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4 Ways Digital Can Help New Financial Advisors Build Their Books

For new advisors, figuring out how to attract and acquire clients is never easy. But modern technology has become a competitive advantage for many successful advisors. Thirty-one percent of clients under 50 would leave their wealth manager if the technology used was inadequate; 67 percent of clients prefer advisors who offer interactive digital tools, such as mobile apps.
We’ve worked with more than 150,000 advisors and sales leaders at top financial firms, and we’ve found that the organizations that commit to and invest in digital innovation – and the salespeople who embrace it – are the ones that come out on top.
For a new advisor in particular, it can be a powerful way to provide prospects (and eventually, clients) the best experience from start to finish.
Here are four strategies that new advisors can implement to start building their client books.

1. Define Your Target Audience(s) to Ensure You’re Sending the Right Message

Prospecting is one of the most important activities for any new advisor, but getting in front of potential clients is the biggest challenge financial advisors face. While there is no magic bullet to make prospecting a breeze, knowing who your ideal customers are and how to reach them is a critical component of sales success.
New technology now enables advisors to interact with prospects on a myriad of devices and get to know a particular clients’ unique needs and requirements. Each digital “touch” that advisors have with a prospect – whether via a website, email or text – allows them to deliver “in the moment” personalized content, communication and value.
Imagine a scenario where a prospect fills out a form on an advisor’s local business website and downloads a report about saving for college. With solutions like Hearsay’s Advisor Cloud, the advisor is immediately notified of this activity, along with a prompt to send a pre-written email to the prospect with links to more college savings resources. This is followed, a few days later, by a prompt to send a pre-written follow-up text that suggests setting up a call. This workflow can be automated for every prospect that downloads that specific college savings report, making it easy for an advisor to segment his/her client base and avoid pushing out irrelevant content. After all, you wouldn’t send a stock market volatility index report to a person who is looking for college planning tips.

2. Be Proactive in Following Through on Marketing Leads

The client experience begins the moment a prospect realizes he has a financial problem that he can’t solve on his own and needs help. These days, this journey typically starts with researching a firm online – and that usually means ending up on the brand’s main website, and perhaps its social media profiles. Whether advisors realize it or not, corporate marketing teams are most likely generating potential leads on their behalf.
Yet, when it comes to turning those leads into qualified prospects, many advisors don’t actually take advantage of the opportunities that corporate marketing provides. They may not follow up with a lead soon enough (or at all), or they might not be sharing the right information, or at the right time, or on the right channel.
The key to converting corporate-sourced leads into prospects? Advisors must be proactive on a one-to-one level and – above all – be timely. According to research published in Harvard Business Review, “Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later – and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”
With platforms like Hearsay, firms can now trigger, track and automate a lead follow-up workflow where once an advisor is assigned a lead, he/she can quickly send a pre-written email with corporate-approved copy through Hearsay’s Advisor Social solution, as well as promptly follow up with a text and voice call (with Hearsay Relate).

3. Use Data-Driven ‘Triggers’ to Communicate With Prospects at the Right Time

Financial advisors have long relied on life events and market activities to identify new business opportunities. Money-in-motion milestones such as getting married or buying a home – events often shared freely today on digital channels, especially social media – are prime opportunities for advisors to reach a prospect or client concerning a possible need for financial advice.
Thanks to emerging technology powered by machine learning, advisors can “listen” for key client insights or “triggers” on a variety of digital channels, and use this knowledge to communicate with clients and prospects at the right time, with the proper information.
By combining the insights gained from digital signals, coupled with knowledge of where a prospects sits along the customer journey, advisors can appropriately step in as a resource as the prospect makes a decision, with a highly tailored offering.

4. Automate Data Input to Free Up Time for Prospecting and Planning

As a company laser-focused on the financial services industry, the Hearsay team has called, visited, surveyed, interviewed and analyzed the data of thousands of advisors across the country. We were shocked to learn that servicing clients via manual processes continues to dominate the advisor’s work day.
We also found that advisors were overwhelmed with having to manually input data into legacy or siloed data and contact management systems, instead of spending that time speaking with clients and prospects.
Advisors have only so many hours in a day to devote to prospecting and planning. Using a cloud-based CRM system to keep track of client details – e.g. who you’ve already contacted, who you need to follow up with, and what methods you’ve used – is an effective way to make the most of that time. Not to mention, since CRM data is stored in the cloud, it can be accessed directly from virtually any device, at anytime.
New York Life is a good example of a company leveraging CRM to improve advisor productivity and efficiency. By integrating their CRM system with Hearsay, advisor-client engagement activities on social, mobile, email and web are synced automatically with their CRM, eliminating the need for agents to manually enter information and providing a complete, data-rich view of every client or prospect.

