Apps are growing increasingly common among financial planners.

A recent study conducted by Bill Fearnley, Jr., for Celent, a research and consulting firm that focuses on the use of information technology in the financial services industry, found that apps are gaining momentum in the sector.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise: Apps offer a number of benefits to financial planners.

Still firms have not embraced the technology as quickly as one would expect.

Only four of the firms in Barron’s 2012 index of the Top 40 Wealth Managers provided custom apps to their advisors according to Celent, but more are expected to unveil new apps in 2013 and 2014.

That means that the sooner firms roll out their apps, the better, because as more employ the technology, the competitive advantage it offers diminishes

“When you look at mobile adoption, how slow it is going,” said Alois Pirker, research director at Aite Group. “There’s an open opportunity for firms. But that window’s closing.”

Here are five reasons why advisors should make apps an integral part of their business strategy.

-Paul McCaffrey

Source: “Apps for Advisors: 2013 Update.” Bill Fearnley, Jr., Celent


1. More advisors are using smartphones and other mobile devices.

Mobile devices have become important tools in the financial planner’s repertoire, helping advisors connect with clients and stay in touch with their firms. Some companies have even devised Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies to ensure that their advisors have easy access to the latest financial news and to firm resources.

“We do see all the advisors carrying tablets these days, having smartphones,” says Pirker. “It’s really a matter of getting them to use it for business applications.”

2. Advisors need high-end presentation and meeting tools.

Whether pitching potential clients or going over financial plans with long-standing customers, advisors need to communicate effectively while also leaving a good impression. Easy-to-use mobile devices can help them present information in a clear and dynamic manner with the aid of graphics, video, and other enhancements.

3. Clients are using them and expect that their advisors do, too.

From Gen-Yers to boomers, tech-savvy customers are employing tablets and other mobile devices to keep up with their investments. They want their advisors to do the same and to be up-to-date on the latest technology.

“The apps are becoming a necessity as a business tool,” said David Barry, president and chief executive officer for Centennial, Colo.-based Trust Company of America, which supplies technology--and designs custom apps--for RIAs, “and clients are beginning to expect that their advisors have one.”

4. They can help gather investor information.

Mobile apps allow advisors to collect and catalog customer information at the point of contact, whether in or out of the office, helping to better connect them with their clients.

“It’s been a no-brainer,” said Bryan Sullivan, founder and manager of San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Vellum Financial. Vellum Financial engaged Trust Company of America to design a custom app to help serve their customers. The results were overwhelmingly positive. “The app has given our clients more access to us,” said Sullivan, “and we have more access to them.”

5. They can give firms a leg up on the competition.

Firms that effectively use apps and other technology can provide better customer service while optimizing their advisors’ productivity. But the opportunity might not last long. As more and more financial planners embrace the technology, those who come late may not achieve the same benefits. So it is important to act quickly.

“We’re seeing increasing demand for apps from advisors,” said Barry. “Orders have increased by about one-third in the past six months.”


Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Financial Planning content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access