The financial advisors surveyed for this year’s Dealers’ Report Card are looking to their dealer firms to provide the capability of taking their businesses on the go – whether that’s working from home or filling out documents with clients on a tablet. By and large, advisors are finding that remote access to company files is easier now.

Mobile technology is becoming increasingly significant for advisors, who gave the “support for mobile technology and the mobile advisor” category an overall average importance rating of 7.8, up from 7.0 in 2015.

“[Mobile tech] is becoming more important,” says an advisor on the Prairies with Oakville, Ont.-based Manulife Securities. “We seem to be out of the office more, with more reasons to look stuff up on your phone.”

The category’s overall average performance rating rose almost in lockstep with the importance rating, climbing to 7.5 from 6.8 year-over-year, suggesting that firms appear to be doing a better job of delivering the support advisors need to take their businesses on the road. In addition, the negligible difference between the overall average importance and performance ratings reveals that firms are, for the most part, meeting advisors’ expectations.

Advisors happiest with their firm’s support for mobility said they have full access to their work computer through personal computers or mobile devices.

For example, advisors with Winnipeg-based Investors Group Inc., which received the highest performance rating in this category – at 8.3, up significantly from 7.5 in 2015 – appreciate the access they have to all important information via their laptops or mobile devices.

“I work remotely constantly, and everything comes to my phone,” says an Investors Group advisor in British Columbia. “My laptop connects to our head office servers from anywhere.”

Adds a colleague in the same province: “We’re able to go out to clients’ houses, access our files and at the same time keep it private and secure. I am completely paperless. Our systems are backed up in two places every night.”

Advisors like mobile apps

Mississauga, Ont.-based Investment Planning Counsel Inc.’s (IPC) performance rating for mobile technology also rose significantly, to 7.0 from 5.9 in 2015. IPC advisors praised their firm for the ease with which they can work from home when needed.

“I have a home office, and I’m hooked up to everything from home,” says an IPC advisor on the Prairies.

Furthermore, IPC advisors said they’re excited the firm is beefing up its mobile support with the creation of mobile applications.

“[IPC is] starting to improve [mobile accessibility] right now,” says an IPC advisor in Ontario. “We can’t just pull up accounts on our smartphones yet. It’s supposed to be coming. [The firm is] working on all those apps right now.”

Indeed, IPC has launched a pilot project for an app that will allow advisors to access client information and the dealer’s back-office system. This app is meant to improve upon IPC’s current web-based solution through which advisors can sign in on any device, whether a desktop computer or a smartphone, to access IPC’s back office.

“It’s a totally interactive thing to help [advisors] with simple things like an address or to call [clients]… or if you want to place a trade,” says Reggie Alvares, executive vice president, operations and information services, with IPC. “[Mobile technology] is just another tool to conduct [advisors’] business.”

IPC also launched a fully mobile office in October 2015 through which advisors who operate out of more than one office can connect their IT infrastructure on one device. As well, advisors can access video-conferencing tools and a customized Dropbox account for sharing information among team members, clients or head office. This accessibility also includes a mobile data plan, so advisors without access to Wi-Fi can use their smartphones as a mobile hot spot to connect to the Internet.

“Advisors can go anywhere,” says Alvares. “They can be mid-Atlantic or somewhere on the Pacific Ocean and still conduct their business with the same elements of conducting back-office administration, placing trades, having client meetings, talking to assistants, talking to someone in head office.”

Meanwhile, advisors with Markham, Ont.-based Worldsource Wealth Management Inc. were not quite as enthused about the mobile tech support they receive, but do see improvements in this area. For example, Worldsource’s performance rating rose to 6.7 from 5.2 in 2015.

“I have everything on my phone,” says a Worldsource advisor in Ontario.

Indeed, two years ago, the dealer rolled out a web-based platform through which advisors can access the firm’s back office from any device or Internet browser. Some advisors, however, have had issues with the system.

Greater focus on mobility

“You can’t really go out [to meetings] with your iPad [because] I couldn’t get access to the back-office system,” says a Worldsource advisor in Ontario.

Katharine Baran, vice president and head of operations and technology with Worldsource, says there were a few bugs after the program’s rollout, but those were resolved. Furthermore, she adds, the firm is spending more time on ensuring its systems remain compatible with updated platforms and operating systems.

“[We’re] making sure we’re always keeping on top of changes,” she says. “It’s becoming a larger and larger piece of our focus.”

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