Another Hearsay client uses CRM to allow their advisors to automatically send life event content that has already been approved through LinkedIn and Hearsay’s “Smart Leads” program. Since advisors usually have more personal relationships with their social media connections than a corporate brand, they can tailor their communications and engage in a more meaningful way.
Gone are the days where newly minted advisors were given a giant binder on how to sell and then left on their own to figure things out. Armed with technology that is purpose-built for the way they work – and the support of sales leadership that understands the importance of being digital-first – today’s new advisors are, more than ever, poised for long-term success.
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Hearsay’s July Product Release is Here

“Hundreds of billions of dollars in automation-generated revenue is up for grabs in the coming years. Only those companies that deploy this technology in a way that looks beyond cost cutting and focuses on creating value for customers and shareholders will be able to win in the marketplace.”Capgemini
Summer may be in full swing, but we are busy as can be here at Hearsay! Today, we are thrilled to announce our sixth product release of the year and to give you some details into the new features coming your way.
This release brings us back to our heritage in many ways, as we celebrate all things social media, from posts to likes to shares to tweets. As our core product, Advisor Social remains a key communication channel for over 150,000 advisors today.
But what we’ve realized over the past year is that simply enabling advisors to use social media is not enough. To help advisors succeed on social, we’re focusing on building  an advisor-first social solution with built-in automation and delegation features that can 1) help them build brand awareness and stay top of mind with their clients and prospects, 2) drive engagement, 3) reinforce their expertise and thought leadership, and 4) ultimately trigger one-to-one conversations during money-in-motion events. We aim to amplify advisor productivity while giving marketing and sales leaders the visibility they need into field level activities.
To that end, we’re delighted to offer several new features designed with the social savvy financial advisor in mind. Please note that while all of these features enhance our Advisor Social product and advisor experience, they also bring additional value to our Advisor Sites solution, as we continue to help advisors wherever their clients are.
First up, Relative Campaigns have big enhancements! These campaigns round out our content automation offering and provide marketers with a way to create evergreen campaigns for the field. Unlike Dynamic Campaigns, which offer date-specific posts, Relative Campaigns assign post dates based upon when an advisor subscribes. Looking to create a “New Advisor” onboarding campaign designed to get a brand-new advisor started on social, or maybe a “Recruiting Top Talent” campaign designed to help your field attract new team members? Relative Campaigns are a great way to do this by allowing an advisor to sign up at any time and post a prescribed set of content starting on day one (the “relative” date they signed up)  through a specified time series.

Next is our updated Campaigns platform. We know how important it is to help advisors delegate top-of-the-funnel tasks to their marketing team, and help marketing control and amplify brand messaging across the field. With this new platform, the marketing team will be able to manage campaigns much more efficiently than before. Specifically, there are three new features worth highlighting:

  • Campaign filter: Improve searchability by filtering your campaign view to Dynamic, Relative or both.
  • Expire live campaigns: Remove campaigns from advisors’ campaign libraries with a few quick clicks. Note that reports will retain all relevant campaign data even after campaigns are expired.
  • Delete pending campaigns: Changed your mind on launching a campaign? With one click, you can now delete campaigns that are set to go live.

Continuing on the automation theme, we know that one of the biggest challenges for marketers is having the bandwidth to create, manage and distribute relevant and engaging content to your field. Our recent Social Media Content Study, which analyzed approximately 3.4 million posts from 77,000 advisors using our Advisor Social platform, revealed that lifestyle content has the highest engagement rate from advisors’ followers.
So, starting today, get access to fresh new content through our Small Business, Education Savings and Personal Finance channels. We deliver content for you, so that you can can automate the top-of-funnel awareness for your field.
While our next release is set for early September, we want to remind you that tomorrow (Tuesday, July 24) is our bi-annual product roadmap webinar, which will cover other upcoming advisor-first features. Register here.
Whether you are in foggy San Francisco, toasty New York City, somewhere in between or somewhere a bit farther away, we thank you for your partnership and look forward to celebrating our shared success as we amplify advisor productivity together.
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Is Your Move to Digital Fast Enough? 4 Tech Titans Weigh In

