Most financial advisors are likely to spend at least half an hour a day dealing with email. If you have tech-savvy clients and colleagues who like to communicate in this manner, you probably will spend far more time doing the same. Thus, the email software you use can have a pronounced effect on your productivity; and just because you’ve always used a particular email-management system doesn’t mean there aren’t better ones out there that suit your working style.
First, knowing the difference between an email “service” and an email “client” is important. A service is the online mailbox that stores and forwards your email. Among the most popular are Alphabet Inc.‘s Gmail and Microsoft Corp.‘s Outlook.com, but there are many others. An email client is the software app, installed on your computer or mobile device, that connects to the email service to send and download your email.
Like most advisors, you’re likely to use your company’s email service, hosted under the company’s domain name; this means that you will want an email client that can connect to the service using the go-to email protocols – IMAP or POP3.
The first consideration for your email client will be your operating system (OS) platform. Consider whether you want to access your email purely on your desktop or also via a mobile device – and whether you want the same experience on each device.
If you’re a user of Apple Inc.‘s products, your first choice of email client may be the native Mail app built into both the macOS (desktop) and iOS (mobile) platforms. Mail is a basic tool and doesn’t include features such as turning emails into tasks or calendar integration. However, the app does include a useful feature that extracts contact data from emails automatically and puts those data into your address book.
Some apps, such as Mozilla’s Thunderbird (thunderbird.net), are available for the three major desktop OS platforms – Linux, macOS and Windows – but don’t have an equivalent mobile option. Conversely, Edison Mail (mail.edison.tech) is a free app available only on Android and iOS that will appeal to mobile users. Specifically, Edison Mail’s digital assistant technology sorts incoming messages into appropriate groups automatically, so your email is easily digestible when you’re on the move.
Finally, let’s not forget those BlackBerry aficionados out there. BlackBerry smartphones, which now run on Android, take advantage of a BlackBerry software suite known as BlackBerry Hub. This communications hub marries email, phone calls, text messages and social media accounts to help you manage all of your communications in one place. BlackBerry Hub is available on Google Play and is free for BlackBerry smartphone users.
For some people, security and privacy is the biggest concern. But that’s a big challenge because email is notoriously insecure. It usually travels in plain text form across the Internet, often passing through multiple email providers’ servers – and anyone who has access to those machines can view the emails.
You and your clients who use Apple devices can turn to Canary (canarymail.io) for help. This desktop and mobile email client features end-to-end encryption. If you and a client both use Canary, then each email will be encrypted when it’s sent and decrypted only when the recipient opens it in the app. That means email providers cannot snoop.
– CALENDAR INTEGRATION
For many advisors, receiving emails alone from clients isn’t enough. If a client sends an email asking for a meeting, then you’ll need to use the email software to book an appointment. For calendar integration, Microsoft’s perennial Outlook email client (products.office.com/en-ca/outlook) is difficult to beat. With a calendar built directly into the software, Outlook lets you turn emails into meetings effortlessly.
Microsoft also has built some welcome features into Outlook, such as displaying multiple time zones, which can be useful if you work with clients or colleagues across Canada. Outlook also is available on a range of OS platforms, including macOS, iOS, Android and, of course, Windows.
Microsoft offers Outlook on mobile platforms for free. A version also is available for desktop or web access as part of a broader Office365 subscription, with business accounts starting at $10.50 a month.
If you want to check your clients’ old email threads or find buried information from months earlier, the ability to search quickly through old emails is key. Gmail and G Suite for business feature Google’s powerful search engine and can be used with Gmail’s mobile email client for Android and iOS.
Other email clients have innovative security features, including Canary, to aid your searches using natural language requests, such as “all unread newsletters” or “receipts from last month.”
– MULTIPLE INBOXES
You may want to manage multiple inboxes from the same email client. Support for multiple email addresses – such as your personal or work addresses – is a common feature. Postbox (postbox-inc.com), a spinoff from the Thunderbird project, is available for US$40 on macOS and Windows and handles multiple mailboxes especially well.
Postbox lets you group different ac- counts together and includes a neat feature called “domain fencing,” which notices if you try to email outside your company. Postbox also can alert you when sending emails to addresses with specific domains (such as gmail.com), which can stop you from sending sensitive data to personal email addresses, for example.
Power users will appreciate the tabbed interface for keeping multiple emails open at the same time, which can be useful when referring to older emails while writing a new one. Postbox also has features such as an integrated sidebar that displays contact information, enabling you to refresh your memory with up-to-date information about clients as you deal with your emails.
– TIME MANAGEMENT
Anything that helps you save time by organizing your work quickly is an asset. Postbox includes a “composition goals” feature that tracks how much time you’re spending when writing an email and how long that email is, warning you if you’re taking too long.
Hiri (hiri.com), another email client, takes time management a step further. Hiri includes features such as a task list for quickly organizing emails into to-dos and an email triage system that helps you sort emails into things you need to do and things you just need to know about. You also can “snooze” emails so that your inbox hides them and brings them up at a later date to keep your inbox clean and clutter-free.
Although Hiri is available on Linux, macOS and Windows, this app has strong support for the Microsoft’s ecosystem, featuring Exchange and Office365 calendar integration. Hiri also includes an interface to Microsoft’s Active Directory for larger firms that use Microsoft’s back-end software. In short, Hiri is a direct rival to Outlook for people who want more time-saving tools and widgets. The licence for using Hiri costs either US$119 for lifetime access or US$39 for annual access.