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The Case for Compliance Technology: Where’s the Problem?

This is the second in a series of blog posts by Mitch Avnet of Compliance Risk Concepts on the process of building a business case within your firm to support investment in compliance technology. Read part one here.
Trying to prove the case for investing in new technology for compliance’s sake is often an uphill battle. Unless your firm has experienced a catastrophic regulatory issue or emerged from an audit with a mandate to bring your processes into compliance, you’re likely to be met with a large dose of hesitancy.

After all, historically the compliance function has been seen as a cost center and not a very exciting one, at that. Most firms want to invest in revenue-generating projects rather than in a maintenance function that – for all its inefficiencies – seems to be working fine.

The problem with this way of thinking is that most compliance issues don’t surface immediately – they build over time. Allowing a gap in your operation to go unaddressed for a long period of time can infect your entire enterprise, leading you to invest money in new processes and systems to treat the wound that surfaces rather than the underlying illness. When it comes time to address the issue, it’s like peeling back the layers of an onion to get to the real matter.

I’m sometimes consulted by firms whose lack of awareness of an underlying issue – or inaction in addressing it – has put them under regulatory pressure. Their knee-jerk reaction is to decide their technology isn’t working and to want to go out and purchase the latest, greatest new technology. But unless they first identify where the gap lies, in time the new system will fail, as well.

In general, firms today share the same kinds of fundamental challenges. The most prevalent is an over-reliance on manual, bifurcated and disparate processes, which limits their ability to get a comprehensive, accurate view of their compliance risk in a timely manner. They hire talented, highly skilled compliance professionals, but the task of gathering information from all their various systems is so time-consuming and onerous, they spend more time amassing and packaging the information than they do in analyzing it. As a result, governance committees and boards make enterprise decisions based on incomplete, unverified information.
Many firms lack a consistent process to define key compliance risks, which makes it difficult for them to identify and assess the risks as they emerge. It’s not unusual to find the same issues being investigated and escalated from several different areas of the firm, wasting time and overhead as efforts are duplicated and affected areas are asked the same question 20 different ways.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone; the fast pace of technology development and regulatory changes have led to loose ends in virtually every firm’s operation.

The first step in building a case for investing in compliance technology is to find those loose ends – a process that is not for the faint of heart. It will take participation from virtually every corner of your organization and a willingness to challenge the status quo.

Assemble a committee of representatives from every impacted area. Make sure they understand the ultimate value to the organization, and that they embrace and internalize the mission. You want them to act as evangelists as legacy employees push back against change. Be sure to include younger workers on your committee. While many of us use technology, the younger generation lives it, and there’s a big difference. The technology you ultimately adopt needs to feel natural to them – to streamline its onboarding and to ensure your firm feels relevant and forward-thinking to the future workforce you want to attract.
Once your committee is assembled, encourage them to question every process and technology. Trace every workflow, find where processes dead end and where they overlap. Ask why they exist and how long they’ve been there. Financial services is a dynamic, ever-changing industry. Chances are if employees are still following ten-year-old methodologies, there’s a better way of doing things. Empower your committee members to be agents of change to find the gaps that are putting your firm at risk by masking problems that lead to uninformed decisions.

Once you understand your firm’s operations end-to-end, step back and measure it against your competitors and where the industry is today. Are your capabilities leading? Or lagging? Where are your hot spots? Once you understand where your system falls short, you can begin to build a better solution.

Next month, I’ll talk about the next step in building your compliance technology business case: framing solutions.

Advisor Websites: Improve your Search Ranking & Digital Presence with SEO

Using social networks to improve your business is important, but no matter where a prospect starts online, they ultimately end  at your website. Today’s prospects are constantly looking for more information before making their buying decisions and your website is an important part of that journey.
In fact, 2/3 of people of all ages say an updated website makes them feel more confident when dealing with financial services professionals, especially when it comes to insurance, according to LIMRA’s 2018 Barometer Study. A similar percentage of folks say they would not do business with an agent or advisor with an out-of-date website.