Regulatory changes, major demographic shifts, competition from the growing fintech market – financial services enterprises are facing disruption from every angle today. To meet these challenges and provide the seamless experience clients expect, financial services firms are coming around to the need to ‘go digital.’
And it would seem they’re on the right track; according to McKinsey, “40 to 45 percent of affluent consumers who switched their primary wealth management firm in the past 24 months moved to a direct, digitally-led firm – in many cases choosing to work with a phone-based advisor at those firms.”
For enterprise organizations rooted in legacy systems and organizational structures, however, digital transformation is a massive undertaking. Banishing data and departmental silos company-wide and overhauling the company culture doesn’t happen overnight. But as your front line, advisors need to be digitally enabled sooner rather than later; your job is to get them there.
We sat down with leaders from our partners at Salesforce, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn to discuss this issue of digital for financial services. Their work with a wide range of financial services customers to implement digital technologies provides an up-close look at the why and how of moving quickly for the best advisor (and customer) digital experience.

The Need for Speed

During the course of our discussion, we identified four reasons it’s time to move to digital now.
1. Competition
“The gap between those that are moving fast and those that are not is widening. The importance of moving fast, especially for folks … that have an asset and a dependency on agents and financial service advisors … you are competing against many directs. As they continue to invest in that technology and being able to go direct to the consumer, your ability to deploy your distributed workforce with technologies to better connect with the consumer is going to be really important.”

– Brad Auerbach, Head of Financial Services, Facebook

Whether a fintech startup, robo-advisor or digitally native financial wealth management firm, the options continue to grow and consumer tastes continue to trend toward the desire for a seamless, online experience on the channels they use – including social media, text and email. (Learn how Cetera and Prudential are empowering their advisors to text clients and prospects.)
While advisors are often using these channels, it’s also important to ask yourself whether that interaction data is being captured in your CRM, which can guide your advisors’ next-best actions based on predictive analytics and AI. And, of course, are the communications compliant?
2. Talent Acquisition and Retention

“85 percent of (advisors) are out of the business in four years. Paul [LaPiana] at MassMutual mentioned his 17-year-old daughter is glued to her phone, and her friends are talking about Amazon and Google and Facebook as ideal places to work, and I think there is work to do in the financial service industry to attract that talent pool.”

– Craig Canton, Digital Strategy Partner for Financial and Professional Services, LinkedIn

The workforce of today, not to mention the up-and-coming digital natives, are consumers by nature. They’re used to the easy technology of Amazon and Netflix and will not be satisfied with the tedious enterprise software of old. An MIT Sloan Management Review/Deloitte study perfectly elucidates this: 76 percent of survey respondents consider it very important or extremely important to work for an organization that is digitally enabled or is a digital leader. Only 38 percent of FSI respondents agree or strongly agree that their organization offers employees the resources or skill-development opportunities they would need to thrive in a digital environment.
3. Death of the Funnel

“The funnel is not a funnel anymore; the buying process is no longer linear.”

– Chandra Stevens, Worldwide Marketing Solutions Director, Microsoft

Without a straight line from first contact to purchase, nurturing leads has changed. Chandra says that the way to make advisors effective is by enabling a ‘holistic continuum of engagement.’ By bringing the multitudes of data – social, CRM and more – together, you can drive personalization both at the corporate-level and down to the adviser agent’s client, so engagement occurs throughout the prospect and client lifecycle.

4. Ultimately, it’s Inevitable …
In the end, the shift to digital in financial services is going to happen. When talking to clients about why they need digital, Canton from LinkedIn likes to reframe the issue away from immediate ROI to opportunity cost.
“Today, you’d never say, what’s the ROI of having a laptop?,” he says. “We’re heading in that direction. And I don’t think we have to talk about what happened to Blockbuster. We certainly don’t want to go that route. So helping executives understand this is something that’s coming, and while ROI is certainly important, you have to think a little bit farther down the road, what do we want this business to be like in 10 years or 20 years?”

Making it Happen

As we all know, the ‘why’ is always easier than the ‘how,’ particularly when you’re talking significant change. Our expert partners had four great areas of advice here as well.
1. Rally Around One Ultimate KPI
“What is the ultimate KPI? At the end of the day, what is that number one goal that we’re trying to accomplish by investing in this digital transformation, by wanting to move fast? That is going to help the process not just when you start, but when you start evaluating and analyzing the data, too.”

