How, When and Where Mobile Devices Are Used by Institutional Investors
The use of mobile devices has grown rapidly throughout the world, and the generally tech-savvy institutional investment community is clearly no exception. Most professionals now carry a smartphone, a tablet or both. Many have made these tools an ingrained part of daily business practices at least in the general sense.
While most senior investment managers routinely use mobile devices to check email, read the news and perhaps jot down some notes, relatively few have migrated toward mobile applications for the more specialized functions of their profession. "Wall Street professionals largely view the iPad and mobile apps as a convenience factor, rather than a game-changer," wrote Wall Street & Technology Senior Editor Melanie Rodier in a feature last quarter.1 She noted that most executives use apps on a daily basis but typically confine the use to apps from providers of financial information and general news. What is less clear is whether the current state of mobile use in the investment industries is limited by the demands of the community or the capabilities of the existing apps. To answer this question, we'll explore which devices your fellow investment officers are using, what they are using them for now, and where they hope the technologies will take them in the near future.
Who is using what, when?
The once ubiquitous BlackBerry no longer dominates the mobile technology landscape for investment professionals. According to a study commissioned by S&P in July 2012,2 39 percent of investment professionals use a BlackBerry for work, only slightly edging out the 36 percent who use an iPhone. (In their personal lives, however, Apple is now clearly on top, preferred by 58 percent of respondents.) Apple's iPad tablets are also gaining traction. A third of respondents say they use them for personal use, and another 32 percent intend to buy one. Only 14 percent, however, currently use their iPads for business.
Whether pad, pod or phone, most investment professionals say they use their mobile devices while traveling or commuting, rather than during regular office hours. As the notion of "office hours" evolves to encompass a broader spectrum of work schedules and locations, an increase in the use of mobile technologies may be expected.
The Business Purpose of Mobile Devices
Investment professionals use mobile devices in much the same manner as most other professionals—to communicate with colleagues, keep their calendars, take notes and stay abreast of business and financial news. Aside from email, professional investors tend to shy away from applications that involve storing potentially sensitive information on their devices. They are more likely to access industry reports, research a company or share information of a less proprietary nature.
On the ideal business app
"I would expect something that combines the depth of information of a website with the innovative design and functionality of a mobile app." –
Susanne Haury Von Siebenthal,
Chief Investment Officer, PUBLICA
Barriers to Further Use
Security concerns are an obvious barrier to broader adoption of mobile apps in the daily workflow of institutional investing. In addition to all the security concerns of any Internet-enabled device, mobile devices can be lost or stolen. While not as much of a concern for iPad users, smartphone screen sizes also pose certain limitations for apps that contain detailed information (particularly for users with weathered eyesight).
The greatest barrier to current use, however, may have little to do with the innate limits of the devices.
Until quite recently, there have been few apps specifically designed to help senior investment officers review their funds' performance. There were even fewer that took full advantage of the intuitive iPad interface. This lapse has not gone unnoticed in the investment community. For example, Susanne Haury von Siebenthal, chief investment officer of the Swiss pension fund, PUBLICA, is an avid iPad user in her personal life. In a recent interview, she expressed doubt that most vendors would be able to develop a truly intuitive application that takes full advantage of the Apple platform.
Living up to the Potential
So, what would a CIO like Ms. Haury von Siebenthal look for in a business app? "I would expect something that combines the depth of information of a website with the innovative design and functionality of a mobile app," she said. Then you would have to convince her that there was no risk of exposing confidential information, even if she were to lose her phone or iPad. Next, you would have to offer a convenient way to access a composite performance overview, allowing her to drill down into individual accounts over whichever time periods she chose. She also believes that it's important to deliver daily data, so that she can see how portfolios are impacted on difficult days when she's on the road.
In laying out the requirements for an ideal app, Ms. Haury von Siebenthal stressed that the user experience is nearly as important as the information it delivers. Noting that the data is already available on her desktop, she believes mobile technology would gain great utility if it had "the intuitive structure that a good app provides." This would unchain her from her desk and let her bring key information along when she goes out to speak with her fund managers and her investment board. Ms. Haury von Siebenthal also stated that she is intrigued by the notion of someday incorporating mobile devices into PUBLICA's business continuity plans.
The Mobile Trading Floor
While there may be a future for mobile trading apps, it is not here yet. Certainly, individual traders use their smart phones to access market information and communicate with clients and colleagues, particularly in the pre-market hours. While some trading apps are already available to institutional investors, the days of a fully virtual trading floor, with access-anywhere mobile technologies, are likely a bit further down the road.
The Future Starts this Month
There is little doubt that mobile devices will continue to both supplement and supplant desktop-based applications. In 2013 wireless devices could surpass PCs as the most widely used method for accessing retail brokerage accounts.3 Institutional investors will almost certainly be close behind, at least utilizing mobile technologies to access and share the information they need to understand and enhance their performance.
1 & 3 Melanie Rodier, Wall Street & Technology, "Is the iPad Mini Really A Game- Changer For Wall Street Execs?," October 29, 2012, www.wallstreetandtech.com
2 S&P Capital IQ, "Mobile Usage Survey," August 15, 2012, www.standardandpoors.com