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“iPad has become a force in our business”

June 15, 2011

Webinar sponsored by:

BoardVantage logo

Use of tablet devices in general — and the iPad in particular — is taking the mutual fund industry by storm. That was the consensus view of the panelists on NICSA’s webinar on “The Impact of Tablets in Financial Services”, held last Wednesday, June 8th. Speakers from TandemSeven, BNY Mellon Asset Servicing, Brown Brothers Harriman and BoardVantage reviewed the trends they’re seeing. Here are their conclusions:

Surging use. “iPad has become a force in our business in a way that we had not anticipated,” observed Joe Ruck, Chief Executive Officer of BoardVantage. He went on to note that just one year ago, their customers weren’t talking about iPad at all, while today most of their deals involve tablet functionality.

All of the panelists agreed that adoption has been breathtakingly fast and driven by the “usability” of tablets. Even constituencies that have traditionally not been early adopters — such mutual fund directors — have been quick to embrace the new technology.

What makes a tablet a tablet?

  1. Large screen format
  2. WiFi access
  3. Touch input capabilities

It’s been a user-driven trend. Panelists — and NICSA polls — confirm that most of the iPads at meetings these days are personally-owned and not employer-provided.

Financial firms are rushing in to provide data to meet the demand from customers and associates for tablet-accessible information. A recent TandemSeven survey found that 80% of firms are actively involved in the development of mobile applications.

Development challenges. Tablets pose significant challenges for IT departments, however. A native app that works on an iPad may not work on an Android. As a result, developers are forced to support app development for each type of device or to use web apps (which are less popular with users).

Firms may not have the expertise in-house to develop the app. Brown Brothers Harriman, after debating “buy or build”, decided to groom a team internally.

The development process can be complex, requiring extensive coordination with legal, compliance and marketing. Even getting your app approved for sale in the iTunes store can be time-consuming the first time around.

App Basics
Native app Resident on the device. Generally has better performance, but specific to particular device. Must be updated by user.
Web app Downloaded from web each time used. Updates and security controlled centrally. Lower cost technology that moves across devices.
Hybrid app Combines features of native and mobile apps. Could be a native app that reaches out to web to gather data, a web app that runs locally on device or a native app with a mobile app within it.

Adding to the burden, tablets aren’t replacing laptops or desktops — and they probably never will, especially not for those responsible for producing content. (For content consumers, they’re replacing paper.) Tablets are another device that needs to be supported by busy IT teams.

Security concerns. And then there are the security concerns. Tablets are easy to lose track of, and they’re more vulnerable to phishing than laptops. All those personally-owned devices create challenges for IT departments as well.

To address these concerns, firms are creating secure repositories on the device for business information — and they’re making it possible to purge all data from a device should it be lost or stolen.

Business value. Despite the challenges, panelists see real business value in mobile apps: making content easily available on tablets has significantly broadened the audience for their services.

NICSA members can listen to a replay of the entire webinar. It’s available on our website here.

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