NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Retirement may be a long way off for Jamie Kresberg, but the Manhattan resident is interested in tracking his net worth over time in a convenient, hands-on fashion. But that can be a tall order. 

“Accessing my 401(k) plan from my cell phone is not a valuable piece of data unless it can aggregate all of my investments,” Kresberg told MainStreet. The 45-year-old reviews his investments with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney by using a tool called OneView, which he says has some useful features but doesn't allow him to track his net worth over time. 

To avoid the headache Kresberg endures and meet consumers' demands, more plan sponsors are evaluating the features of their 401(k) plans to include mobile apps, according to experts.

Mobile Tracking for a Mobile World

With the advent of robo-advisors and advanced ways for consumers to track their portfolios -- including Fidelity's recent introduction of StockCity platform using Oculus Rift -- the old-school methods of keeping tabs on retirement no longer pass muster. 

The world of instant gratification technology has made it frustrating for Kresberg to do the analysis himself or work with his financial advisor. Some of his financial data is available on a portal his employer maintains, which includes 401(k) balance, equity awards, compensation and benefits. But that's cumbersome.

“You have to be logged in from your work computer,” said Kresberg. “I can’t access it from my cellphone.”

That's the impetus for change. 

“Service providers and record keepers are looking for different ways to reach people, and because we have different generations and different types of people, we have to look at all different mediums whether it’s paper, radio or print,” said Jeff Snyder, vice president and senior consultant of retirement with Cammack. “They are building mobile apps to tap into that market.”

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What’s driving the development is a combination of Millennial demand, venture capital inflows as well as financial advisors and records keepers being more aggressive with plan sponsors about plan design.

“Even though workers are participating on the job site, they want an individual experience with their 401(k), which includes mobile apps, aggregating websites, and financial advice at your fingertips on your phone and laptop,” said Harry Dalessio, senior vice president of sales and strategic relationships with Prudential.

Venture Capital-Driven Development

While technology is certainly a factor in mobile app developments in the retirement space, so is venture capital.

“As technology evolves, there is more mobile application in real time for getting a financial picture of 401(k) savings,” Dalessio told MainStreet. “That is exponentially growing as a result of venture capital pouring into the retirement space to enhance the individual experience.”

Prudential offers the retirement income calculator, which updates daily based on market and balance and aggregates information on desktop, cell phones and laptops.
“Millennials are playing a bigger role in this shift because of their size,” Dalessio said. “There are more Millennials than there were Boomers. So, the explosion of mobile apps in the retirement space is partially to appeal to Millennials but at the end of the day all generations want the experience.”

Prudential is investing significantly in digital technology to keep up with the advancements that millennials demand.

“Millennials have strong savings patterns and they want auto pilot investing,” said Dalessio. Auto pilot investing is when an investor places their money in a target date retirement fund, for example, and allows it to grow without making any allocation changes.

Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley