By Scott Van Voorhis
As the corporate world goes gaga over Steve Jobs’ latest gadget, button-downed financial planners may be the next to hop on the iPad love train.
Finantix, an international developer of software for the financial services industry, is rolling out several new applications for financial advisors and investors. Alessandro Tonchia, the firm’s director and founder, is aiming for nothing less than a technological revolution that will transform the way financial planners do business.
The iPad may be the perfect change agent for tradition-bound financial planners. It is small enough to be unobtrusive and will mesh nicely with the corporate culture, but revolutionary in its ability to cut out unnecessary paperwork and bring advisors and clients together on the same page, he said.
“It generates the sense that you are an advisor that understands new technology in an elegant and respectful way,” Tonchia said. “It is the best mix of high-tech and high-touch.”
As it stands, many financial planners and advisors could stand a good technology reboot. In client meetings, it’s not uncommon for planners to take notes on pad and paper, only to head back to the office later to type the information into a memo or financial plan. Too often, the financial planner sits hunched over a keyboard, pulling up charts and graphs for clients to peer at over his shoulders. It’s an approach that is both inefficient and often cumbersome for communicating with clients as well.
But Tonchia is betting that Finantix’s new iPad apps will prove to be a game-changer that will also fit nicely with the field’s conservative culture. Advisors now will be able to share a host of information with their clients, iPad to iPad, with more charts and graphics than typically available on current systems.
Routine portfolio reports, including latest gains and losses.
Breakdowns of clients’ portfolios by asset class, currency and country sector.
Wealth growth projections showing progress on meeting financial plan objectives.
Alerts on portfolio issues, including the need to sell off different stocks or mutual funds.
For financial planners who adopt the iPad, there’s an immediate efficiency gain, Tonchia argues.
First, instead of taking notes at a meeting and typing them later into a report or memo, the planner can simply take it down right then and there on his or her iPad.
Financial advisors will also be able to communicate instantly with clients. As it stands now, a financial planner may determine a client needs to get out of one stock or into another as Wall Street gyrates. That usually involves doing research in the office on the computer, then drafting an e-mail or making a call. But armed with an iPad, the advisor could be on the road and, after learning that a key stock in a number of client portfolios had tanked, fire off an alert coupled with a chart or graphic to back it up.
The alert is also automatically recorded – a plus for federal compliance reasons.
“In the past you had your computer for operations and your phone for communications,” Tonchia said. “Now they are all in one – it is a much more natural way of working.”
More importantly, the iPad could help financial planners forge even stronger links with their clients in a way that meshes nicely with the field’s culture.
Hitherto trapped behind a keyboard, the iPad frees up the advisor and lets him or her have face time with a client, even while sharing charts, graphics and reports. In fact, Tonchia contends that firms may even start buying iPads for their clients, giving them the ability to check on their accounts and chat directly with their advisors. He even sees some financial planning firms using the iPad as a potential recruiting tool as well in their search for the best and brightest employees.
“For some reason, there is this feel-good aspect that comes from Steve Jobs,” Tonchia said. “You can rub off a bit of that coolness, feel-good factor on your clients, your employees.”
And as far as technology goes, it’s a much more elegant fit in an elegantly bedecked office with old paintings and antique furnishings than a clumsy keyboard and computer, he contends.
Having just rolled out the apps, Finantix is starting to share them with some select clients in trials runs. This includes a top Boston financial services firm.
The idea of putting financial planning apps on the iPad is already getting some positive reviews.
Bill Winterberg, principal of FP PAD, a Dallas-based technology consulting firm for financial advisors, said he wants to know more about how the apps secure critical financial information. But he finds the idea intriguing.
“I am excited about the iPad,’’ he said. “It definitely makes financial planning much more dynamic.”
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer.