7 Advisor Tech Trends for 2012

By Gary DeAsi, Marketing Coordinator, ByAllAccounts on Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Next year will go down in history as one of the best ever for wealth management technology.  From the continuing rise of iPads and tablet devices to the advent of “cloud” computing, new technology will change the face of the advisor world. 

Given the pace of change, predicting what will happen in 2012 may be even harder than ever. But considering where the digital world is going, I can guess what will happen just by looking at what’s already on the horizon.

1.) Touch computing. We’ve already seen that advisors love iPads and are getting tired of the Blackberry. Computer screens are already becoming part of the keyboard experience. Mouse-movable touch screens will emerge early next year, making touching the computer screen part of the interactive process.

These new interfaces especially improve the speed and ease of accessing information over conventional desktop environments.  Over time physical keyboards may actually phase out and touch screen computers will become the global standard.

Some vendors are already translating their desktop applications to touch screens, aiming at both advisors -- who will then be free to leave the office for an impromptu meeting and take their clients’ files with them -- and the clients on the other side of what was once the faceless computer screen.

2.) Mobile payment systems. All-digital transaction platforms like Google Wallet, Visa Wallet and Serve by American Express are already digging into the wired market, but by the end of 2012 you will likely see bumping mobile devices to share money become part of the social process.

Imagine going into a taxi and paying for your cab fare simply by tapping your smartphone on a screen  or shopping in the supermarket by flashing your phone at the food you want to buy. You’re effectively scanning your own bar codes and automatically debiting your own account -- no checkout required.

And the ramifications of this technology on advisors’ ability to “peek” at client financial patterns have, I think, barely been tapped.

Imagine tapping iPhones to audit a prospect’s 401(k) allocations and even automatically rebalance the account to align better with his or her other assets, long-term liabilities and even cash flow. It’s only science fiction because no advisor’s done it yet.

3.) Social frenzy. Advisors finally have free regulatory rein to participate in the billion-person conversation going on at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and everywhere else online -- as long as they stick to the rules.

But while a lot of the big fish in the industry have opened up Twitter accounts for their advisors and bought technology to make compliance easier, they still aren’t actively prospecting on these sites the way they should be.

Look for webinars, Youtube channels, podcasts and other “interactive” marketing to start crowding out traditional print materials, especially where younger investors are on the line.

Today’s thirtysomethings are arguably the greatest untapped client market out there -- they’re too young to have found advisors already, but in terms of numbers and wealth, they’re already ramping up to beat the Baby Boom itself.

They’re active on Facebook. You should be too.

4.) Tablet Wars.  I’ve written about how the iPad is currently king of mobile computing, but nothing lasts forever. The price of tablet computers and iPads will go down.  You've already seen this with Kindle Fire only costing $199.00 -- under what it costs Amazon to produce.

Rivals will appear driving the price of tablet computers down to only a fraction of what they are today. We saw this start last year with the introduction of “super smartphones” like Xoom that further blur the line between telephone and computer.

Next year could be the year you buy your last desktop computer for the office -- and that huge market will bring manufacturers running.

5.) The Cloud. The secret weapon of tablet computing is that the files don’t really “live” on any of your computers, but on all of them at once.

When your electronic data is actually stored on a remote server operated by a company on the other side of the planet in a building you’ve never even seen, that’s what the “cloud” or “cloud computing” is all about.

This has become a theme for us lately because financial firms are finally coming round to what the cloud can do for them.

Imagine no IT department or outsourced tech team who needs to maintain your physical equipment, because there’s no physical equipment beyond some tablets. No crowded little server closet. No tape drives for backing up all the email and client records.

The paperless office was a revolution in the industry. The serverless office will be even bigger.

6.) Phoning it in. The biggest thing out there now is Siri on the iPhone 4S, which allows you to send files and search office records -- using your voice instead of keyboard, mouse or screen.

As anyone who’s called a utility help line in the last decade knows, this technology has been around for years but wasn't exactly flexible or robust.

Voice input brings us full circle by making the phone the center of the information ecosystem in which advisors operate. The difference here is that you’re not calling your clients to tell them what’s going on but calling your office database -- in the cloud, naturally -- to answer client questions.

Maybe some day clients will just talk to your cloud directly, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

7.) CRM. Customer relationship management software. If you aren’t recording every contact you make with a client, prospect or anyone at all you meet professionally, you’re not part of the future -- you’re stuck in the past.

This is more than just entering your contacts in an Outlook database. Used right, an advisor CRM can set up automated reminders to call clients, drip on prospects and reach out with portfolio-specific analysis of breaking headlines.

In short, 2012 already offers new ways to interact with our devices and for the advisor touch screens and remote control are only the first big waves coming on the horizon. Surf the wave and do your job better and more efficiently -- at a lower price. 

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