Here's the best back-office and client-facing tech of the year, along with 2010's top innovation.
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In an annual tradition at Morningstar Advisor, December's column reviews the best technology of the past year for financial advisors and recognizes three truly exceptional products or services. In previous years, winners were selected for the categories of best hardware, best software, and rookie of the year.
This year, I'm refreshing the format of the best technology column and selecting one winner in each of the following three categories:
* Best Back-Office Technology
* Best Client-Facing Technology
* Innovation of the Year
For each category, I'll describe the primary objective and selection criteria used to select a winner. My hope is that the new format will resonate with advisors in search of technology that will help streamline their back office, "wow" their clients, and exhibit their firm's innovative culture.
Before announcing this year's winners, please take a moment to review the disclaimer: Morningstar has no involvement in the selection process, so please direct all comments and suggestions directly to me. No endorsement of any third party products or services is expressed or implied by any information, material or content referred to in this article. Winners do not receive actual awards other than the right to declare their product or service as an award winner until next year's list is announced.
Best Back-Office Technology
The Best Back-Office Technology award winner must be a product or service that boosts the overall efficiency and productivity of a firm's back office and makes a direct impact to the bottom line. It must either improve existing processes and workflow procedures or allow the firm to pursue new business activity without adding significant overhead costs.
Unable to reduce candidates for the award down to one clear winner, I selected two service providers to share the inaugural award for Best Back-Office Technology. To add to the controversy, both providers participate in a realm considered to be of questionable value by some advisors: social media. This year's winners are Socialware Compass from Austin, Texas-based Socialware and Arkovi from its namesake company of Dover, Ohio.
Without question, social media's exponential growth has attracted the attention of advisors looking to grow their business and connect with clients and prospects. Earlier this year, Twitter surpassed 20 billion tweets and continues to average well more than 1.5 billion tweets per month. Facebook surpassed 500 million registered users and just last month eclipsed Google as the number one website for all Internet traffic in the United States, according to reports from Hitwise.