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Hop on the Mobile Bandwagon

Orion's MobileAdvisor provides another reason to embrace mobile computing.

Bill Winterberg, 02/10/2011

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Many advisors are still in a wait-and-see mode regarding the adoption of tablet computers in their practices. Tablets such as the Apple iPad, my selection as Innovation of the Year in 2010's Best Tech for Advisors, have quickly generated enormous interest in the consumer market, and that interest is being mirrored in the enterprise environment.
 
According to a report released in late January by Good Technology, a mobile device security and remote management provider, iPad activations in the financial services sector represented approximately 40% of all activations across Good's customers. The second-highest sector was health care, with an activation percentage of about 18%.
 
Fortunately for advisors, service providers are responding to the interest by releasing compelling applications to use with tablet computers. One of those providers is Omaha-based Orion Advisor Services, LLC, which launched a portfolio performance reporting app for the iPad and iPhone in January. I recently installed and tested the app to identify its potential for both advisors and clients alike.
 
What Advisors See
After installing the Orion MobileAdvisor app from the App Store, advisors launch the app and enter their login credentials to their master Orion account. The home screen is the household search page that lists the firm's client households under management. Initially the list of households is blank, so advisors must perform a search to see any client household listings. Personally I found the added search step to be a minor inconvenience, but in speaking with Eric Clarke, president of Orion Advisor Services, he noted that designers made a conscious decision to not initially list all households, because several advisors have tens of thousands of accounts, and this would significantly impair the home screen's performance at startup.

Tapping a client's listing brings up a summary of their household and account information, including basic contact information. Tapping on the client's address opens up a Google Map embedded in the app, and a tap and hold on the address brings up a prompt to open the default Maps application, allowing an advisor to get directions to the client's residence.

The client's primary phone number is also listed, and I suspect that a tap and hold on the number will open an option to call the client when used on an iPhone. I couldn't confirm this feature while testing on my iPad, but if it works, it can be a convenient way to call client while away from the office. Accessing client contact information from inside MobileAdvisor offers better security, too, because client contact information does not need to be synchronized to the default Contacts app in iOS, Apple's mobile operating system.
 
Below the client's contact information is the household account snapshot. Asset information can be viewed according the following categories, which can be customized in the app by the advisor:
* Account
* Management Style
* Product Category
* Product Class
* Risk Category
* Asset Level Strategy
 
Each item in the household snapshot can be expanded by tapping it to view information about individual positions that make up its respective category. By tapping individual securities, advisors can drill down to view one-year performance charts and quotes from the prior day's closing price. Performance charts are sized appropriately for the iPhone's screen, which makes them quite small when viewed on the much larger iPad screen.

MobileAdvisor also includes a dozen report options for client accounts, including benchmark comparisons, performance reports, and transaction details. Most reports support custom start and end dates, which is useful to find specific information such as specific transactions in one quarter or prior-year tax information.
 
Overall, MobileAdvisor provides a good way for advisors to review basic client portfolio information monitored on the Orion platform. Users seeking more comprehensive or complicated reports will likely want to use the full-featured Orion platform, but the mobile app offers access to basic information through the convenience of a mobile device.

Customize for Client Use
While useful for advisors, Orion built MobileAdvisor so that it can be customized advisory firms using Orion's portfolio accounting platform. The customized app is published to the App Store by Orion on the advisor's behalf and can be downloaded by clients to their iOS device.

To customize the app, advisors need to provide an app name, description, keywords, and contact information to Orion Advisor Services. Advisors can also provide a logo to be used as the app's icon, a splash screen image, and select background colors that match colors used in the firm's logo and printed materials.

What Clients See
Once a client downloads the advisor's branded app from the App Store, she needs a client login ID and password to access portfolio account information. Clients use the same login credentials as the ones used for account access via Orion's advisor-branded web portal.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com.
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