Advisers and the Brave New World of iPad technology

by Don Trapnell

Don Trappnel In the lead up to the Synchron NextGen conference last year, Synchron decided to make a significant investment: to give every attendee the latest Apple iPad. The first thing most people ask is why?

NextGen is a program we introduced to encourage younger advisers to join Synchron and to support their development via education, soft skills training, coaching/mentoring and leads generation. We make investments that lead to greater efficiencies and better outcomes for our advisers so that we remain relevant to them.

This explains why we were prepared to invest in technology – but not why the iPad.

Emerging Trends

Business Strategist Michael Harrison, who works closely with Synchron, identified some important emerging trends:

  • Mobility – whatever device we use, we want to be able to take it with us with minimum fuss. Slim, lightweight, portable and with as few cords as possible

  • Connectivity – we want real time, instant access

  • Synchronisation – we want all our devices to seamlessly link to each other

  • Home based – we want to be able to do everything we need to do from the comfort and security of home

As Michael points out, the technology we use must be in sync with all these trends or it will become irrelevant.

Why the iPad?

With the launch of the iPad we could see that Apple was embracing the trends Michael talked about. It was first to market with a device that was lightweight, operated at lightning speed and had a ten hour battery life. Connectivity is a touch away and synchronisation happens thanks to cloud computing.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing - which is available on the iPad via an application (app) - allows you to access and edit all the files back in your office via an internet “cloud” (think internet based server). Back in the office everything syncs with everything else – without you having to plug in a cable or lift a finger.

Adviser Efficiencies

A device at the forefront of emerging trends is great but before we bought in we wanted to know that it would translate to better business outcomes for our NextGen advisers right now.

The iPad does a lot of things the iPhone does – it allows advisers to check emails, make voice recordings, surf the net and store both contacts and appointments. You can download for free or buy any number of apps that allow you to do all kinds of things. Amongst the most important are apps that function in a similar (but more limited) way to Microsoft’s Office Suite (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) and import and export seamlessly with them. The iPad can also save and store files and has an app called USB which turns it into a huge USB stick. But so far nothing particularly special.

What is special is the way it can be used to streamline the entire client process.

The Client Interview

As Sam Harrington, one of the young advisers in our Melbourne office, describes it, the iPad “... puts all the basic functions of a computer in the palm of your hand and makes it easier to engage with clients. ” Not only that, it allows advisers, particularly risk-focused advisers, to complete the entire client process - from needs analysis to completing applications to file notes - during the client interview.

Here’s how it works: First up, it is, according to Sam and another of our young advisers, Michael Ord from regional Queensland, an icebreaker. Its very newness is something to talk about with clients. Secondly, necessary documentation, such as the Financial Services Guide, the Fact Find form and the Authority to Proceed can be uploaded, explained, completed and, importantly, thanks to the iPad’s signature capturing facility, signed by the client on the iPad.

Thirdly, it can be used to access existing adviser technology. For example, anything that can be done on xPlan via a desktop computer can be done via the iPad. A new app, launched for the iPad last year by Omnium, allows advisers to compare, present and sell various life insurance products. What’s more, the iPad’s web browsing facility provides easy access to life company adviser sites which, increasingly, offer online processing. This means applications can also be completed, signed and submitted online.

As Michael Ord says, it’s about automating as much of the process as possible. “Clients might travel 300-400 kilometres from a mining site for a meeting, as they do in regional Queensland. They know they need to be insured and they want the deed done quickly. The iPad helps speed up the process.”

Best of all, because the iPad works so seamlessly with existing technologies, both Sam and Michael say nothing had to change about their businesses to incorporate it.

The Downside

The iPad will costs about the same as a laptop computer – around $700-$900. Some applications are free, the rest are – there’s no other word for it - cheap. But let’s get one thing straight. The iPad is not a laptop; it’s a device that allows advisers to access the internet and their own files any time, anywhere. It can’t read flash files, which makes accessing older websites that still use flash difficult and there are also some glitches with some existing adviser technology – but these are likely to be solved in time. And it can’t change the requirement for some documents to be physically signed in hard copy.

What next

Michael Harrison makes a number of predictions about the future of technology which he says will be about wearable technology, paid referrals, and Skype-type interaction with clients.

Whatever the future holds, in the interests of remaining relevant to our advisers, Synchron will continue to evaluate it and look for ways to incorporate the best of it into adviser practices.

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