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Kudos to our 2021 Hearsay Innovator Award Winners!

What a week! Our second fully virtual Hearsay Summit has wrapped, and I’ve never been more inspired by the work our customers continue to do. One of my favorite aspects of Summit is seeing these tremendous achievements recognized and honored through our Innovator Awards. This year, we received so many great submissions, all of which were award-worthy.

Read on for this year’s final award categories and winners:

Most Innovative Compliance Strategy, Aly Nakkache and Maureen O’Grady, Equitable

Very few firms within our space use Instagram, and even fewer leverage Instagram for recruitment. In its first six weeks, Equitable’s Instagram pilot saw an engagement rate of 11.2—more than 10 times the average—validating the potential of Instagram as a network.

Aly Nakkache and Maureen O’Grady are true trailblazers when it comes to using Instagram for recruitment, and we look forward to seeing what they’ll do next.

Movers and Shakers Award for Social – Cully Eisenbeis and the Edward Jones team

We debuted a new category this year called Movers and Shakers, and this award unquestionably belongs to Cully Eisenbeis and the Edward Jones team. Not only did they roll out Hearsay Social to 18,000 financial advisors in 5 months, they saw 65% adoption since launching.

Edward Jones moved full speed ahead to digitally enable their branch teams over the past year—working tirelessly on a massive pre-approved library of content while also enabling access to branch office administrators and delegates—and this focus has paid off.

With the tremendous support of its advisors, it’s no surprise that Edward Jones earned the number 20 spot on the 2021 Fortune 100 best companies to work for!

Movers and Shakers Award for Relate – Ashley Biagini, New York Life

Ashley Biagini led a massive initiative and rollout to bring compliant texting to New York Life’s agents and field managers. With over 1,000 users now on Hearsay Relate—and positive feedback across the board—this feat is due in no small part due to Ashley’s dedication to behavior change, effective training and communication, and continued support to each agent and field manager. We are thrilled to see the continued growth and success of this program.

Exceptional ROI for Sites, Thrivent Sites Team

Sites was Thrivent’s number one marketing lead source across all of their marketing last year. By optimizing their digital presence, Thrivent advisors saw a 60% increase in site traffic, and a 21% jump in Sites leads year-over-year during the pandemic. Of potential clients completing forms on the advisor’s site, more than 1 in 4 were converted into new clients.

To drive additional impact, Thrivent has also integrated Sites lead flow into Salesforce to improve follow-up, speed, and visibility through enhanced funnel analytics.

Exceptional ROI for Social, Hannah Bland, Aviva Investors

Throughout 2020, Hannah’s motivated and determined approach to Aviva Investors’ social selling program produced many impressive results, including a 110% increase in website traffic from the prior year. Also last year, Aviva Investors garnered 23,000 social engagements from 3,500 social publishes, 50% of which were original content.

By tracking ROI, Hannah was able to surface critical insights to leadership, which helped inform Aviva Investors’ broader content and marketing strategy throughout the year. And by attributing web traffic to individual salespeople, she fostered a friendly, competitive environment that drove increased engagement with Hearsay.

Most Influential Leaders in Transforming the Client Experience, Caitlin Flood and Miriam Wolf, J.P. Morgan Wealth Management

Our most influential leaders in transforming the client experience were two leaders from the same organization: Caitlin Flood and Miriam Wolf at J. P. Morgan Wealth Management.

Previously, Chase Wealth Management advisors weren’t allowed to use social media for business. Caitlin and Miriam built the business case, received buy-in from multiple internal governance councils and piloted social media as a channel for their advisors. In a year marked by a massive shift to a digital reality, they improved their advisors’ ability to communicate with clients and prospects, and build their businesses with digital tools when in-person interactions were not possible.

Miriam and Caitlin also set a goal to increase the overall number of advisors in the program, improve female advisor representation, enhance the variety and volume of posts, and increase engagement, attaining phenomenal success in transforming the client experience!

Thank you to everyone who nominated themselves or a fellow leader this year, and congratulations again to all of our award winners. We’re so impressed by all that they’ve accomplished this year and can’t wait to see what they’ll tackle in the year ahead!

The Countdown to Hearsay Summit 2021 is On!

Next Tuesday, Hearsay will kick off its 9th annual Hearsay Summit, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to convene the financial industry’s best and brightest minds on our virtual stage!

