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Do You iPad?

There's an interesting poll on the NICSA's Web journal about the adoption of tablet computers.

These are the devices that geeks questioned whether there was a reason for their existence. But then Apple released the iPad and achieved the fastest rate of adoption of any non-phone electronic product ever.

"By any account, the iPad is a runaway success of unprecedented proportion," said Colin McGranahan, retail analyst at Bernstein Research, in an early note about the mobile device that has redefined mobile computing.

The NICSA poll shows that it's not business, though, that is driving consumers to adopt the iPad. It's the consumer that's teaching businesses that they must deal with the iPad.

While NiCSA doesn't show the number of votes in its online poll, the percentage breakdown of votes is informative.

Only 10% of respondents as of last week said their company had supplied them with a tablet.

And 0% of salespeople said their firm had supplied them with a tablet.

Instead, 50% said they had bought a tablet for themselves and used it for personal purposes only.

Another 30% said they bought a tablet for themselves and their firm(s) had made some business applications available.

Which helps explain why mutual fund companies are slow adopters of tablet computing, either as objects of delivery for services and products to their customers or as objects of delivery of management services to their own executives and professionals (see "Mutual Funds Don't Rush to Apply Apps," page one).

The obvious math is this: If your customers are willing to shell out money for a new interactive device, interact with it. App development is low, return can be high.

But to develop apps for one's own executives and professionals could be costly. You'd have to supply them-heavens!-with $600 machines, each.

That's not the real calculation. The question is whether you'd get $600 more of performance out of the recipient. That's easy to see, if you deliver the right interactive service.

If an executive can see fund sales drop in a region quickly, it's easy to recover the $600 with one call to a regional manager to develop a comeback plan. If wholesale costs are going up, it's easy to recover the cost by digging into the cause.

On the sales side, the effect is obvious. Fidelity Investments this month gave advisers in its wealth management practice the ability to actually trade for their clients on their mobile devices for the first time.

In the initial four days that the upgraded app was available, 300 advisers downloaded it for the first time. That brought the total number of advisers using the app to 3,000 or 60% of the practice's 5,000 advisers, according to Ed O'Brien, head of technology for Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services.

The key is being able to surface the right information with the least amount of effort.

With two touches of a mobile device, a Fidelity adviser can now see the total amount of money held in multiple accounts on behalf of a single individual. Sounds simple to do, but it's not.

The challenge is to use the devices to increase sales and bottom-line performance.

But you won't see those results, if you aren't actively using the devices.