– Brad Auerbach, Facebook

One organization can have many KPIs. Different stakeholders have different goals and points-of-view. But deciding on one that will move the needle like client net promoter score (NPS) or growth of assets under management (AUM), brings the energy of teamwork and begins to dismantle those departmental silos I mentioned earlier.
2. Focus on Quick Wins First
“Big bang transformation is dead. You can not … transform everything all at one time. Where I’ve seen our customers be really successful is to think about the bigger picture around transformation, but then when it comes to implementation and execution, taking one area of the business, starting there first, and getting some quick wins, and then the budget comes, then the subsequent projects come. I think that’s been really helpful for our customers that have been trying to do big transformation but getting success quickly.”

– Eran Agrios, Head of Global GTM, Financial Services Cloud, Salesforce

Going back to my first point, if your ultimate KPI is increased revenue or increase customer satisfaction/experience and engagement, then advisor enablement can reasonably be the first area of digital transformation. Using an all-in-one platform built specifically for financial services advisors, like the Hearsay Advisor Cloud for compliant social media, text, voice calls and email between advisors and clients, can give you an easy, quick win. And if you have a CRM, integrate for even greater returns.
Eran says, “We’re treating these advisors as human integrators, and I think when we look at the technology, and we partner well with partners like Hearsay, and we bring this information into one place of engagement, we’re really freeing up the time to allow the advisers to have valuable conversations with the customers.”
3. Use Stories, Verify with Data
“Everyone has this large, massive data estate. So how do you apply intelligence to the data to determine if you’ve developed the right use case that will produce viable results, and that the data you have in mass is the right data to use?”

– Chandra Stevens, Microsoft

A typical starting place for finding those first and subsequent quick wins is with anecdotal stories. What pain points are you hearing from advisors? What success stories from advisors and customers? And with your data analytics, what can you find to back-up these stories to move ahead quickly?
4. Iterate Continuously
“We release updates every two weeks, and advisors can provide feedback knowing that problems will be fixed quickly, rather than the old process of waiting four to six months to get something they often didn’t even use.”

– Fortune 250 financial services group and Hearsay customer

The most effective digital transformation teams don’t wait for the perfect plan. They operate on an agile model; as soon as they have a minimum viable product, they start running user tests to learn what needs to be changed and improved, then move on to the next set of tests, and release updates and upgrades to users frequently.
Although the financial services industry is slightly behind the curve in the move to digital, most organizations are making at least some moves to catch up. The questions now are: Who will get it right, and will they be fast enough?
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Artificial Intelligence at Work in Financial Services Marketing and Sales

The recent onslaught of headlines about the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in financial services makes it hard to separate the wheat (what’s real and possible) from the chaff (pie-in-the-sky hype).
We hear again and again about how AI can increase advisor productivity, improve the customer experience, and reveal previously hidden insights that can be a competitive advantage in an increasingly commoditized space.
It’s all great in theory, but often lacks real-life validation. Here’s a breakdown of ways AI can actually apply in the day-to-day, nose-to-the-grindstone world of financial services marketing and sales.

Human-in-the-Loop

Maran Nelson, founder of AI platform Clara Labs, suggests a simple but powerful framework: Focus on how AI impacts humans and their common, everyday workflows.
Nelson began her remarks on AI at the recent Hearsay Summit in San Francisco by admitting there is a mystique about AI, but in the end, “it’s all about predictions.” Beyond that, it’s nothing more than applying math and data to human decision-making.
Clara Labs is the technology company behind Clara, a “virtual assistant” that schedules meetings for recruiters. By eliminating the back-and-forth email exchanges that are normally required to set up a call, the company estimates it saves its clients many hours per week in both time spent and “cognitive load.”
As AI solutions go, Clara is a bit unique in that it takes a “human-in-the-loop” (HITL) approach – in other words, it employs a model that requires human interaction. Clara is able to read emails, compare calendars, and communicate with multiple participants. And while it’s designed to be reasonably good at this task, it’s programmed to bring a human into the process when needed. For instance, when a long, meandering email trips things up, Clara notifies a human Clara Labs team member to help make a decision about the action required.
According to Nelson, having a human involved is not just about getting a better outcome. It illustrates the fact that AI doesn’t serve a purpose on its own. It’s meant to help people – for example, by eliminating tedious or repetitive work. Ultimately, the value of AI should be judged by whether it is allowing people to focus on more creative or rewarding parts of their work.