Last year’s pandemic altered social selling, and advisors and agents were quick to pivot from tried-and-true approaches to test new strategies for the new normal. Across all lines of business, Hearsay customers embraced the opportunity to break through the noise by accelerating digital adoption and scaling efficiencies in nurturing authentic client engagement. 

At this year’s summit, not only will attendees hear insights and learnings from industry thought leaders, they’ll get to “choose their own adventure” when it comes to learning and networking. Here’s just a sampling of what’s on offer:

  • Keynote presentations from innovators like Canva Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki and Starbucks CMO Brady Brewer. Guy will cover his top ten tips for igniting change at your firm, and Brady will share how Starbucks uses principles and storytelling to guide the team in their last-mile interactions with customers.
  • An Executive Panel featuring leaders at First Republic Bank, Northwestern Mutual and EY, who’ll discuss balancing digital innovations with human relationships, attracting next gen advisors and customers, and leveraging their legacies for future success.
  • Breakout sessions where digital transformation leaders share how they’ve successfully scaled one-to-one customer engagement 
  • Collaborative Think Tanks comprised of curated peer groups
  • A chance to collect Spark Points that you can redeem for e-gift cards, when you attend general and breakout sessions, or participate in Speed Networking or Think Tanks

Haven’t registered yet? Now is the time to save your spot at this exclusive, complementary event. Say yes to igniting connections, and unlocking the full potential of authentic human-client engagement. We can’t wait to see you there!

Not Your Grandma’s Website: Welcome to Your New Digital Hub

For years, the humble website faded into the background, quietly working while emails zipped out, social media dazzled the business world, and live events grabbed attention with flashy keynote speakers and deal-closing conversations. 

In 2020, everything changed. From local insurance offices and retail bank branches, to bank headquarters and popular steakhouses, the world stood still. High-profile events and industry conferences were cancelled or converted to virtual-only experiences. Email inboxes and social media feeds were flooded with updates, brand messages, and webinar invitations. 

Many consumers were suddenly stuck at home, hungry for information and limited to the internet. A tidal wave of questions and requests hit the financial industry, sending advisors, agents and bankers scrambling to respond. With no in-person options available and an astonishing volume of inquiries that could not be met with a one-to-one approach, the importance of a broadcast approach, via personal websites and digital interactions skyrocketed. 

COVID-19 underscored the increasing need for a comprehensive digital strategy that includes professional websites at the field level. But even before the pandemic, there were a number of reasons why establishing a robust website program for bankers or advisors was a long-term strategic requirement. Although there exist several website types that provide specific tactical benefits, including listing pages and landing pages, we believe the most important and impactful website is the multi-page site that showcases an advisor’s professional experience, coverage areas and credentials, while capturing leads and providing curated content.

A robust website effectively serves as a digital hub that empowers each advisor or agent to: 

Welcome visitors to an “always open” digital office

Websites provide the opportunity to create a favorable first impression and share in-depth information that establishes credibility and builds trust. They allow an employee’s personality, experience, and approach to client service to come to life in a way that’s available whenever a prospect is ready to learn, whether that’s 3:00 am on a Tuesday or noon on a Sunday. 

Connect the digital dots 

Consumers search for information in a variety of mediums. There is no “linear path” anymore. A prospective client may start on LinkedIn, the next on Google and a third by reaching out for recommendations via an email to work colleagues. Advisors must meet consumers where they are by making information accessible across all digital touchpoints. Adding a URL that leads to her polished website across all her social media profiles (and in her email signature) achieves this.

Provide a localized and curated experience 

Trust in institutions is at an all-time low, while trust in peers and local experts is at an all-time high. This means that someone is more likely to trust the advisor working with his cousin or best friend than a high-profile company that runs ads during his favorite television show. Giving an advisor the ability to connect at a one-to-one level with local prospects by promoting a local event (such as a charity drive or tailgating event), tailoring content to a specific audience (such as boaters in South Florida), and curating articles or blog posts around his or her coverage area (such as advisory expertise for generational wealth transfer or savings plans for first-time homebuyers) creates a sense of connection and personal relevance that a corporate website or program cannot. 

As they say, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. When busy or anxious consumers are searching for a wealth advisor, mortgage banker, or insurance agent, they are seeking someone with the knowledge, experience and resources to help them achieve their goals. A robust website, acting as the digital hub that connects prospective clients across all possible touchpoints, is a savvy way to own that impression and stand out in the current environment. 

Slow that Scroll: How to Capture Eyeballs for Your Social Videos

If you still need to be convinced of video’s marketing efficacy, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you’re already bought into video and just aren’t sure how to start, this should help get you from lights, to camera, to action.