Your Clients And Prospects Need To Be Able To Find You

Just as you research prospective clients before you meet, your prospect will research you before engaging with you in person or on the phone. When they type your name into Google, they’ll expect to find your social media profiles and website right away – not to scroll through pages of results to find you.
Social Profiles such as LinkedIn, Facebook Business Pages or Twitter accounts (assuming they are public by default) will rank high in search engine results. In order to rank higher in Google search results, you need to make your profiles and website keyword-rich. To do that, you need to know what Search Engine Optimization is, also known as SEO.

What is SEO?

In technical terms, SEO is the “strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine.” Basically, SEO is making sure you use keywords, images, links, and other content that will make your website rank higher on Google when people search topics related to your industry or services.
For example, the advisor/agent website often serves as a content hub if you are able to post blog posts, and other information related to you and your practice like financial calculators or corporate-sponsored collateral on the importance of life insurance or retirement. If you’re a financial advisor that specializes in providing financial advice to small businesses, your website should mention key terms like “small business,” “local business,” and any other relevant terms to your business. Your blog posts should center around this focus and possibly even link to third-party articles that talk about the same industry. All of this helps to make sure your website is search engine optimized.
Firms that do NOT incorporate these strategies are at a major disadvantage. 57% of a purchase has already been made before first contact with a company representative. Influencing during this discovery phase is critical to the success of your business. Search engines reward websites that have consistent content updates because this signals to their algorithms that these pages are more relevant to users than sites that are not updated regularly.

SEO Tips & Tricks

Provide Quality Content

Text, images, and video: quality content goes beyond your basic contact information. Things to think about include:

  • Who you are?
  • What makes you unique?
  • Why are you a great person to work with?

Images, a written biography or an introductory video showcasing your office and you at work within the community are also great ways to expand this initiative.
Tailor your content based on your demographic and talk about things that are important to your target audience while identifying common struggles and concerns that enable YOU to post content that addresses those issues.

Make Content Dynamic

You do not want a website that you park on the Internet and throw away the keys. Stagnant websites  are “so 1995.” It’s important to share things that are relevant and recent. Some examples include:

  • Quick links to news article, such as what’s happening in the world or the economy
  • Long form articles or blog posts that allow you to use relevant keywords for ranking and link back to your website from your social networks

Use Relevant Keywords

It is important to optimize your website for the web and for search engines. By using relevant keywords you increase your SEO, however don’t get too caught up in the weeds doing this. Ensuring your information is up to date is the first step.
Place the keywords throughout every aspect of your site:

  • Tour titles
  • Content
  • URLs
  • Image names

And think about your keywords as search terms — how would someone looking for information about you search for it? This is the key to success.
This is just a snapshot of the content we have prepared to teach you about putting together a website for your business.
Register Now for our upcoming monthly webinar, Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 8am PST/ 11am EST / 4pm GMT for SEO + Advisor Sites: How to Improve your SEO and Overall Digital Presence.  In this live webinar you will hear directly from Hearsay’s Customer Education Executive Chris Beck about how to use search engine optimization (SEO) to increase the discoverability of your business online.

