Big custodians are continuing to use technology to make advisors’ lives easier. Electronic e-signatures, wire transfers and account openings, as well as better performance reports and integrations with third-party providers, are just some of the improvements on their platforms.

Schwab continues to enhance its technology offering for advisors. Neesha Hathi, senior vice president, Schwab Advisor Services, says, “Advisors are looking to technology to enhance the client experience.

“Historically, our clients have viewed technology primarily as a back-office issue,” she says, “but perceptions are changing.” A recent survey of RIA employees attending Schwab Advisor Services SOLUTIONS workshops this past summer found that over half (53%) of respondents view technology as a front-office function—a key strategy for delivering a high-quality client experience while building scale and differentiation for the firm. In addition, more than two-thirds of respondents said they either feel mobile technology’s impact at their firm or expect to within the next three years.

At the same time, clients of advisors are embracing a technology-enhanced service experience if it is made available to them. Sixty percent of survey respondents reported that clients were adopting new service approaches and technology solutions when they were offered to them.

In response to these findings, Schwab is tailoring some of its technology to capitalize on these trends.

In October, Schwab announced plans to launch a robo-advisor platform, called Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, for retail investors early in 2015. The company will offer advisors a customized, white-label version of the platform shortly thereafter. The platform will feature portfolios of ETFs selected by Schwab representing as many as 20 distinct asset classes and will be offered free of commissions and advisory and account fees.

The company also recently rolled out electronic authorizations to all advisors. So far, mobile electronic authorizations are limited to wire transfers, but they will be expanded over time. Already, over 20% of all wire transfers across the whole Schwab Institutional client base are being transacted through the new system. That is a very rapid rate of adoption.

Next year, Hathi anticipates that e-authorizations will be enabled for checks and for the journaling of funds from one Schwab Institutional account to another. After that, the company will be further expanding its e-authorization capabilities to include address changes and other transactions that currently require a wet signature.

E-signature is currently available for all Schwab forms. The company recently allowed advisors to transmit their own firms’ forms to clients for e-signatures as well.

The Schwab Alliance website (the Schwab website for clients of advisors) has been upgraded to make it more customizable, so advisors can better tailor it to their needs. The company has also rolled out a “view only” option that allows clients to give permission to trusted parties (family members, CPAs, etc.) to log on and view their Schwab account details.

Hathi says that all is going well with the development of Schwab Advisor Portfolio Connect, Schwab’s next-generation portfolio management solution. The product is already in the early stages of beta testing, and advisors are already providing good feedback.

Schwab Advisor Portfolio Connect is most likely to appeal to advisory firms that custody exclusively with Schwab, because the software will sit atop the Schwab custody platform. This means that there will be no need for advisors who custody with Schwab to perform daily downloads or reconciliation. That factor alone will be a big draw for some. PM2 will include an end-client portal. Clients will have access to reports on their phones and tablets through Schwab OpenView Mobile.

One thing that has not been decided yet: the nature of the reports. According to Hathi, there seems to be a preference for static reports among advisors at this time, so the initial reports made available to advisors for their clients may be PDF reports. Hathi emphasized, however, that Schwab Advisor Portfolio Connect is also capable of generating dynamic reports, and it is anticipated that both reporting options will be available. The issue at this time is which one to do first.