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The 15 apps these advisers can't live without

22 March 2018

From speech recognition software and 'infinite' notepads to instant scanning, there are some apps these advisers say make their lives far simpler...

Woman using a tablet

As technology plays an ever greater role in our lives and work, we talk to six tech-savvy advisers about the application they can’t live without when it comes to running their businesses.

1 Active Voice

Alan Smith, chief executive of Capital Asset Management, first tried speech recognition software years ago, but gave up in frustration having been unsuccessful in educating the system to understand what he was saying.

“Anyone with a similar experience should consider Active Voice,” he says. “You speak into the mic on your phone and it converts with almost 100% accuracy to text transcription – ideal for reports, letters, even emails. I got it free on Apps Gone Free, but I’d happily pay £9.99 – saves the cost of a PA or typist.”

2 Basecamp 3 (free)

Instead of using unwieldy email chains, Basecamp offers an easier way to run projects and communicate within a company.

London-based Capital’s 13-strong team has used it as a project management and internal communication system for the past three years. The app is installed on desktops, laptops and smartphones across the company, enabling quick and easy scheduling on the go.

Key tools include to-dos for tracking work, a schedule for posting deadlines and milestones, a message board for announcements and a ‘campfire’ chat room for less formal conversations.

3 CashCalc

Ray Adams, director of Niche IFA in south Wales, launched cashflow planning web app CashCalc in mid-2014 having developed a suite of Excel spreadsheet calculators over 10 years.

The Wow Company in south England started using it 18 months ago. It is now the main app it uses as part of its advice process. Independent wealth planner Marc Denton says: “It underpins the accumulation phase of our clients’ life plans, allowing us to set targets, but more importantly really brings the facts and figures to life during client reviews.”

4 Dynamic Planner

GS Group in Perth has recently switched from a paper-based attitude to risk process to a digital one. On the Dynamic Planner application, its five advisers can assess and record each client’s initial answers, as well as make future changes.

Independent financial adviser Mike Baxter says: “This creates a clear audit trail rather than notes and changes on a paper-based questionnaire. The system has time saving benefits too – the results don’t need to be scanned in, but can be quickly emailed, downloaded and saved.”

5 Evernote (free)

Alan Smith at Capital uses Evernote as his “digital brain”. The app enables users to take notes, create to-do lists and save things they find online, syncing automatically between their phone, tablet and computer.

“It’s where I collect all my thoughts. I can clip an article or website from the internet, scan and save a document or business card and note down a new idea or thought,” he says. “Having started with the free version I’ve upgraded to the paid-for app for £3.99 per month and it’s worth every penny.”

6 Headspace

Given the frenetic pace of life nowadays, Alan Smith starts each day with the Headspace guided meditation app.

“I find it invaluable to take some time out to get centred and calm first thing in the morning as I prepare for my day ahead,” he says. “I love this simple and effective app that calms even the most active monkey mind.” A basics course teaching fundamental techniques is free, thereafter there is a monthly, annual or lifetime subscription.

7 Hootsuite (free)

Social networking is now firmly in the realm of business and some advisory firms are using Hoosuite to schedule their posts across their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts.

Batch all your social media updates and pre-program them to automatically send at the ideal time for views and comments. The app rates itself as the world’s most popular social media management app and is free for up to three social network accounts.

8 OneNote (free)

Mark Duckworth, chief executive of Openwork, can’t do without the Microsoft OneNote app, which he has used for the past four years.

“OneNote is superb,” he says. “It’s the infinite notepad that’s easily organisable to help you stay on top of your workload and priorities.” The digital notebook enables users to record thoughts, discoveries and ideas, and organise their notes in a way that works best for them.

9 People HR

Capital rates People HR as an easy-to-use system to manage staff holidays, approve expense claims and perform many other HR-related tasks. The app bills itself as “your perfect pocket companion for doing essential HR on the go”.

This includes viewing your company directory, finding employee contact details, requesting or authorising holidays and seeing who’s working when. It’s not just for HR administrators – employees can download the app too, for access to their employee record and to request holidays.

10 Pocket (free)

See what looks like an interesting article or video online but don’t have time? Pocket enables users to save the things they want to read or watch later to a single place.

You can save to Pocket from pretty much anywhere – your computer, email, Safari and other apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard and Feedly. Come back to them on any device at any time without the need to have a Wi-Fi connection – ideal for frequent fliers. You can also recommend the best of what you’ve read to others.

11 Scannable (free)

Advisers are using the Evernote Scannable app to good effect – often to collect client identification documents. Free to download and use, Scannable says it “moves paper forward”.

The scanning process is fast – point your camera at documents, expense receipts or whiteboards and Scannable immediately captures them. Send documents to colleagues via email or text, or export them as PDF or JPG files. You can also pull information from business cards and LinkedIn and save it to your contacts list.

12 SelectaPension

GS Group has recently started using SelectaPension. Founded in 2004 as a simple money purchase pension switching tool, it today boasts a comprehensive pension and investment planning system that provides detailed analysis reports comparing more than 200 products and funds from more than 60 providers.

It can be used from the accrual to at-retirement stages of the planning cycle. “We’d previously been trawling provider factsheets to compare charges and performance,” says Mike Baxter. “SelectaPension is easy to follow and can show clients clear reasons for our recommendations.”

13 Temi (free)

Paul Gorman, a chartered financial planner at Beaufort Financial in Birmingham, uses a number of apps, but his favourite just now is Temi, a speech-to-text transcription service.

“It’s really important to listen as intently as you can to clients and this app allows me to avoid taking copious notes in meetings, which can be a distraction and mean you miss something of value. Immediately after a meeting, I open up the Temi app on my phone and record what I’ve learned about my clients. Within a minute or so, my speech recording has been transcribed to text and is available for me to read, edit, download and save.”

14 Voyant

Voyant helps advisers and clients to plan for and adapt to real life events, before, during and after they happen. Mike Baxter used it at a previous employer and has recently encouraged GS Group to introduce it.

“Clients think it’s great,” he says. “We’re retirement planning specialists and think it’s excellent at bringing a client’s retirement journey to life. We use it at every review and update to reflect the client’s change in circumstances. It really helps clients to visualise their retirement.”

15 Xero

Samantha Secomb, of Women’s Wealth took her company accounts online two years ago with Xero. Its mobile app means she can run the business from the palm of her hand. “I am a touch-it-once person,” says Sam.

“I like being able to scan a receipt, upload it and reconcile with the bank transaction at the same time. Bin the paper – no shoeboxes or piles of paper sitting around.” Daily bank downloads means she sees the current position of the company at the touch of a button – “literally, as I log into Xero via fingerprint recognition,” she adds. 

Our panel

  • Alan Smith is chief executive of London-based Capital Asset Management, a company he founded in 2004, and regards himself as a tech “enthusiast”. “I’m no guru, but am keen to use tech to enhance and simplify life,” he says. 
  • Marc Denton works between the Southampton and London offices of The Wow Company and describes himself as a tech “fan”. 
  • Openwork chief executive Mark Duckworth knows a thing or two about apps having studied them during an advanced management programme at INSEAD business school in France last summer.  
  • Mike Baxter has worked for GS Group in Perth for eight years and describes himself as a tech “fanatic”. “I’m always keen to find ways of streamlining process,” he says. 
  • Paul Gorman, a chartered financial planner at Beaufort Financial in Birmingham, rates himself a “semi pro” in tech terms. 
  • Samantha Secomb, who founded Kent-based advisory practice Women’s Wealth in 2010, is “technically aware.” “I’m lucky that my son works with me and keeps me current,” she says.