In the Spotlight: Kyle Nowadnick, Thrivent Financial Consultant

Talking to customers is a way of life for Hearsay; engineering, product, marketing and customer success teams are in daily contact with thousands of corporate financial services customers and their advisors and agents. With an enormous base of advisors and agents using social, websites, email and compliant texting with mobile calling we’re in the unique position to be a hub for those in the industry to learn from one another.
Each month we’ll put the spotlight on a customer who’s fully embraced digital transformation. We’ll share stories of advisors and agents who are using digital to be more productive, build deeper relationships and increase business, as well as those of distribution, marketing, compliance and IT leaders who successfully led or participated in digital initiatives.
Welcome to our first Customer Spotlight! This month, we caught up with Kyle Nowadnick, a Thrivent Financial Consultant in the Greater Seattle Area, for over 10 years. Kyle uses Hearsay Social, Sites and Relate to prospect and deepen client relationships. Read on to hear from Kyle himself about how making the move to digital selling has positively impacted his work.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Every day is different for me – I never know what to expect as my schedule constantly changes and a variety of things can happen each day. That’s why I dedicate 5 mins each Monday morning to plan my digital communication strategy for the week. With very little work, I schedule my social media pushes and set automated text reminders for my upcoming meetings. It’s such an easy way to stay top of of mind with my clients.
What trends are you seeing in the industry lately?
Today, clients look to their financial professionals for a point of view on market events, such as the recent stock market dips, and industry trends that are impacting their accounts. They want and expect answers to topics in a timely and actionable format before they have a chance to ask the question. As financial professionals, we have the opportunity to be positioned as a thought leader which will change the way our clients currently engage with us.
How are social media and texting changing the way you work?
Social media is changing the way I interact with my clients and prospective clients. When I started in this field, the only way I engaged with clients was over the phone. It was time consuming and not that effective. Now, there are a number of ways one can and is expected to engage. Clients look me up on Facebook, LinkedIn, or see my website through a Google search to learn more about me. They will message me to set up a meeting after they already know a little about how I work with clients. I text a lot more with my clients these days; it’s definitely an easy way to stay engaged and in front of them.
How has Hearsay improved the way you work?
Hearsay gives me an easy way to manage all of the ways I can engage with my clients and it aggregates those interactions in one place. Knowing that I’m covered by compliance as well is a huge relief. I don’t have to think about it at all.
What best practice have you adopted?
Consistent weekly postings and creating my own content have been instrumental in my social strategy. When I started I set a goal of posting just once a week and did that for a few months, learning what worked and what didn’t. Over time, I increased the frequency of my posting to 5 times a week and my social network began to expand much more. While I post content from our corporate library a few times a day, I have also created my own voice through content that I have created. Also before assuming my clients want to communicate over text, I ask them in person first before sending them the initial text.
What excites you about Hearsay’s vision?
I’m excited about the possibility of leveraging all of this great client engagement data in our CRM to give me more insight into what’s working (and what’s not) to I continue to grow my business.
When you’re not at the office, what do you do for fun?
When I’m not at the office, you can find me scuba diving in the Puget Sound or spending time with my family.
To connect with Kyle, follow him on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and you can check out his Hearsay powered Thrivent Website here.

A Lesson in Digital Transformation: What We Can Learn from Industry Wins

In my blog post last month, I wrote about the journey financial services leaders must take to embrace digital technology, integrate our business systems and transform our approach to customer relationships to remain competitive. However, with siloed databases, outdated communication styles and regulatory demands, it becomes a tall order.

Last week I received a text from my doctor’s office, reminding me to stop in for my annual flu shot. It struck me that our journey into digital transformation is not a new one; others have taken similar paths, including the healthcare industry, which lies under its own thick blanket of regulatory scrutiny.

Like the financial services industry, the healthcare industry has spent decades collecting massive amounts of data on their patients – personal histories, clinical charts, insurance information, prescriptions and procedures. In most organizations, the information was siloed in separate databases, unable to be cross-referenced with pharmacy, scheduling, accounting, research and other management systems. The lack of integration, data integrity and transparency across systems resulted in unnecessary tests, insurance fraud, prescription abuse and more.

Today, much of the financial services industry struggles with the same siloed structure. Our CRM systems’ inability to communicate and automate the capture of data from other critical enterprise systems results in duplicated efforts, time wasted in manual data entry, missed sales opportunities, and the development of products and offers that fall short of clients’ expectations of a highly personalized product and experience.
The healthcare industry, a decade ago, developed Electronic Health Records (EHR), which now make it possible to share patient data across networks, leading to better patient care and financial savings. In “The big-data revolution in US health care: Accelerating value and innovation,” McKinsey & Company reported that one California healthcare network has seen an estimated $1 billion in savings from reduced office visits and lab tests, and improved outcomes in cardiovascular disease.

