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Three years. That’s how long it took Ballentine Partners to research, adopt and customize its new CRM system. “It was a huge process,” Ballentine’s chief wealth advisory officer, Coventry Edwards-Pitt, told me on a visit to Financial Planning’s offices several weeks ago.

Advisory firm teams can lose hours, days and sometimes even years poring through the many tech options. Even after rigorous research, software may still miss the mark. “It’s an Odysseus-like search for the unfindable thing,” Edwards-Pitt said.

In its annual Tech Survey, Financial Planning seeks to take some pain out of those quests. We asked almost 1,000 advisors about what they use, what works and what has missed the mark. Our comprehensive analysis ranks the most-favored products and shows which have fallen out of favor.

This year, we asked for the first time what technologies advisors believe will transform wealth management in the next one to three years. Robo advice came in at No. 2, closely followed by mobile technology.

I wasn’t surprised by how high robo advice ranked. What surprised me was how few have actually implemented these tools. Just 18% of survey respondents said their firms had incorporated robo advice into their platforms. If the process to implement takes months or years, these firms better get moving.

It’s one thing to say something is transformative. It’s something else to use it and absorb the impact.

“Do advisors think robo advice will displace business?” asks contributing writer Harry Terris, who wrote our main feature story, “Power Tools.” “Do they think it will be absorbed by incumbents looking to improve services? Will it broaden the pool of people using some sort of financial advice?”

Ballentine Partners probably already has its answer. “Our bread and butter work is our conversations we have with clients in face-to-face meetings,” Edwards-Pitt told me. Even as the firm ramps up its use of cybersecurity, portfolio management and market tracking tools, it relies more than ever on relationship building and communication. “So much of planning is highly psychological, and technology is not going to help very much with that,” she said.

Still, survey respondents told Financial Planning that behavioral finance software would revolutionize even that. I’m looking forward to next year’s survey. — Chelsea Emery

To see more insights from our annual survey, please see our interactive graphic: Tech Survey: The forces reshaping wealth management

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Robo advisors CRM systems Mobile technology