Financial Planners Take Business Online

Much like their customers, more financial planners and broker-dealers logged onto the Internet for business in 1998 than in 1997. For the third year, the Amicus Networks survey indicates that Internet use is continuing to grow in the financial planning industry.

Not only did a higher percentage of respondents say they were using the Internet for business (96.6 percent in 1998 compared to 90 percent in 1997), they said they were logging on more often. Among financial planners as well as broker-dealers, 75 percent of respondents said they use the Internet daily for work. In fact, half of all respondents said that the Internet is a required tool for their business.

What are they doing online? Survey respondents named email as their primary use for the Internet (83.3 percent), followed closely by research (81.7 percent). When asked to rank a 16-item list of capabilities or features they would provide, or want to access, via the Internet, responses were consistent across all segments. The top-ranking choices were communication system, financial product information, forms, and investment research.

The most significant change over previous years is the reported increase in intranets/extranets. More than 80 percent of all 1998 respondents said their company was currently using or planning to implement an intranet or extranet, compared to only 37.5 percent in 1997. This represents a 122 percent increase in respondents who reported currently using or planning to implement an intranet/extranet.

The growth in intranets and extranets is not surprising to Dennis Passovoy, president and CEO of Amicus Networks. When proprietary local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs) were the only means of networking, it was not cost-effective for a broker-dealer to provide network access for all of its reps, he said. The growing use of the Internet, however, has made it affordable for broker-dealers to provide online, 24-hour access to information, forms, and even online trading capabilities.

The Third Annual Internet and Extranet Survey conducted by Amicus Networks, Inc. surveyed 1000 randomly selected members of the International Association for Financial Planning by mail. Of the total respondents, 43.3 percent were financial planners, 38.3 percent were broker-dealers, and 18.3 percent were financial product/service providers.

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