Skip to content

The case for listening to advisors & agents

Your digital program success depends on it

In reflecting on my recent article in FastCompany on the importance of listening to your customers, I can safely say that one of the best things I’ve done is to mandate that all Hearsay employees and new hires spend a day with our end users – your financial advisors and insurance agents.
As important as it is to meet the needs of social admins, compliance personnel and IT, the success or failure of your digital program ultimately depends on having a product that fits the current day-to-day processes of your advisors or agents. Your success hinges on improving their results at the same time as you make their lives easier.
Understanding how advisors and agents work, what their processes and pain points are isn’t information that’s easily gathered from a survey or while sitting around a conference table. It needs to be experienced on the ground, in the advisors natural environment. User experience designers call this “ethnographic research.” If an end user visits a lab or a tech company, she may answer questions differently than if she is in her office doing her actual everyday work. In a lab or on a survey, it’s also easier for technology product teams to ask leading questions and make assumptions. But when you visit your end user’s office and simply observe, many of those biases and assumptions quickly disappear.
One of my favorite examples is the day I spent with an employee in a local field office of one of our top insurance customers. Let’s call him Joe. Joe is precisely the type of person we designed our product for, as Hearsay looks to reinvent the client experience with compliant digital communications and workflow solutions. Since I could recite this customer’s corporate priorities and annual goals and thought I deeply understood their business, I expected this visit to be fairly routine. I would talk with a few people who’d ultimately validate what we already knew about serving their agents. But I was in for quite a surprise!
My time with Joe changed the trajectory of our products and approach to product development. We had developed a text messaging solution that we expected Joe to embrace; he couldn’t have cared less about it. Joe spent the entire day tracking down customers’ late bill payments through a painfully manual process consisting of spreadsheets, phone calls, voicemails, and Post-it Notes. Between dozens of call attempts, he shared that this was how he spent too much of his time. Our minds were blown.
This afternoon with Joe helped me and my engineering and product design teams realize that we were so heads-down refining our product based on feedback from the customer HQ offices that we were missing an opportunity to be so much more. We could deliver the type of innovation and value that changed workers’ lives.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not just me visiting your advisors and agents. Over the course of a year, every single Hearsay employee, from engineers and product teams to our accountants, support staff, and recruiters have had similar experiences sitting down with end users. It has been a huge investment in time and coordination, but incredibly high-return on investment. Our employees come back feeling inspired and viscerally understanding our company mission and opportunity. We’ve visited all types of advisors and agents – young advisors struggling to engage enough clients to build a viable business, experienced advisors wanting to do less as they wind down their careers, and everyone in between.
The conversations we have with end users have shifted from what they think of our product to the pain points they feel daily. The questions we ask aren’t, “What do you like and what’s hardest to use about our product?” They’re, “What do you like, what’s hardest about your job, and how can we help?”
Visits with agents like Joe have inspired our team to introduce several new products, to solve business challenges in processes like billing, claims, and lead management. We’ve also refined existing offerings to focus on actual tasks that our end users must get done each day.
“Spend the Day with an Advisor and Agent” continues to be an important program for our employees. Specific individual users and anecdotes are now always on our minds and come up in meetings when we debate trade-offs and prioritizations.
If you’re like many of our clients, you may have a rich, even resource-intensive advisor or agent adoption program (e.g., Charles Schwab, American Family Insurance). Programs like these focus on critical aspects of program success like education and training where the emphasis often falls primarily on sharing information with agents and advisors.
Now imagine if you expanded these programs to incorporate a ‘Spend the Day’ to see how agents and advisors worked with the tools and content you gave them. What if you built their feedback into the your quarterly reviews with Hearsay? How much more could we do together to improve the advisor/agent experience and make your digital program wildly successful?

Understanding Regulatory Guidance and the Real Risks Around Initiating Client Texting

In a highly regulated space like financial services, it makes sense that there’s still confusion surrounding the legal obligations for firms engaging in one-to-one client texting. Many firms err on the side of caution, choosing an unnecessary opt-in policy. But when it comes to texting with clients, it’s imperative to make it easy for advisors and agents to adopt your compliant texting solution. Anything that stands in the way of that actually puts your firm at risk.

