What do fund managers want for their birthday this year?

Well, get your BlackBerries and iPhones ready, because Northern Trust says its latest technological application is a winner, and asset managers AsianInvestor spoke to agree.

Now, for the first time, the financial group's clients can check intricate details of their portfolios on handheld devices. The facility is currently 'read only', but it already enables users to check portfolio balances and valuations and confirm, for example, whether a wire has gone through. Trading may come later, depending on client feedback.

AsianInvestor spoke to Paul d'Ouville, Chicago-based global head of product management at Northern Trust, in Hong Kong during a trip to Asia-Pacific to promote the new capability. He used the phrase 'wow factor' to describe some of the feedback the technology is garnering. And that view was confirmed by an Asia-based operations manager of a large European asset management house.

Managers can scan across all their portfolios to check exposure to specific stocks immediately -- say, for example, after a corporate event. A manager can very quickly see the impact across 100 funds, something that's particularly useful for a pension manager with numerous holdings in fund-of-funds structures.

"Clients want to know their total exposure to an entity as quickly as possible, so they can make informed decisions," says d'Ouville. 

The information transmitted to mobile devices will come from the firm's global platform, the Northern Trust Passport. D'Ouville says private-equity managers will find the innovation particularly beneficial, due to their need to be very mobile.

"Managers want to say: I got it, I clicked it and I moved on with my day," adds Geordan Capes, senior vice-president of corporate and institutional services.

D'Ouville and Capes are also taking in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore promoting the new facility.