TORONTO They're sleek, sexy and fun. They're also revolutionizing the way financial advisers do business.
A host of adviser-specific apps have taken iPads and other tablets from nifty playthings to seductive business tools that can dazzle and truly educate clients, advocates say.
"It's really a new paradigm," said David Wisehaupt, managing director and senior portfolio manager at Wisehaupt Bray Asset Management, a unit of Chicago-based independent brokerage HighTower.
"I'm with a client, be they young or old, and ... they sort of can't help themselves -- before the meeting is over, they're manipulating the images on the screen."
Wisehaupt, a 29-year financial services industry veteran who works with high-net-worth clients, said the charts, research and portfolio analytics he displays on his tablet screen connect with clients more than one-sided dissertations or lectures.
The interactive experience helps clients retain more information and feel more secure about his stewardship of their assets, he said.
Bill Winterberg, whose technology consulting firm FP Pad in Dallas, Texas, specializes in working with independent advisers, calls tablets a "disruptive technology" that improves productivity and mobility.
He pointed to apps that enable advisers to access customer relationship management and portfolio management tools.
For instance, there's Orion Advisor Services' MobileAdvisor app, which displays portfolios, performance information and contact information.
It also allows advisers using Orion's platform to rebrand the app, so clients download it, log in, track their portfolios, and view videos that the adviser provides.
For security purposes, the data is kept on the Omaha-based company's servers rather than directly on the tablet.
Security is the primary compliance concern for advisers using iPads, Winterberg said. At a minimum, he recommends pass code locks and password protection for the tablets.
Users also can use a service from Apple called MobileMe that homes in on lost iPads and allows all data to be erased remotely if the tablet is online.
Some brokerage firms are beginning to embrace tablet technology. Canada's No. 3 lender, Bank of Nova Scotia, is looking at arming its wealth managers with Research In Motion's upcoming BlackBerry PlayBook.
Firms like Charles Schwab Corp, TD Ameritrade, which offer custody and business services to independent registered investment advisers and others have been introducing apps that allow advisers and their clients to do some trading directly from their iPads.
HighTower's Wisehaupt is a fan of an application called LogMeIn that connects him via his iPad to his office desktop if a secure Wi-Fi or other 3G mobile connection is available.
When a client has a question, the information is always at his fingertips. "Signing in, getting it and showing it to clients live is powerful," he said.
Other popular web-based applications keep track of call records, conversation notes and updated contact information.
"It's the convenience factor," said Winterberg. "They can do the same with the laptop, but they're not going to get the battery life from a laptop, and they don't get necessarily the portability factor of being able to just hold it in one hand and look up this information."
There is also the social factor.
If a client is worried about retirement and the adviser is busy typing away behind a keyboard, it can seem disrespectful, said Alessandro Tonchia, founder and director of Finantix, which offers a suite of wealth management apps for iPads, iPhones, and Android-smartphones.
"The iPad has the same social acceptability as a piece of paper, but it has all the power of an interactive device," Tonchia said. "We present it is as intelligent paper."
(Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Rob Wilson)