One-to-one advisor-client texting: No opt-in required

Compliance officers, we want to put your minds at ease: One-to-one text messages sent individually to a client by an advisor do not require prior client consent. The only legal obligation firms have is to monitor, supervise, and retain a record of the conversation.
Why is it important for you to know this? We’ve seen clients implement onerous opt-in policies to ‘play it safe’ with the undesired effect of lower texting technology/program adoption and lower customer opt-in rates than are necessary. Many advisors find it awkward to ask for consent to communicate with a client they’ve had a relationship with for many years. Since advisors are also set on using the channel their customers want to use – texting – they’ll use their personal mobile devices built-in texting features with no guardrails (i.e., no compliance oversight), putting themselves and their firms at risk.
The fact is, one-to-one communications for relationship management are different from mass sales and advertising messages. Since the main purpose of these types of communications is not advertising or solicitation but the facilitation of meetings and sharing information – just like an advisor would do from their built-in smartphone texting capability – they don’t carry the same compliance risks.
For lead follow-up and conversion it is absolutely acceptable for an advisor to reach out with a first unsolicited message to try to setup an initial client meeting. The texting technology you choose and your texting program, however, should include best practices such as providing clients an easy method to opt-out of further communications or the ability to proactively block and flag messages that don’t align with company policy around advertising, solicitation or brand representation.
So the real risk involved with initiating compliant texting program is not ensuring that prior consent is provided but that the necessary compliance and archiving controls are in place and that advisors feel comfortable using the tools to engage in conversations with clients.
That said, we’ve found that many enterprise clients still want prior consent controls in place so we’ve developed methods that improve the consumer and advisor experience while reducing common perceived risks.

Methods to Initiate Compliant Texting

Hearsay has designed a variety of ways to initiate compliant texting to suit the specific requirements of different organizations. Some of the options below do require explicit consent from the consumer prior to initiating a conversation even though this is not a legal requirement for one-to-one messaging.

Consent Notice A one-time text message triggered by the Hearsay Relate user to notify the contact about who the sender is, who they work for, and how to get more information or opt-out of the conversation.  Once this initial text is sent, the Relate User is free to start the conversation and does not need to wait for a response.
Whitelist A list of phone numbers that a Relate user will not need to ask for permission from. For example, if text message communication consent is part of the standard client agreement.
Advisor Confirmation In-app dialog box that prompts the Relate user to confirm that they have permission to text a client. No action is required by the client.
Opt-in (via Text) Text message requesting consent that is sent out by a Relate user prior to initiating the first conversation with a client. The conversation is only unlocked once the client texts back YES. This opt-in message can be sent out multiple times.
NEW: Personalized Opt-in – now advisors and agents can initiate new conversations with custom messages that deliver increased client opt-in rates.
Email Email sent out by a Relate user to a client’s email address that prompts a client to give permission for communication via text message.
Webform A webform is sent to the client asking them to give permission for receiving communication via text message. This can be completed as part of the new client on-boarding process.

At Hearsay, we understand that every compliance team’s needs vary. It is our job as a financial services technology leader to interpret the regulatory landscape into highly usable products that ultimately drive results across the organization. We will continue to partner with clients to find the right balance to empower their advisors and agents with digital tools that build lasting client relationships while safeguarding them and the firms they work for from compliance risk.
If you have questions about any of this or would like to reconfigure your current program, please contact your Hearsay customer service manager.

Hearsay Cloud is now SOC 2 Certified: That’s an extra layer of data protection for your customers…

Today, virtually every website you visit is collecting various amounts of your data, with varying levels of security. And chances are good that within the last week or two, you either heard a news story or got a notice of a data breach.
Even in financial services where regulations enforced by FINRA and other agencies are strict, customer data is compromised far too often. Like every other industry, financial services firms store almost every bit of customer information online (i.e., in the cloud). The data gold mines that are wealth and asset management firms, insurance providers, and banks are a tempting target for hackers.

If you’re using Hearsay, your customer data just got safer. We recently underwent a SOC 2 audit by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and were awarded SOC 2 compliance. SOC 2 is one of the most common compliance requirements that technology companies need to meet today. It is specifically designed for service providers storing customer data in the cloud. While considered a technical audit, it goes beyond technology to establish strict information security policies and procedures for managing customer data based on five “trust service principles” – security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy. To be compliant, service providers must have clear, well-documented, proven strategies around all five of these topics.

Source: AICPA

Why does SOC 2 Compliance Matter to Hearsay?

