Wells has a remote-swiping capability that allows the company to clean a device remotely if an employee reports it stolen.

Still, the industry is "well-positioned" to help educate consumers about risks they can encounter, said Mike Ellison, president of Corporate Insight, a strategic marketing and consulting firm for the financial services industry.

Ellison said it is largely an industry responsibility to ensure that mobile device users are aware of privacy issues and to find ways to prevent those risks beyond simply using password protection.

(Reporting By Ashley Lau; Editing by Walden Siew and Tim Dobbyn)