Going Mobile: How Every RIA Can Offer Clients a Customized Mobile App

Did you know that as of the first quarter of 2018, smartphone users had access to nearly 4 million apps on the GooglePlay Store and 2 million apps on the Apple App Store?

With those kinds of numbers, you might wonder if creating a mobile app for your advisory firm is worth the effort. But the truth is that now, we live our lives on our phones and consumers expect an app for everything.

Think of it this way: You aren’t competing against 4 million other apps, you’re competing for the chance to make sure your clients know you offer them a forward-thinking, digital experience.


When I talk to advisors about creating a mobile app of their own, I hear a few of the same objections time and time again:

  1. My Clients Would Never Use a Mobile App

This objection is easy to debunk. The next time you have a meeting, ask your client about the last time they checked their account balance using their bank’s mobile app versus when they last looked at a mailed statement. More often than not, they are heavy users of their bank’s app.

Need More Convincing: Sixty-three percent of smartphone owners use at least one financial-focused app.

  1. My Client’s Demographic Doesn’t Use Technology

The last time I had a big family weekend, my parents and in-laws spent as much time looking at social media on their phones as the kids in the family. Age is not an indicator of interest in technology.

Need More Convincing: Investors at retirement age (65 and up) have doubled their smartphone ownership in the last five years.

  1. I Want to Control What Information My Clients See and Wait to Discuss It With Them in Person

This is my all-time favorite objection. If a client wants to see something in this day and age, they will — whether you are involved or not. It’s much better for you to be part of the financial conversation whenever they have a question or concern, even if that “interaction” is as simple as using your app instead of logging into a website from their custodian or bank.

Need More Convincing: Accessibility is cited as the second-most important reason a millennial investor chooses an advisor — right behind trust.

  1. I Already Have a Mobile Responsive Website

You may think you’re on the right path if your firm already has a mobile responsive website — meaning that your site automatically adjusts to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on. A responsive website is a great start, but it lacks some of the ease and expected functionality of a mobile app.

Need More Convincing: Of the five hours a day the average person spends on their smartphone, 92% of that time is spent on apps. Web browsers are an afterthought and used when an app isn’t available.

The stories advisors tell me and the wider industry statistics all point to one thing: If you want to create an experience that your clients will use and come back to often, having a mobile app is a must for every modern firm.


Once you’ve decided that you’d like to offer a mobile app to your clients, you’ll have to determine what your app will include. Here are a few considerations when it comes to putting power into the palm of your client’s hands:

  • Ensure that all of the same information and insights that are available in your client portal are housed within your app as well
  • Prioritize custom branding to your app’s features to ensure your clients can trust what they’re downloading
  • Offer personalization when it comes to delivering the information and reports that are most important to your business, such as tax documents and financial plans
  • Make what you build available in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, offering your clients an easy download with anytime access

The very best apps will help your clients in two critical ways. First, they’ll replace multiple website logins with a single place to access their entire portfolio. And second, your app should give clients a digital experience that’s as satisfying as the one you deliver in-person.


Creating a mobile app that enables all of these considerations is no easy task. To bring your vision into fruition, you have three development options choices:

  • Build it yourself
  • Hire a developer
  • Create a white-labeled version with a technology partner

While your firm’s needs, goals and budget will all impact which direction you take, the cost of building a mobile app will inevitably be a considerable factor.

The upfront cost of building an app yourself is the time. If you’re firm has the time and resources to code and then learn the intricacies of building apps for various mobile operating systems, this can be a great option.

Yet for the majority of advisors, building an app on your own isn’t a real option, leading to the alternative of hiring a mobile app developer.

In this case, your costs can vary greatly depending on its features, complexity, the mobile operating system it’s built for, and who you choose to build it. In fact, one mobile app developer has estimated that the first version of an app could cost anywhere from $140,000 to $210,000. And those costs don’t even include the price of ongoing maintenance, fixing programming bugs or adding features in future.

The most affordable and efficient choice for advisors is clear: looking to your technology partner to help you increase your digital footprint.

Apps created by technology partners like Orion are advantageous because you already know that they’ll provide you the portfolio information you’re already reporting to clients. Plus, it’s likely that you can tap into integrations with your other important software solutions as well. And the best factor of all is that the app development, branding, customization, and deployment on mobile app stores often comes at no cost to your firm.

Check with your advisor technology partners to see if you can leverage their technology and programming team to get a mobile app for your firm, and give your clients a new way to engage with your firm, build trust, and access their portfolio information whenever they want.

Joel Hurst
Joel Hurst
Orion Advisor Services, LLC (Orion) is a portfolio accounting service provider for advisors. The firm's technology solutions empower more than 1,300 firms, have $600+ billion in AUA and over 2 million accounts. Joel Hurst, Orion's VP of Business Development for the Southeast, serves advisors located east of the Mississippi. Joel is an avid cyclist, kayaker, snowboarder and enjoys outdoor activities in general.

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