Ignore new technology at your peril.
Clients expect financial advisors to keep up with the latest digital tools. But whether you are a new technology user trying to catch up or are tech-savvy and need to refresh some equipment, you must be judicious with your budget.
With so many products vying for your attention, where should you invest your valuable dollars? This article breaks down the discussion into several categories.
If you need productivity on the move, consider paying extra for a thin, light laptop that still packs a punch, especially as you’ll probably use it for presentations and note-taking in client meetings. Don’t skimp on a vital piece of equipment you’ll be using at least a few hours each day. For that reason, we advise against buying used devices, as they can have performance and maintenance issues.
Some features make more sense than others. High-performance gaming laptops, for example, feature discrete chipsets that can handle complex graphics. Unless you’re playing Red Dead Redemption 2 between meetings, you can skip those laptops.
Instead, invest in a snappy central processing unit (CPU) that can support the latest operating system version along with the updates to come. Intel Corp. is now shipping its 10th-generation Core processors. The Core i5 provides a mid-range balance between price and performance. If you have dollars to spare, opt for the i7.
Shelling out for fast solid-state disk storage also is worthwhile. This technology now comes standard on many low-footprint, high-performance devices. Such a disk will speed up operating system performance and accessing your files. Choose at least 512 gigabytes (GB) of storage to be comfortable.
You shouldn’t skimp on memory, either: eight GB of random-access memory, a.k.a. RAM, is a bare minimum; if your budget allows, 16 GB is better. Computer memory is like a backpack: you’ll always fill the available space and be left wanting more.
A hybrid laptop computer can double as a tablet, eliminating the need to consider (and buy) a second device. Apple Inc.’s iPad Pro is a plausible alternative to a regular laptop, but the locked-down iOS operating system takes getting used to as a primary work tool. You’d be better off opting for a hybrid Windows computer such as the Surface Pro, which transforms to a tablet and can revert to a regular desktop operating system for periods of more intensive work that require a keyboard.
The phone in your pocket is another device you shouldn’t skimp on, given how much time you’ll use it to check email, call clients and colleagues or search the web. Apple’s recently launched iPhone 11 offers little incentive to buy aside from its camera. Apple fans hoping to upgrade can hold out for the next version, due this autumn.
Your phone, tablet and computer choices are connected, depending on which operating ecosystem you use. Apple covers the gamut with tablets, laptops, desktops and phones. You can still pick up Windows 10 Mobile phones, but Microsoft Corp. itself recommends buying Apple or Android devices as replacements. Ideally, all your devices should use the same software platform.
Enough about hardware. What about the productivity software to run on it? This is where you often can choose between a costly upfront payment and a trickling payment over time. Developers are increasingly moving to subscription-based models, in which you pay a small monthly fee for software. The advantage of this is twofold. First, you can try the software inexpensively to see if it meets your needs. Second, if you decide to keep the software, you can begin using it without a significant initial outlay.
Over time, however, the cost of your subscription software will probably surpass what you would have paid for a single upfront licensing fee.
Software subscriptions make sense if you have a volatile number of employees because you can dynamically scale your software costs by adding and subtracting licences. However, if your office is small, you won’t face that problem.
Subscription payments also are useful for products with accompanying data services, such as market feeds. In that case, you pay for the data as much as for the software. Finally, subscriptions can make sense if you always want the latest product update for security and functionality reasons.
If you’re happy with a major software upgrade every three years, think twice about subscription models for productivity software. Most single-payment software applications these days offer a free trial anyway.
A good example of a product category in which subscription payments do make sense is security. Whether you’re purchasing anti-malware products for your desktop computers or a unified threat-management appliance that provides multiple security features for your office, security products rely on constant updates from vendors responding to rapidly evolving sets of online threats.
You also might consider taking your cybersecurity protection entirely into the cloud using hosted security. Several companies offer cloud-based services, including malware, web traffic and email scanning, to help protect all the computers in your office — even when they travel outside your network.
Cybersecurity is a complex challenge, and with regulators now mandating the reporting of any cybersecurity incidents, this isn’t something you can afford to skimp on.
Networking and backups
There is one product category slow-moving enough that you can set and forget: networking. The average small-office network can make do with a wired switch or a properly configured wireless access point for a few years without much attention. Having said that, Wi-Fi 6 access points are already hitting the market, promising higher speeds and more capacity.
If you have spare budget for your office network and haven’t upgraded your Wi-Fi in three years or so, investing in a new access point would be worthwhile. This product will prepare your network to support any new computers you purchase in the future — upgrades that will probably support your new Wi-Fi standard.
Remember that skepticism is healthy for anyone buying tech services and products. Technology is a sector that consistently overpromises and underdelivers. When you are contemplating technology upgrades, it is now more important than ever to read reviews and think hard about whether that newfangled product feature really is worth the premium.