IFA technology has undergone a revolution in the past 10 years. Many independent advisers are now fully engaged with social media, for example, using it both to share best practice and ideas and to establish better communication with clients. The latest development in adviser technology is the use of apps, which is expanding in line with the boom in touch-screen technology.
Apps are now a way of life for technology-literate consumers. The iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million in three days and was sold out across all major retailers within weeks.
Despite its £400-plus price tag, the iPad sold more than a million in its first month of launch in the US and has proved extremely popular in the UK.
And it is not just Apple, as apps are also now available for Blackberrys and other types of mobile phone.
The development of apps in the financial advice arena has been seen both on the client side and on the adviser side. Philip Calvert at IFA Life says that app technology is likely to have a significant impact on how consumers access financial information and advice. For example, many clients will now use Bloomberg to check the progress of the stockmarket or the FT to check the day’s business news. There are now more than 500 financial apps in the iTunes app store.
According to Calvert, advisers need to start thinking about how they can integrate apps into their service proposition. IFA Life launched its first app in September and plans to launch two more. The first app simply delivers the latest content from IFA Life’s social networking site but the second app will provide a platform for consumers to interact with IFAs through a range of social media. A third app is in development and currently remains top secret.
Advisers need to start thinking about how they can integrate apps into their service proposition
Informed Choice managing director Martin Bamford is also developing a range of apps. He says it is wrong to think of app technology as purely something for younger clients. “When we looked at the demographics of people using social media and this type of new technology, we found it was very widely spread. There were plenty of people in their 50s and 60s embracing this new technology. It has become a way of life for many people.”
Equally, groups such as Fidelity and ING Direct have apps that allow consumers to access their portfolios on the move. Consumers are increasingly used to being able to access information about their financial situation at all times, developing a trend started by internet banking. It is clear that paper-based valuations will begin to look archaic the more these trends establish themselves.
There are also IFA-facing apps that can be used with clients. Bamford points to Distribution Technology, which has produced an app with a risk-profiling questionnaire. He says products such as this acknowledge that not all clients want to do this type of activity face to face but at a time that suits them.
A number of providers have also introduced apps. Aviva’s Time to Act app is a simplified version of Aviva’s Pensions Tracker. Users can put in personal details and contribution levels to work out how much extra money they receive from the taxman and employer. They can also see how much their pension fund might grow and the value of their income when they retire. Users can also see how adopting different investment styles might have influenced their retirement income. Aviva says this is a means of “bringing financial planning to life for consumers”.
In the IFA market, True Potential has made significant progress and is already on the second version of its app. It offers an integrated adviser and client tool, it includes realtime client valuations and access to any data that has been stored online, such as historic investment performance, fund choices, emails, other financial services products and even non-financial documents such as passports and travel insurance documents.
The group is marketing it as an efficiency tool for advisers that can help reduce costs.
1st Exchange is planning a client communication portal for advisers that will allow clients to engage with their advisers, ask questions and update personal information. Clients will have a single, secure online view of personal information linked to the group’s adviser office and can check the status of applications. It is designed so that advisers can respond quickly to client requests.
The range of financial apps already released and the speed of adoption by the public will mean this is an area that will continue to grow and offer IFAs new tools to help them operate more efficiently.