Advisors seeking better client communication tools are likely to have their wish come true, according to a new report from Celent, a Boston-based financial research and consulting firm. The wealth managers surveyed in the report indicated that they are likely to add or enhance client-relationship management systems and client-reporting and client-facing technology tools within the next two years.

Advisors want to communicate better with clients, said Alexander Camargo, an analyst at Celent and co-author of the report on wealth management IT spending. “The new tools being developed allow advisors to gain insight into clients” and achieve a better picture of their wealth, he said in an interview. “The technology is improving tremendously,” Camargo added, providing “an opportunity for advisors to give clients more buy-in” and present information in a “new and dynamic way.”

Most of the firms surveyed spent between $1 billion and $5 billion on wealth management technology in 2011, with 62% reporting that investing in CRM and other “front-office tools” was their top priority. More than half (56%) indicated that they expected their IT budgets to increase in 2012. The projected increase, on average, was between 5% and 10%, the report noted.

While the firms were enthusiastic about tablets and other mobile devices, investment in mobile technology was “nascent,” with only 39% of respondents offering mobile technology for advisors and 24% offering it to end users, Celent said.

The adoption rate of mobile technology, however, is expected to pick up. Firms not currently offering mobile functionality plan to do so in the next 18 to 24 months, according to the report. More than four in 10 (44%) are planning to offer mobile functionality to advisors and 55% are planning to make it available to end users.

The remaining firms indicated a willingness to adopt mobile technology in more than two years, citing cost and security concerns. Many large banks reported wanting to develop mobile applications for their retail banking operations before applying them to their wealth management businesses.

But the biggest reservation for some of the firms was concern that mobile applications might dilute the service offering of the wealth management advisor. Camargo conceded that there was a “fine line” between providing the end user with too much and just enough “to play around with.” The ideal, he said, was to give advisors the ability to execute.

Camargo noted that while end users can use mobile technology to check their balances and holdings and even transfer money, they’re “still not able to trade.” But what they can do with their mobile devices is contact their advisors and have them make the trade, he said.

The survey was conducted online and sent to over 200 individuals from more than 130 financial institutions in North America and Latin America from October to December of 2011. Celent collected 26 completed surveys, 27% of which were from private and retail banks. In addition, Celent collected feedback from more than 20 firms to provide general knowledge for the study, the company said.

Margarida Correia writes for Bank Investment Consultant.



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