AI-guided human interaction is also a central part of our work and products at Hearsay. We believe that a human in the loop can help drive casual customer engagement to sales conversations as quickly as possible. Our software automates common advisor workflows – like following up on a meeting, sending an annual review reminder or sharing an article that reflects a particular client’s interest – so that advisors can focus their time on more nuanced and productive human-to-human activities.

Lessons for Advisor Productivity

For all the fears about AI taking over human jobs, most of us in the financial services industry remain confident that we’ll always need actual people to play the financial advisor role – which means that the HITL approach could be an ideal way to think about AI.
Texting is a great example of this. Advisors are increasingly using texting and direct messaging on social media to communicate with clients and prospects, and AI is improving the experience on both sides of the communication.
On LinkedIn, for example, the messaging app will suggest likely responses based on the conversation, so the user can simply choose a response (“See you there”) rather than type it out. It may seem like a small thing, but over time these prompts can save advisors time and encourage them to use direct messaging and texting more frequently.
This can be really powerful when you are able to use automation in messaging that is specific to your industry, feels personal and can be executed at scale. Advisor-focused technologies like Hearsay have industry-specific messaging prompts – based on AI from hundreds of thousands of advisor-client interactions – that go well beyond simple suggestions.
With both Advisor Social (social media) and Hearsay Relate (text and voice calls), advisors are proactively notified of opportunities to wish clients a happy birthday, congratulate them on a new job, schedule an annual review, send them a reminder of their upcoming RMD, or reach out for other reasons based on data collected and analyzed. The outreach itself takes just one click with pre-written templates that are optimized for that specific conversation.

Lessons for Customer Retention

The “human” in HITL can also be your customer. Many financial services firms are leveraging AI to improve the client experience, leading to greater customer success and retention.
RBC, the largest bank in Canada, recently launched an AI system called NOMI. A play on the phrase “know me,” the platform monitors customers’ checking accounts and anticipates overdrafts based on the bills it knows are about to be due.
Unlike more simplistic, alert-based solutions, which are more common in the U.S., services like NOMI make informed predictions, suggest a course of action, and even carry out the request if approved. Over time, it learns to propose better suggestions based on what the user does and doesn’t execute.
“If nothing else,” says wealth management thought leader Joel Bruckenstein, “(NOMI) should serve as a wake-up call that maintaining the status quo is no longer an acceptable business strategy.” Bruckenstein believes that many advisors in the U.S. have been “slow to grasp the magnitude of technological disruption taking place in financial services,” to their own detriment.

What’s Next?

In a word: chatbots.
According to a study by Personetics, 80 percent of financial institutions globally view chatbots as an opportunity and, in fact, almost 50 percent are already using or plan to start using bots. And while Gartner predicts that chatbots could handle at least 85 percent of all customer service queries by 2020, these clever little programs can do more than just free up the call center’s time.
Take Bank of America’s AI chatbot, Erica. Accessed via the BofA app, Erica can seemingly do it all, from tracking customers’ credit scores, to reviewing spending habits, to offering advice on how to pay off bills. Users can chat with Erica via voice or text message.
Before you board the chatbot train, remember that almost half of bots are only used once. To increase engagement, Personetics CEO David Sosna recommends that your bot “proactively reach out to customers with information, insight and advice – presented at the right time and place based on predictive analysis of individual customer needs.”

AI in Finserv: Improving the Human Experience

Hearsay CEO Clara Shih believes that technology is highly unlikely to replace all the people working in financial services – especially when it comes to financial advisors.
Rather, she says, “technology will help them transform,” in the way that Nelson of Clara Labs argues that AI will be about “eliminating the parts of your job that you like the least.” Financial companies that embrace AI will allow their people focus on the most creative, challenging and impactful aspects of their jobs that ultimately help their clients navigate through important life events.
As Steve Jobs once said, “Silicon Valley has always been at the center of both technology and humanism.” Despite the advancements in AI, financial services consumers still continue to demand a high level of personalized services. In the end, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that digital platforms are ultimately about helping people.
Hey, Siri, what do you think about that?
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