Going Mobile: Review of AssetMark’s New iPad App
Mobile technology has revolutionized wealth management in ways that were unimaginable 5-10 years ago. Smaller and smaller form factors that pack more and more processing power have provided us with almost unlimited flexibility and new ways to sell to and service clients.
According to a recent report called Mobile in Wealth Management from Capco, Apple’s iPad is currently the only truly viable tablet-based solution for wealth managers and their clients, for the following reasons:
- Its larger screen size;
- Its dominance in the consumer market;
- The ease with which it can be integrated into existing infrastructure (allowing simpler monitoring and deployment);
- Inherent security levels – where sensitive data is a concern, the iPad is currently the only tablet on which applications can be fully encrypted, using embedded encryption chips.
As part of my series on ways in which mobile technology is transforming wealth management, I reviewed an iPad app recently launched AssetMark. AssetMark is an asset management provider to independent financial advisors who want to outsource all or part of their investment management.
I spoke with Roger Alt, Director of Digital Product Development for AssetMark who took me through a demo.
Their iPad app, called AssetMark Advisor, is part of their larger strategy to deepen client relationships by offering free business development tools. They believe that providing advisors with an interactive experience to share with their clients & prospects will encourage them to bring more of their assets onto AssetMark’s platform, Alt insisted.
AssetMark competes against firms such as Brinker, SEI, Lockwood Advisors, and Loring Ward. Most of their clients are IBD reps and independent RIAs. They do not have much in the bank/trust space, although they are interested in exploring it in the future.
The iPad app allows advisors to tell a sophisticated story in a simple, yet effective way, Alt explained.
It is often difficult to explain to clients about the risk that is required to meet their retirement goals, Alt stated. The iPad app provides a series of charts, graphs ad illustrations that explain how asset allocation works and demonstrates the risk and return tradeoffs in order to simplify the conversation, he noted.
“The exchange between the client and advisor is becoming more of a collaborative model,” Alt stressed. AssetMark wants to encourage more thoughtful conversations and facilitate collaboration between advisor and client as to their goals, he stated.
There is no charge for the iPad app, which can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store. It can be used by any AssetMark client without any minimums related to revenue or AUM.
Obviously, the company expects this app to increase customer loyalty and hopefully, gather more of advisors’ wallet share. However, Alt said that no revenue projections have been made related to roll out or usage of the app. AssetMark’s goals are to help end investors better understand the investment process and thereby deepen the asset management relationship with advisors.
The app is divided into three sections; the first two are presentations, one called Bull + Bear Markets the other called Asset Allocation. They are designed for an advisor to walk through them with clients to explain investment management concepts including market cycles, diversification and strategic versus tactical strategies.
While the presentations are static and can not be customized, they do provide a good overview of investment concepts and also include links to videos that provide further information.
One of the features I like in this section is the ability to drill down into different strategy categories and see information about the money managers offered in each area. The details include basics such as the investment minimums and brief overviews of their investment approaches. But there is also an entire library of materials that the advisor can review with clients such as brochures, manager fact sheets and videos.
The third section is called Discovery Questionnaire and is a standard, risk tolerance questionnaire that advisors can leverage to perform a quick needs analysis and gather the client’s high level goals. The output of the questionnaire can be used to direct the client to one of AssetMark’s predefined asset allocations.
Before building the app, AssetMark surveyed their existing clients to find out what they were looking for in mobile, Alt stated. What business activities would they want help with when they were outside of their office? The answers included business development, information sharing and marketing, he reported.
Their customer base is more skewed towards Apple when it comes to tablet usage with 85% of their advisors on iPads. In 2013, Android tablets had a 62% market share versus Apple’s 36%, according to Gartner.
They also wanted to avoid connectivity problems impacting how advisors used the app. So, the app downloads all content to the iPad’s local storage, which makes it available whether or not there is an internet connection available. This means the advisors don’t have to pick and choose with materials to bring with them when they travel. They always have everything at their fingertips, Alt noted.
Since all of their content needs to be downloaded, the initial setup of the app takes about 20 minutes to pull down around 800Mb of data, Alt estimated. However, after this is done, updates to the materials are very quick, around five minutes, he noted.
The app is customizable for advisors to white label it with their own branding, Alt stated.
Financial Planning Integration
AssetMark Advisor offers integration with FinanceLogix’s financial planning app, Alt stated. Their app can send performance and standard deviation data from SMA strategies to FinanceLogix to enable it to present a complete picture of the client’s performance across all holdings and help them to understand the risk-return tradeoffs, he emphasized. (See Financial Planning in 10 Minutes or Less with goalgamiPro)
Through the AssetMark-FinanceLogix integration, advisors can import their asset allocations and run complete financial plans and analysis. They also upload all portfolios and make all strategists available in FinanceLogix, Alt pointed out.
Alt provided a sneak peak into some of the new features in the product pipeline. They are all based on surveys of existing users of the iPad app and they include:
- Basic retirement planning functionality
- New account opening
- View existing account activity
They do not have any plans to include trading or portfolio rebalancing in the iPad app, Alt said.
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