(The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a
columnist for Reuters.)
By Hilary Johnson
May 30 Scott Kauls, a Merrill Lynch adviser in
Minneapolis, has found that mobile technology can help clients
make tough decisions.
At one meeting, his firm's new iPad-enabled "Clear"
retirement planning platform helped a couple decide to build a
new single-family home, rather than stay in the retirement
community they had chosen.
They came to the decision by using the iPad to pinch and
expand colorful circles labeled "home," "giving," "leisure," and
four other areas. The husband and wife agreed on the change
after ranking their priorities.
Though the interaction was enabled by the iPad, the
experience was not about bells and whistles, just a productive
and revealing conversation, Kauls said.
"That's exactly what this app does," he said. "It creates
conversation, and it directs dialogue. It drills it down to the
detail and resonates with the client wonderfully."
The Clear platform is just one example of how firms and
advisers are harnessing mobile technology to better interact
with and serve clients.
UBS Wealth Management Americas, Morgan Stanley and
Wells Fargo & Co all have mobile devices and
applications available to their advisers.
Independent advisers may choose to be even more cutting edge
with their mobile technology choices. They use cloud storage
applications such as Dropbox, one-way texting and online
investment management and trading.
Sean Cunniff, investment management research leader at
Deloitte, said financial advisers should be early adopters.
"Advisers should embrace mobile technology as a key part of
the customer service ecosystem," he said.
SANDY'S WRATH SPURRED EXPERIMENTATION
Brad Bofford and Mike Flower, managing partners at Financial
Principles, an investment advisory firm in Fairfield, New
Jersey, discovered the wonders of cloud storage, after
Superstorm Sandy in 2012 caused their office's power and a
backup server to fail.
An account with Dropbox Inc has since allowed them to store
and access client files and email anywhere and at anytime, on
their mobile devices.
"It made our practice management a lot more efficient,"
Flower said. "It strengthened our relationship with clients, and
it's been an effective practice management tool. The contingency
part is almost secondary."
Kile Lewis, co-founder of Oxygen Financial in Atlanta, is an
avid hunter, but never ventures out without his smartphone. Even
when waiting for game behind a blind, he can quickly respond to
client requests by accessing their accounts on an eMoney app.
"There's no 9-to-5 workday anymore," he said.
Bill Winterberg, a technology consultant and founder of
FPPad.com, said advisers must pay special attention to security
and clients' comfort level and preferences around technology,
but suggests that shunning mobile technology now puts an adviser
at risk of being out of touch.
"Advisers should invest in tools that give them the
flexibility to respond to clients," Winterberg said. "Then the
technology disappears. The client isn't aware of the cloud, they
just know they got the answer. That's what matters. The adviser
helped them and the client can move on with their lives."
(Editing by Tim McLaughlin and G Crosse)