46 INVESTMENT ADVISOR APRIL 2020 | ThinkAdvisor.com
[Editor’s note: Dan Skiles just stepped
back from his 10-year role as our Tech
Coach columnist. Here’s an abbreviated
look at two of his best pieces from 2015,
which remain interesting and relevant.]
Let’s take a walk down advisors’ Technology Memory Lane. Do you remember calling your
custodian to check account balances,
get real-time quotes and place trades?
That all involved picking up the phone.
Also, back in the ‘80s, everyone actually
opened the confirmations and statements
they received in the mail. These documents were critical for staying informed.
Personal computers created a new
technology world. Running on MS-DOS,
the first versions of portfolio reporting
systems were at best difficult to operate;
you needed staff with special skills and
the right temperament.
Importing data was another challenge. Most of this work was done via
manual data entry, and a “cutting-edge”
modem was needed to download files.
In the ‘90s, advisors began to embrace
desktop technology. The first versions
of Windows were gaining traction, creating a new world of desktop applications for advisors. Accessing account
information and trade details, retrieving
quotes and placing trades were the first
features broadly available through a keyboard and a mouse. Email also became a
critical part of advisors’ lives.
As the internet grew, it provided the
foundation for new Web-based technology products and services. The days of
locally installing multiple discs for new
software and updates started to fade.
Mobile technology began to have a big
impact in helping advisors conduct their
business and serve their clients. The new
challenge is deciding when not to work.
Should we expect the trend of better,
faster and cheaper (relatively speaking)
products to continue? While I don’t
have a crystal ball, I do believe there
are several “themes” that will play an
important role in shaping the technology environment of the future.
The personalization of technology will
be significant. Each day, you are building
a “digital fingerprint” of how you interact with technology. This information
can and will be more broadly used across
multiple platforms and solutions.
The opportunity is how this information gets further leveraged to customize your experience, regardless of
the device or program you’re using. Put
simply, it already knows what you prefer
based on what you have done in the past.
Another theme will be greater access
to faster data connection speeds and how
we use it. Will the increase in data speeds
be matched with larger data requirements? The answer is probably yes,
which will put more pressure on advisors to keep their technology up to date.
In the past, you might have an Apple-
or a Windows-based environment. In
the future, the distinct functional dif-
ferences between various devices and
systems will not be as great. The under-
lying capabilities and options available
across devices will be more consistent.
We are seeing lots of tech companies
focus on advisors, and plenty of acquisi-
tions. Will this trend continue, and will
smaller tech companies that serve advi-
sors disappear or become insignificant?
Perhaps, but the continued consolida-
tion of coding languages and platforms
provides an entry point for new firms.
Yes, larger technology companies
might have sizeable market share, but
will they continue to innovate? Some will
not, and that’s when a smaller technolo-
gy company or startup sees opportunity.
As for wireless connectivity with
automation, we still have a number of
cords in our life, but we have made great
strides with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth con-
nectivity; we also are starting to see more
devices that provide wireless charging.
The office of the future will have
fewer cords and more automatic connectivity. The same way your smart-phone connects to your car when you
start the engine, your office phone system will know you have arrived and will
ring the phone on your desk, and your
mobile phone when you leave.
There’s a lot to think about, and
there’s also the decision of whether your
firm should be an early, middle or late
adopter of any new technology. The
right answer depends on many factors,
but one thing is true — to not adopt is a
decision as well.
Dan Skiles is the president of Shareholders
Service Group in San Diego. He can be reached
THE TECHNOLOGY COACH
By Dan Skiles
Advisor Tech: Past, Present, Future
Over the past few decades, advisors went from having almost no choices to
getting a long menu of solutions. The shift was — and remains — exciting.