When the only tool you have is a hammer…

Video works, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right tool for every job. Who are you trying to talk to? What do you hope they’ll think, feel, or do after seeing your post? If after thinking it through it feels like you might be using video for the sake of using video, switch gears and save your filming fun for another day.

The right way to use video

There’s no one right way to use video. Like every other trick in the content marketer’s bag, the magic is in knowing your audience and creating an experience that makes sense within the context of the chosen channel.

Imagine, for example, a financial advisor who’s looking for a way to mix some personal posts in with more professional fare as a way to nurture existing client relationships and stay top of mind. She shoots a 10-second velfie (video selfie) of her daughter and herself showing off their freshly dyed Easter eggs, and posts it to LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram with a text teaser that reads, “Teaching my daughter early to never put all her eggs in one basket. #teachablemoment #assetallocation”. 

By posting a short, relatable video with a wink towards her work, she bridges the different vibes of the three channels she chose with content people are inclined to like, comment on, and share with their friends: “This is that financial advisor I was telling you about. Great person, and really knows her money stuff.

Now imagine another advisor, also looking for a teachable moment, who decides an explainer video would be a great way to help his clients understand asset allocation, while also reminding them of his expertise. He shoots a 7-minute video of himself talking through considerations and theories, then posts it to Facebook with the text lead, “Understanding Asset Allocation.” 

It’s possible he’s such a dynamic speaker that people will be riveted till the final frame. It’s more likely that Facebookers who see his post won’t even slow their scroll for a long video with a title that sounds like homework. Even if their curiosity is piqued enough to take a peek, seven minutes of complex talk with no visual support could lead them to bounce without engaging. Even worse, the experience may put them off, causing them to feel like they’d prefer an advisor who “gets” them better. Yikes!

Which reminds me

Everybody wants to know the optimal duration for video. Here’s the thing: If it’s interesting, relevant, and timely, or if it informs or entertains or even just pleasantly distracts, then people will watch…and keep watching. But if it’s none of those things, they’ll stop, drop, and scroll within seconds.

That said, one of my favorite co-workers from my Franklin Templeton Investments days used to tell his team to “be brief, be bold, and be gone.” He wasn’t talking about social media content, but it’s not bad video advice.

Final cut: Video is a reliable means for brands and people to make connections with clients and prospects in a way that’s more compelling than pictures plus text. Still, the format can’t compensate for storytelling fails, so think about your audience, put yourself in their shoes, then create a content experience worth having.

Bonus: I made a video about how to make a not-horrible video! Watch it here.

Financial Services Exam Priorities: Hearsay Compliance Shares What to Expect in 2021

In keeping with annual tradition, the US Financial Industry Regulators have published their respective Examination Priorities for 2021 (See SEC, FINRA, NAIC, OCC). Not surprisingly, they share a number of overlaps, with the pandemic and the implications of a potential continuation of remote work playing a large role across the board. Regulators continue to examine how financial services firms interact with their audiences, in order to ensure a responsible approach  geared towards fair and balanced outcomes.

Although they’ve clearly outlined specific activities they view as counter to fair and balanced outcomes, it is clear that regulators are moving more towards principles-based enforcement. The perennial reminder to include appropriate disclosures, robust supervision regimes, and consistent books and records is, of course, restated within these priorities letters. However, an important call-out is that the regulators are becoming more explicit with regards to checking for non-monitored activities, in the spirit of refocusing towards outcome-based priorities.  

FINRA, in particular, has expressed the most explicit requirements around proactive monitoring for communications with the public. Not only are member firms required to monitor unapproved channels, they’re also required to stay abreast of new tools, features and channels, and must ensure their policies are up-to-date with regards to what’s permissible on existing and future channels. 

Not all firms are required to adhere to FINRA’s strict requirements; however in our view, this is a critical development, as firms have historically been able to remain confident that a policy-based prohibition on certain communications channels was sufficient for regulators. As the regulatory environment progresses, firms should review their policies and procedures to expand their prohibition policies. Ideally, firms should update their electronic communications surveillance systems to monitor for “channel-hopping” (moving from monitored to non-monitored channels, e.g. email to text), and include robust testing procedures to establish a reasonable basis for disproving channel-hopping.

For assistance updating your policies and procedures, or preparing for upcoming regulatory audits, don’t hesitate to reach out to Hearsay’s in-house Compliance practice, or your sales representative.