The 15 Smartest Things Heard (and Tweeted) at Technology Tools for Today
What are the biggest technology trends, innovations and ideas impacting advisors today? Over 600 people, including more than 300 advisors, descended on Miami for the eighth annual Technology Tools for Today Conference. The event featured the industry’s best and brightest highlighting all the latest technology tools that will held advisors be more competitive, effective and efficient. Here are some of the most interesting things our editors heard, and advisors and financial experts tweeted, from the event. Joel Bruckenstein, one of the minds behind T3, said the biggest mistake advisors make about technology is that they see it as an expense instead of an investment.
Jim Dario of TD Ameritrade said during a general session that a $100,000 investment in technology by a mid-sized RIA can equal a $1 million business value increase. Despite this information, the average firm spends only 3% to 5% on new technology. RIAs “need to consider increasing spending on technology,” Dario said.
@alexmurguia1 said during a session, “If someone needs to read a manual to use your software, you've made it too complicated.” Simplicity is the key for advisors. Bob Curtis of MoneyGuide Pro said that great software should make it easy to engage clients, answer tough questions and keep clients committed long-term.
Clients expect 24/7 attention from their financial advisor, and advisors need to find the right technology tools to streamline their process while still managing to enjoy their life, home, hobbies and family. Jim Dario said advisors will work hard, but they don't want to go to a brick and mortar office every day. The solution: better technology. Dario said by providing employees with the best tools they will be more productive, and keep them happy as well.
@MichaelKitces was on point when he tweeted that cloud computing was a major theme at the T3 Conference. Marc Duncan at NetDocuments says cloud computing has gone from cutting edge to mainstream, “it's an expectation at this point,” he said. According to technology expert Joel Bruckenstein (@FinTechie), the cloud is a low cost solution that provides better security and backup, but advisors need to understand where cloud data is stored and what happens if a provider goes out of business. “These are key due diligence questions,” he said. “But frankly most advisors don't ask that question.” Tech expert Bill Winterberg (@BillWinterberg) says Carbonite provides great backup in case an advisor’s CRM were to blow up or disappear. Winterberg sayd the cloud provides "agility and mobility" that advisors will struggle to get from their server.
The way we communicate and discover things has changed, Rohit Mahna, a senior director of Financial Services Industry Solutions for Salesforce, which made its debut at the T3 conference this year, told the audience. “Social is woven into the DNA of the way we search and communicate now.” Dario said social media creates tighter relationships with clients. Mahna said that by 2012 there were 150 million new conversations daily on social media. Tim Welsh of Nexus Strategies (@NexusStrategy) said if you want to empower your firm to use social media, RIAs need to capture and archive posts before they go out. Bruckenstein said that any good CRM will integrate social media into it. “Social media should be incorporated into an RIA’s marketing plan,” he said. “But the problem is most advisors don’t have a marketing plan.”
During one panel, an advisor asked Bruckenstein, when will there be data standardization in the industry? Bruckenstein answered: "When hell freezes over."
Advisors need a “healthy dose of suspicion to enhance security,” according to Winterberg. He said that attackers are calling advisors pretending to be clients. He suggested that advisors should Put an ID plan in their CRM to help protect themselves. The key takeaway? Advisors need to plan for the worst, whether that comes in the form of a cyber-attack or a natural disaster.
Mobile engagement is moving to the mainstream. Marion Asnes of Envestnet said that 1.7 billion people worldwide will access Internet from a mobile device this year. Asnes said the mobile web IS the web, and advisors must improve their presence. Bruckenstein suggested advisors take a hard look at how their website looks on a mobile device because “if your website doesn't look good on a mobile device, then a potential clients is probably moving on to the next advisor.”
With the right technology, proximity is no longer a pre-requisite when it comes to gathering clients. Winterberg said clients expect their advisor to use video conferencing to increase engagement. I don't need an advisor within five miles of my house. I need an advisor who is an expert in my needs,” he said. One important tip from Winterberg: If you are using free video conferencing, be sure to turn off your email pop ups. “Or spend the $20 for the premium version,” he said.
According to Financial Planning’s Tech Survey 50% of RIAs are using a tablet. Of those, 80% are using an iPad. Trust Company of American CIO Dennis Noto asked an audience how many advisors were using iPhones and a third of the audience raised its hand. At the conference, Winterberg polled an audience to find out what type of tablet they used. @MichaelKitces tweeted: mostly iPads, a few Android tablets, & only @FinTechie using a Windows 8 tablet. Winterberg said the results weren’t surprising, “Your clients own iPhones and iPads too. For advisors, this can establish continuity.”
Financial Planning’s Editor Scott Wenger asked if there is any hope for BlackBerry with the introduction of BlackBerry 10. Bruckenstein answered, “None.” At another session the audience was polled to find out how many were still using BlackBerry? Only one person raised their hand.
As mobile technology evolves, advisors are incorporating tablet devices into their practices in new ways, said Brian Shenson of Schwab Advisor Services. According to Shenson, some advisors are actually giving each client (both the husband and the wife in a couple) their own tablet device to keep as a way to communicate and stay up-to-day on the latest in the client’s plan.
Winterberg recommended a variety of applications to improve advisor productivity. RescueTime tracks the amount of time you spend on Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Facebook, and Twitter, and provides a handy reminder to ensure advisors don't spend too much time on social media. Yammer, Jive and Chatter are good closed social networks for an advisor’s practice. Reportive, Outlook Social Connector, and Contactuall are good tools for advisors to get referrals from social media.
Seventy percent of advisors still are not using a document management system, according to Financial Planning’s annual tech survey Ken Severud (@KenSeverud) of Wealth Enhancement Group, a Minnesota financial planning and advisor services firm, said by using Laserfiche his firm has reduced its paper consumption by 450,00 pages annually. Severud said by reducing paper, the biggest savings comes from postal expenses, thanks to double-sided copies. Rob Major of AssetBook predicted that paper will go away (in terms of reporting) within the next 5 to 10 years.
Joel Bruckenstein says Windows 8 is going to change how advisors do business. Since it was launched in October, 60 million users have shifted to Windows 8 and it is adding 20 million new users each monthly. To attract more independent advisors to its Windows 8 platform, Microsoft is in the process of developing complete “advisor in a box” solutions for RIAs. What was the smartest thing you heard at T3? Tweet us at @finplan.