Historically, the various software and technology solutions serving financial planners has been very fragmented. Independent firms were often stuck with small, homegrown solutions for financial planning, client relationship management (CRM), and portfolio reporting software, and/or working with providers that simply didn't have enough resources for growth and development; advisors with larger firms often had access to the best software, but since it was a proprietary solution of the parent firm, the advisor effectively faced a world where key client and business data might held captive. As the world transitions into the digital age, though, this landscape is rapidly changing, due both to the accessibility brought about by having near-universal access to "the cloud" from any computer or device and any location, and the emergence of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that allow disparate software packages to integrate in a way that has never before been possible.
These changes in turn are driving several new emerging trends. The first is that now independent software companies are often larger and better developed than proprietary solutions, which both invites in new firms to innovate and also makes it easier than ever for advisors to change firms knowing that they will have more portable client and business data and access to similar (or even better) software after making a change. In addition, the growing integrations through software APIs are rapidly bringing advisors towards the infamous "holy grail" of a unified central solution for CRM, portfolio management and reporting, and financial planning software, which is further driven by a growing number of "integrators" - firms that help adapt software packages through their APIs to develop customized advisory-firm-specific holy grail solutions.
As of now, these trends are still underway and will be playing out for many more years. Nonetheless, the direction is clear, and remarkably positive for both startup firms - who have more opportunity for growth and success than ever - and also advisors, who may enjoy software in the future that is simultaneously cheaper, more efficient, more innovative, more integrated, and just downright superior to anything we've ever had in the past!