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Up next for advisor recruiting: Augmented reality?

Advisors who custody assets at TradePMR opened their mailboxes last week to find an analog postcard holding the promise of a virtual future.

After the advisor downloads an app, their phone projects a video of CEO Robb Baldwin onto the physical postcard, inviting them to his firm’s annual conference. This is done through the use of augmented reality, technology that blends virtual objects in live settings.

Photo of TradePMR invitation 5/1/19

This modest first step into the world of augmented reality is TradePMR’s first investment in such technology for RIA recruiting. Such technology is already being used in other industries, including medicine and entertainment. After the conference, TradePMR intends the app to be used with brochures to take advisors on virtual tours of its headquarters and to perform simulations of the custodian’s technology.

“It’s pretty self-explanatory in what they have to do to utilize it. It’s pretty straightforward,” Baldwin says, noting the technology works on all phone devices.

Inevitably, this may be an optimistic prediction for some advisors.

“I tried it, but for whatever reason the app is not compatible with my phone, even though I have a brand new Samsung Galaxy,” says Bob Henderson of Lansdowne Wealth Management. One advisor said it didn’t work with his iPhone. Another said he wasn’t able to try it out since he didn’t receive the invitation.

TradePMR’s CEO has only heard positive feedback, but says he wasn’t expecting all advisors to download the software immediately.

“It is the first run — it is the introduction, so I’m not expecting a huge success,” says Baldwin, noting they will reintroduce the technology at the Synergy conference in May and then tally up application downloads.

“The functionalities that advisors want to have to run their business on a daily basis need to be given to them in a way where they learn how to use them and start to adopt the technology that is out there,” he says.

Augmented reality adoption 5/1/19

The firm spent about $500 this year on its efforts, using Unity and Vuforia for a development platform, and built the rest in-house, according to Baldwin.

He hopes advisors will see an opportunity to utilize this new kind of tech in their own practices. “We think this could probably permeate down to where advisors can use this with clients,” he says, noting it could be a way to initiate conversations and demonstrate a technology release. “It gives you a separate method that is unique to get your message out.”

Baldwin wanted TradePMR to start using the technology as an introduction for advisors.

“The functionalities that advisors want to have to run their business on a daily basis need to be given to them in a way where they learn how to use them and start to adopt the technology that is out there,” he says.

Recruiter Danny Sarch is skeptical of the impact it will have on advisors — at least for now.

“I applaud anyone trying to come up with something new, but it strikes me as gimmicky,” he says.

Lack of understanding of the technology will certainly play a role in initial hesitation.

“To be honest, I don’t really know what augmented reality does. I don’t really get it,” Henderson says. “Given the fact that most of my clients are in the mid-50s or older, I don’t see it as a big opportunity for me. I’d have to look into it more and see exactly what it’s going to do.”

Sarch says: Like anything else, it takes time to tell: “Let’s wait and see.”

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