If you’re in IT or have any experience in the world of infrastructure, you may know that SOC 2 compliance isn’t a requirement for SaaS and cloud computing vendors. Even most financial services clients require that vendors who store their customer data in the cloud either be SOC 2 compliant or “leverage a provider who is compliant”. Many providers do indeed rely on their IaaS or managed hosting provider – i.e., AWS, Google, Microsoft Azure – to meet the SOC 2 compliance requirement.
However, the SaaS and cloud computing companies who are truly serious about data protection know that simply meeting SOC 2 through leveraging AWS’ certification, for example, is no longer sufficient. With Hearsay’s SOC 2 certification, customers can be assured that Hearsay has end-to-end defined security controls across the entire organization, ensuring an extra layer of protection for your customer data.
As data security becomes an ever-increasing concern and attacks become more sophisticated, we believe this is crucial for every SaaS and cloud provider that does business with financial services companies. Handling customer data according to strict guidelines is at the forefront of our operations. It’s more than ticking a box – it’s a reflection of our commitment to building trusted client relationships.
If you’re going through a security review or doing pre-sales due diligence, we can share our own internal SOC 2 report – just ask.

Get to Know Hearsay: Jill Kiernan, Customer Success Executive

When Jill Kiernan recently joined Hearsay’s Client Services organization from a large life insurance company, I knew I had to feature her story. As someone with years of marketing experience and a deep understanding of Hearsay prior to joining the team, she brings a unique perspective to her role and the customers she supports. Read on to learn about Jill, why she joined the Hearsay team, and the role of a Customer Success Executive!

What is your role at Hearsay and why did you join the company?

I am a Customer Success Executive located in Boston, Massachusetts. On the Customer Success team, our charter is to lead our customers to great outcomes while delivering a great experience.
I joined the company because I have been constantly impressed by the leadership and mission of Hearsay, coupled with their – I guess our, now – product offerings. I wanted to contribute toward that mission, and saw an opportunity to do so given my background as a customer. At the same time, I was looking for a role where I could learn and grow both professionally and personally and knew this was the place for me.

You were very familiar with Hearsay before joining, can you give some background on your previous role at your previous company?

I used to work for Knights of Columbus Insurance, a global charitable organization and life insurance company. In my role as Director of Marketing, I helped the field force (about 1,500 insurance agents throughout the United States & Canada) develop and execute their digital marketing strategies. This included equipping them with the tools they needed to stay relevant in the digital age and connect with today’s social consumer.

What did you love the most about Hearsay from a customer standpoint?

My favorite part about working with Hearsay from a customer standpoint was the trusted partnership from day one. I loved getting to work with a team that helped us develop and implement our program goals and celebrated our successes as the program grew exponentially.
In the digital world that we live in, it can be a challenge for agents to break through and build trust with their prospects. Hearsay’s social tool enabled the agents I worked with to have a turnkey solution to manage their social media accounts and connect with today’s digital consumer. The features within Hearsay made it easy for them to not only share all of the good they were doing in the community and showcase who they were as a person, but also to raise awareness around the importance of planning your financial future and how they could help with that.
Hearsay’s team was there for us every step of the way. From agent onboarding and training to adoption and expansion, they were instrumental in the success of the social program.

What do you love about working in financial services?

I am very passionate about life insurance. Life insurance is one of the most important intangible products you can purchase, yet oftentimes people don’t realize until it’s too late. Having the opportunity to help agents and advisors expand their reach and educate consumers about the importance of life insurance and how it’s there for you when you need it most is very fulfilling. Their work directly impacts and changes people’s lives, it’s humbling to be a part of that. I am inspired every day. At my former company I was able to help a few thousand insurance professionals do this, now I am able to help hundreds of thousands through Hearsay’s solutions.

What excites you most about working at Hearsay?

The people!
Being surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do, collaborating on existing goals as well as creating new ones inspires me. I feel so empowered and supported by my new coworkers at Hearsay. From the day I started in the NYC office to now being remote in Boston, the amount of people who have reached out to help me learn has been incredible. They genuinely care about my growth and want to help me succeed. It’s an awesome feeling. I’m so grateful to be a part of this company.

What’s something that you’ve learned since you’ve joined that has surprised you in a good way about Hearsay?

I’m a newbie… this is the first tech company I’ve worked for so it’s been eye opening. I’m fascinated by all of the people, teams, systems and workflows that collaborate to create, maintain and improve the products. In general I’m very impressed by how easy it is to collaborate on pretty much everything.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given…

Remember who you are, why you started, and where you’re headed.

Favorite place for coffee/food/drinks in your city or a city you travel to frequently?

Rino’s in East Boston – The best Italian food in Boston (their lobster ravioli is to die for and has 3 pounds of lobster meat in them… just sayin), and it helps that Rino’s is conveniently located on my street!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Travel, try new restaurants (I’m a foodie), and spend time with my friends and family.