Becoming a data-driven industry has also been an imperative for financial services. If we simply take the world of the advisor and the imperative to automate tasks and create more efficiencies, there have been massive changes. Advisors and agents no longer need to waste time chasing dead ends with messages that don’t hit the mark. Digital algorithms can help us find trends, patterns and opportunities we don’t yet know exist. Predictive analytics can deliver “best next steps” to our advisors and agents based on what has proven successful with clients of the same habits, lifestyles and demographics. No more tedious searching of databases and recording of activities. Highly skilled field staff can spend their valuable time nurturing the right relationships – and more of them.

Embracing a smart digital strategy can lead to improved and often transformative business outcomes. It already is for Hearsay customer Thrivent Financial. Thrivent recognizes that the time its representatives spend with clients correlates to increased engagement and customer loyalty. By implementing Hearsay Social, Hearsay Sites and Hearsay’s built-in compliance, Thrivent’s representatives are reaching more prospects and spending more of their time in personal interaction. With Hearsay Relate, they are communicating in the way clients wish to be contacted – by text – and receiving positive and often immediate response. As a result, Thrivent is generating thousands of social media leads each month, has increased customer acquisition by 22 percent, and is spending 75 percent less time on marketing & compliance busywork. Read more of their story here.
Every day, both business and society make advances toward a digital landscape. The future of businesses, regardless of industry, lies in a willingness to embrace digital technology and turn the data into actionable insights.

Hearsay’s December Product Release is Here

The holidays are upon us and with them comes our final product release of the year!

This release is packed with presents for admins, field leaders, agents and advisors to drive more value from your programs next year. You’ll find brand-new features for the Hearsay Platform, and new and improved functionality in Hearsay Social and Hearsay Relate.
What’s new?

For the Hearsay Platform:

Introducing Insights: A brand new reporting and analytics experience
Insights is the first important step to transforming the way you visualize and analyze the performance of your Hearsay programs. All clients are now able to benefit from this new reporting and analytics experience across the Hearsay Platform.

Insights provides robust dashboards and real-time reports to quickly assess program performance and take a proactive, data-driven approach toward optimizing results. Your data is surfaced in a highly visual, easy-to-consume format. It’s simple to see what’s working well, where there’s opportunity and to easily share findings with your colleagues. You can begin to deliver the data you demand, laying the groundwork for more impactful BI, CRM, and core systems integrations.

Improved Desktop User Experience
We’ve released a completely refreshed interface for a simpler and more intuitive desktop user experience. With a modern design, enhanced findability and a streamlined experience for multi-product clients, it’s easy to navigate between solutions.

For Hearsay Social:

Drive Campaign Subscriptions from the Action List  
Campaigns – both Dynamic and Relative – automate publishing to ensure even the busiest agents and advisors can still generate awareness on social media and publish fresh content to their websites. Agents and advisors can save more time by subscribing to campaigns directly from the Action List with a single click, increasing campaign subscription rates and growing the reach of home office content.

1-to-1 Outreach Enhancements
A number of new 1-to-1 Outreach features help users unlock more valuable interactions with clients and prospects:

  • Seamless Onboarding: A new quick and easy onboarding experience for 1-to-1 Outreach guides advisors and agents through critical in-app features to drive adoption and long-term product use.
  • Email Nurture Campaigns: Advisors and agents can now leverage email campaigns to automatically share content to better nurture their clients and prospects.
  • Email Campaign Starter Pack: Your field now has an easy way to launch email campaigns with pre-built starter packs that are specifically tailored to your industry.

For Hearsay Relate:

Send MMS Text Messages with Hearsay Relate
Advisors using the Relate web application can now attach files or photos (known as MMS messages) to their text messages. Advisors and agents can now communicate with clients in other ways through text, such as ensuring documents are received in good order or highlighting important information for clients.
As you engage clients and prospects with these new features, we look forward to hearing your feedback. Our next product release will be in January – see you in the new year!