Over the next several days, the media will be filled with tributes to Steve Jobs, and rightly so. Jobs, who died Wednesday at 56, was arguably the most influential innovator of our times. His achievements were so broad and profound, but consider for a moment what Jobs meant to financial services. When you realize that Apple never targeted a single product at the financial services sector, it is amazing just how influential Jobs and Apple have been in our little corner of the technology world.

Innovations pioneered by Jobs have changed the way advisors practice. Although there were always a small minority of advisors who used Macs in their practices, over the last several years virtually every financial services firm has been altered in some way by the products Jobs developed. 

Although the numbers are still relatively small, there are now about four times the number of advisors using MacBook Pros as there were a few years ago. Even those who do not own MacBooks have felt the influence: seemingly every new laptop on the market appears to be trying to clone the look.

Before Apple released the iPhone, the vast majority of advisors had never used a smartphone. Yes, many used BlackBerrys to make calls and send email, but it was the power and simplicity of the iPhone that make smartphones a standard tool of advisors.

For years, advisors had been experimenting with tablet PC’s hoping for a more convenient, more portable and more efficient computing platform, but it was only with the advent of the iPad that tablet sales took off. In fact, there has never been a new technology that advisors have taken to as quickly or with as much enthusiasm.

Between the iPhone and the iPad, Apple ushered in a new era of mobile computing that’s allowed advisors to work anywhere from any device, and which is opening up new forms of advisor-client interaction. We’ve only scratched the surface of the mobility revolution in financial services.

Perhaps most importantly, iOS has changed the way software developers think about software design for the financial services industry. Before the iPhone and the iPad, developers spent virtually all of their time thinking about features and almost no time thinking about usability; iOS changed that. Software developers learned that advisors – like the general public – prefer software that is elegantly designed and intuitive. Over the last couple of years, as a result of Jobs, the design of software for advisors has improved dramatically, and it continues to improve with each new release.

It is likely that iCloud will do for cloud computing what the iPod did for music, the iPhone did for smartphones and the iPad did for tablets. If Apple gets iCloud right, and odds are they will, advisors will soon experience the true benefits of cloud computing in a user-friendly environment. As advisors enjoy these benefits in their personal lives, it won’t take long before they demand the same functionality at work. Software developers in our industry will, no doubt, take inspiration from iCloud to deliver usable cloud products to advisors, just as they borrowed ideas from earlier Apple products to produce better, more usable software. Steve Jobs is gone, but his legacy will live on for years to come.

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