The future of wealth management? Mobile technology. That’s what will transform the industry in the next one to three years, advisors told Financial Planning in our annual Tech Survey.
Sound familiar? That’s what they said last year, too. Problem is, most firms are still far behind the curve. Independent advisors, in particular, don’t have access to many painless mobile options for themselves or their clients.
Advisors at firms like Merrill Lynch have a leg up — the company integrated its app with Bank of America’s, allowing planners to share files in a compliant way. But smaller firms don’t always provide the option.
“The younger [clients] want mobile apps, which my firm does not support,” said one advisor in our survey.
One reason for this could be cost, says Dirk Pearson, chief support officer at Advyzon, which creates CRM software for advisors and is currently examining how to better integrate mobile into its technology.
“Being a small RIA and trying to finance a project, to have [your] own branded mobile app is an expensive endeavor,” says Pearson.
While it may be expensive, demand is there.
Advisors want to stay connected while they are out of the office, Pearson says. In addition, clients are used to using a mobile device for almost everything.
“It is becoming a demand on the advisors from their end clients,” Pearson adds. “And I think it’s also a way for these RIAs who are independent to compete with the bigger players out there that have unlimited budgets to develop these things in-house.”
Thankfully for many independent advisors, vendors are rising to the occasion.
Salesforce and Redtail, which dominated the CRM space this year, according to our survey, offer apps for their advisors.
AssetMark recently launched a mobile-first client portal. Riskalyze made its own app. Hearsay launched its text messaging service last year.
“We see mobile as just part of how business is getting done,” says Donna Prlich, chief business officer of Hearsay Systems, a company that offers a text messaging app between advisors and clients. Demand for mobile products has increased over the past three years, she says.
Some advisors from our survey noted that they are seeing improvements.
“I have had several clients remark how much faster, easier to navigate, and more accessible it is concerning their accounts, holding and research,” one advisor at a regional broker-dealer wrote in the survey about their firm’s mobile app.
Several advisors noted how text messaging has benefited their practice.
“Texting with Hearsay Systems was just adopted by our firm, and it has been great to communicate with millennials over text message instead of email,” said one advisor.
Says another advisor: “Clients love [the Totum] app and the reports we are able to produce.”
As financial services finally move to mobile platforms, advisors should expect compliance mandates to follow, according to Prlich. Regulation on text messaging is only just beginning.
Right now, text messaging compliance is self-regulated and customized by the firms. Hearsay, for one, can flag key words or phrases such as “I can guarantee it” that might be used in the text messaging app, or in its social media service. In some cases, the software will automatically remove content sent using keywords.
But FINRA will likely step in over the next three years or so, as texting becomes more common as a means of business interaction for advisors, Prlich says.
“I would say [regulation] is just scratching the surface,” she says.
Until then, firms are setting their own rules when it comes to mobile compliance. And others are just now starting to utilize tools that have been around for quite some time.
“We adopted email,” said one advisor sharing a technology success story.