Wearables are getting the buzz in the technology market lately, and now a Silicon Valley-based online investment platform is offering an application that enables its clients to check their portfolios through smartwatches.
Personal Capital Corp., founded by former Intuit and Paypal chief executive Bill Harris with a business model that offers online portfolio management along with planning help from human advisors, recently announced that its app is available for Android wearable devices, including the LG G and Samsung Gear Live smartwatches.
“As a startup company, we pride ourselves on our rapidly developing technology,” said Jim Del Favero, chief product officer for Personal Capital and the app's developer. “It seemed like a no-brainer to take a stab at it. There's a huge interest in connected devices in general. Wearables to me are just another type of connected device.”
Personal Capital's wearable watch app integrates with the Personal Capital app on other Android devices such as smartphones and tablets. The app shows customers a “You Index” that pings them every day at market close to show how their portfolio stacks up against the S&P; 500. From there, the user swipes to see more detailed information on the top five gainers and losers in their portfolios, Mr. Del Favero said.
Whether it's smart to more investors to check their balances every day is another question. See: Have you gone from having a work ethic to being a wealth addict?
“From a behavioral finance standpoint, doesn't it focus people on absolutely the wrong thing, which is daily returns? It's a gimmick,” said Dave O'Brien, president of O'Brien Financial Planning Inc. “They might as well integrate with Google Glass and have stock prices scrolling across your glasses.”
A self-described “fan of technology," Mr. O'Brien acknowledged that some people are early adopters who would enjoy the “cachet” of viewing the value of their portfolio daily on their smartwatches.
“But it's a fractional piece of the puzzle,” he said. “We see people trying out new things, and we're going to settle on some practical apps of technology to help people take care of their finances.”
To be sure, big companies also are experimenting with devices. Pershing and Fidelity Investments, for example, are investigating smartwatch apps. Fidelity Labs has developed a free Pebble watch app that shows users a daily watch list connected to their brokerage accounts, and Pershing's Advanced Technology Lab is looking into something they call “wearable workflow,” which may someday let an financial advisors ping their clients with a Section 529 college savings plan that requires an e-signature.
Investment companies, like others, are adapting to the trends in the marketplace.
“People stopped wearing watches because they started checking cellphones, but now with the smartwatches coming out, it's an extension of their mobile experience,” Matt Stroh, senior vice president of marketing at Envestnet | Tamarac, an investment technology company. “People may say watches are out, but it evolves. It's incumbent on companies that support advisers to embrace the evolution of technology.”
As smartphone screens get bigger, smartwatches' smaller screens are increasingly popular with the next generation of investors, Mr. Stroh asserted.
Personal Capital has more than 500,000 users, and 60% of them engage with their accounts via mobile devices, Mr. Del Favero said.
“They're not looking at us from a PC,” he said. “Wearable devices are the next evolution of mobile.”
In a blog post, Mr. Del Favero wrote that fitness bands may be the one device that most people think of when they think wearables, but he foresees a future where apps on multiple devices, including wearables, talk to one another when investors are on the go.
“A new form factor is challenging to design for, but it's the experience that you have to rethink as well,” he wrote.