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Mobile Management

To woo young clients, advisors are increasingly using on-the-go technology.

By Ann Marsh April 1, 2012

Financial planners say it's an occupational hazard: When older clients die, many planners fail to retain the heirs' business. Learning to speak in the lingua franca of the younger generation - via mobile technologies - could help keep those assets in-house.

"With the younger generation, the technology does become more important,'' says Betty Hedrick, who runs her solo firm, the Hedrick Company, on Mercer Island in Washington state. Recently, two of her clients died. During initial meetings with their offspring, Hedrick used her Samsung Slate tablet computer to open a new tool, goalgamiPro, made by the wealth management solutions company Advisor Software, to assess her clients' goals in minutes.

"The heirs say things like, 'Okay, if I don't spend any of this, will this let me retire when I'm 50?'" Hedrick says. "I've been able to take [goalgamiPro] to just very quickly say, 'Well, it's a possibility.'"

That's one way to wow a prospect. Before using goalgamiPro with clients, Hedrick checked its capabilities against proprietary planning software she had developed for her firm. She found both produced comparable results, although her own system took much more time to use.


New and powerful planning tools lets advisors such as Hedrick slash the time required for both nuts-and-bolts planning, as well as the once time-consuming transactional work of managing wealth. The mobile component may prove particularly alluring to younger prospects, a message some support services firms say many advisors have been slow to grasp.

"For the past six months, we've been saying, 'Look, your clients' beneficiaries are using mobile technologies and, whether you like it or not, that is what is coming,'" says Jim Anderson, chief systems officer at CLS Investments in Omaha, Neb., an independent, third-party money manager with 2,300 advisors as customers.

Anderson now tracks which devices its advisors and their clients use to access their data through the CLS website. He found that more than two-thirds of clients use mobile technologies, such as tablets, to view account information, meaning advisors are lagging behind their customers.

"I think this finding completely validates why people want a mobile application," Anderson says. "It's coming from that end-user client. They are expecting their advisor's company to be available through those mobile technologies.''

Mobility's advantages aren't just for clients. Take the example of a planner who has just arrived in Hawaii for a weeklong vacation. Shortly after checking into the hotel, he receives an email from a client who needs cash to buy a new car.

"Aside from the fact that it's a bad idea to be on call in Maui,'' says planner Dave Shore of Marin Financial Advisors in Larkspur, Calif., "when a client tries to raise, say, $50,000 to buy a car, that is really complicated. It requires deciding which holdings to sell with an eye to tax efficiency, and rebalancing the impact of those transactions across the client's accounts," he explained.

"Two years ago, that's the kind of thing that took us tons of time with spreadsheets," Shore says. It could take hours out of the planner's vacation and hours of the back-office staff, too. Now with software that automatically populates such a transaction throughout a client's multiple accounts, it can take just minutes - and be done with a tablet.

Shore and his partner Tim Harrington at Marin have become so comfortable using mobile technologies, he says, that they've come to rely on them almost exclusively. "Tim has a quarter of his clients on the East Coast and he just travels with his iPad,'' Shore says. "It's bringing the portal to them.''


Mobile technologies can create a more intimate experience between the client and the data, as well as between client and planner. "Using an iPad or a mobile phone, an advisor can sit down with a client and walk through some significant information from their account," Anderson explains. "It helps our advisors get on the same side of the table as the client. We think that gives our advisors a leg up."

It certainly holds out the prospect of demystifying some of the process of financial planning. Many companies offer tools with customized dashboards that display on one page all of a client's holdings, including held-away assets in outside firms and illiquid investments, such as real estate.

Getting clients to use these new mobile technologies isn't always a snap, though. Stuart DePina, CEO of portfolio management technology provider Tamarac, launched a new portal in August 2010 that could be customized for clients. "Initially, there was minimal adoption of 2%, but since that time, we have firms that are up to 40% to 50% adoption rates of their clients,'' DePina says.

This article was sourced from http://www.financial-planning.com/fp_issues/2012_4/financial-planners-target-younger-clients-technology-2677937-1.html

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