Like a cell undergoing mitosis, the wealth management industry is beginning to divide into information technology haves and have nots.

In the past, financial advisors who were late adopters of technology suffered little, because the vast majority of their peers were in the same boat. But, as the results of Financial Planning’s 2015 tech survey make clear, that is no longer the case.

One striking finding: Reflecting the growing impact of all things digital on their practices, none of the 600 advisors surveyed cut their information technology budgets this year. On the other hand, though 50% of registered investment advisers increased their budgets, nearly as many left them unchanged.

Amid this and other findings, we see the outlines of a new class of eAdvisors emerging, tech-savvy planners who embrace IT as a competitive differentiator and a key tool with which to build their businesses.

This is reflected, for example, in a recent study by Fidelity Investments titled “eAdvisors Take the Lead.”

Fidelity Investments found that, as a group, eAdvisors have nearly 40% higher assets under management, serve 55% more clients — of which a greater percentage belong to Generations X or Y — and are more satisfied with their careers.

What are the behaviors of these eAdvisors?

Financial Planning’s survey found that they offer clients a collaborative platform (e.g., a client portal), use data aggregation to provide them with a total picture of their assets, keep in close touch with automated email alerts, track client interactions via customer relationship management software, communicate and promote their practices via social media, automate their workflows, and use online risk and compliance tools. Our data also suggest that this group is disproportionately composed of younger advisors.

And though we don’t conclude that this emerging group is poised to dominate the profession just yet, these advisors appear to be making many of the right moves with regard to technology. And that bodes well for their futures.

Given this and our other survey findings detailed in the tech survey, the question advisors should be asking themselves with regard to technology is: Am I investing sufficient time and dollars to remain competitive?

The tech survey results should provide advisors with a better understanding as to why they should up their tech games and on what technologies they should focus. We will also show you where and how younger advisors approach technology differently from their older peers and which tech vendors are more likely to survive and thrive.

WHOM WE SURVEYED

About 33% of the survey respondents identified themselves as independent RIAs. Another 39% self-identified as affiliated with a broker-dealer, and 10% indicated that they are independent and dually registered.

Just over one out of four (26%) of our survey takers said that they work at firms with AUM in excess of $500 million; 22% are in the $100 million to $499 million range; 13% are in the $50 million to $99 million range; and 13% manage between $25 million and $49 million in assets.

A majority (52%) said that they are compensated by both fees and commissions, while 27% are fee-only and 7.5% are commission-only. The rest either receive a salary or a retainer.

Almost 80% of the respondents are male; 70% are between 25 and 54.

Read more about the tech survey tomorrow, when we look at planning and 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.

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