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2012's Best Tech for Advisors

This year's award winners let you share documents with ease, broadcast yourself live over the Internet, and proactively plan for your clients' needs.

Bill Winterberg, 12/13/2012

Regular readers of MorningstarAdvisor know that December's technology update delivers a review of the best technology of the year. Each year I scan the financial services marketplace and identify those products and services that have an edge over the rest of the competition.

As in the previous two years, for 2012 I have selected one winner in each of the following three categories:

--Best Back-Office Technology
--Best Client-Facing Technology
--Innovation of the Year

The objective of each category is stated at the beginning, outlining how each award winner positions financial services firms to capitalize on opportunities made possible through innovative technology.

And as is customary with my award column, 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.

For roughly a decade, financial advisors have used online document vaults and client portals to exchange files containing sensitive information with their clients. Despite their best efforts to educate clients about how to use such services, advisors complain that only a small portion of their clients actually use online vaults and portals on a regular basis.

Several years ago, software startups emerged with services that store and synchronize documents through the cloud. Not only can files be synchronized across multiple computers used by one person, but also shared directly with other users of the service. Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, and a host of others have now become household names among cloud storage providers, but one product has come forward with attributes specific to the needs of financial advisors. That product, and this year's winner of Best Back-Office Technology, is ShareFile by Citrix Systems, Inc.

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. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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