Though originally created for consumers, tablet computers like the iPad have rapidly been embraced in the enterprise market; according to one survey, nowhere more enthusiastically than in financial services.
A 2010 report by Redwood City, Calif.-based IT company Good Technology measured where in the enterprise market iPads were being officially “turned on” for employee use, and found the financial services industry was the most robust adopter, accounting for 36.8% of enterprise users. Tech came in next with 11.4%, followed by health care at 10.5 percent.
It makes sense. Advisors are a mobile bunch, and being able to work on the road is crucial. But moving beyond email, web browsing and simple portfolio tracking, software makers are taking notice and creating programs for advisors.
"I think tablets are progressing at a rapid pace," says Jennifer Valdez, senior vice president of product management and strategic design at SunGard. "When I travel I spend the majority of my time on tablets."
SunGard recently released its second phase of a mobile push, giving reps access to financial plans and data from devices including the iPad and iPhone. A key element to the release was ensuring data appeared as a PDF, yet not on the devices, but rather rendered into images that appear on the tablets for security reasons.
The goal for SunGard is to allow reps to get client reports on any smartphone or tablet, whether that’s an iPad or Microsoft’s upcoming Surface. Advisors can also use SunGard’s Mobile Meeting, to look at client portfolios, tap on slides, and drill deeper into holdings on tablets.
Later this year, advisors will be able to adjust data, showing a client on the fly what happens to their holdings if they decide to retire at 60 rather than at 65, for example. These tools enable an advisor to grab a tablet before meeting with an investor, and know they can access reports once out the door.
“So you won’t have to do anything in advance of a client meeting,” says Valdez.
These moves by SunGard and others, inlcuding Salesforce and Junxure, come as new tablets appear to debut nearly every few months.
Microsoft's Surface is just one of the latest to launch, a 10.6-inch device with a pliable cover that doubles as a physical keyboard, which is expected to be priced similarly to the iPad. While not Microsoft's first foray into tablets, it's a worthwhile release from the Redmond, Wa.-software giant, not least because of the keyboard — one item iPad users often lament is missing from the device.
Also appearing soon is Google's Nexus 7 tablet with Bluetooth, a front-facing camera and clocking in at very competitive $199. With rumors of a mini-iPad on the near-term horizon, and a reported price tag close to $199, it’s going to be hard to knock the iPad off its top perch.
Even though SunGard's Valdez notes that while early tests of its mobile application worked on the Android platform and others, the firm’s primary focus was on Apple’s mobile platform.
Still, while tablets are today's new toys, it’s up for grabs on what new tech device will morph into tomorrow's must-have business tool. So some financial services firms are building programs and platforms that will be ready — and workable — for whatever a rep adopts.
"We don't care what display someone uses," says Scott Kortgard, business development manager for Interactive Data Corporation, a market data supplier for wealth management firms. "Whether that's a phone or a TV, we are code-based, and we'll have the technology that can deliver."