The number of firms offering mobile apps for advisors continues to grow.
The latest is Russell Investments, now featuring an iPad app with digital tools to help financial advisors explain investment concepts to their clients with their tablets.
The Interact iPad app by Russell is designed to illustrate financial concepts and provide a useful backdrop for client conversations, the firm says. Russell launched the app in response to the growing trend of advisors choosing to replace print collateral with iPads during client meetings.
Multiple story lines can be told, allowing for emphasis where advisors want to focus the most when speaking to investors, says Natalie Miller, consulting director in the U.S. advisor-sold business at Russell Investments.
Mobile usage in general is becoming much more important, says Mike Foy, director of the wealth management practice at J.D. Power and Associates.
Just in the past year, the number of investors who indicated they have used a mobile device for investments in the past 12 months has increased from 17% to 31%, and about two-thirds of those are Gen Y and Gen X investors, according to J.D. Power.
Clients, especially millennials who tend to want to play a more active role in managing their assets are adopting these tools, and advisors can either enable them and be part of that transition or be marginalized by it, Foy says.
Russell's app allows advisors to enter different portals that highlight varied investing goals and strategies.
The Value of Staying Invested portal, for instance, illustrate market returns ups and downs and articulates the benefits of wealth-preservation strategies during bear markets and the potential negative impacts of selling low during a downturn, the firm says.
The app's Value of Diversification portal features interactive charts that let advisors compare the performance of various global asset classes over the past 14 years. They can also use this tab to explain the risk/return balancing act in the context of the difficulty of picking a winning asset by contrasting the volatility of some relative to the predictability of others.
Advisors using the app can also access Russell model strategies to discuss past performance and endpoint dependency, as well as risk and reward dynamics.
Its a completely interactive iPad experience, with the ability to switch between risk profiles, show and hide return categories and highlight the annual return experience that an investor goes through based on when they started and finished, Miller says.
While there are other notable advisor-focused iPad apps already available, including offerings from Vanguard and Wells Fargo, J.D. Power's Foy says there may still be opportunity for Russell to win over advisors.
"There are a lot [advisor-targeted iPad apps], Foy says. Most of the large wealth management firms are building them, but our studies show that advisor adoption is lagging.
The key is creating tools that can really help advisors build their practice, and providing the right training, he said.
Russell notes its research found that millennial investors in particular have developed expectations for a sophisticated digital client experience when working with their advisor, one enhanced by technology.
Miller says that interactive storytelling has been a popular topic for blog posts on Russells Helping Advisors Blog.
Many advisors find value in using charts, graphs and other visuals to communicate an idea, and interactive apps and tools certainly can help take conversations to another level, Miller says.
A new study of 550 advisors by Boston consulting firm Practical Perspectives notes that more than six in 10 advisors reported that they use smartphones to access product provider websites and more than half of advisors use an iPad or tablet.
Advisors "increasingly rely on web support for key functions such as gathering up-to-date product information and research, performing client service, and leveraging useful tools such as calculators or illustration software, states Howard Schneider, president of Practical Perspective.
Advisors may be familiar with the concept of a quilt chart or a chart showing performance of different asset classes over a period of time.
These charts are often presented in PowerPoint slides or PDFs, but Miller says the app can make these kinds of conversations even more compelling, as advisors can focus on specific aspects of the quilt chart while removing others from view in order to demonstrate the value that global diversification can bring to a portfolio.
Russell promotes usage of its Interact iPad app through regular communication with the advisors that sell Russell products, via the RussellLINK platform, a resource center for clients who sell the firms investment products, at Russells advisor events and through its Helping Advisors Blog.
While there are currently no plans for an Android version of the app, Russell will soon be making the interactive features and stories available to advisors through its advisor-only site RussellLINK. Android users will then be able to access it via their devices Internet browser.
Russell Investments already has selling agreements in place with the advisors who use the Interact App, Miller says. Ultimately our goal is to help enable them to have more meaningful conversations with their clients.
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