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Passing the Torch to Hearsay’s New CEO

A heartfelt thank you and exciting news for Hearsay’s growth, as I transition to the role of Executive Chairperson! Read on to learn more about Hearsay’s new CEO, Mike Boese.

11 years ago today, Steve Garrity and I founded Hearsay Labs on a belief that the sales profession would get upended by the social graph being created on Facebook– fundamentally disrupting the way customers buy, whom they trust, and how they’d want to stay in touch. We came up with the idea for social selling (along with a few other ideas which didn’t make the cut), hired some friends and their friends, played a lot of ping pong, and wrote code day and night.

Every day was exciting, nerve-racking, unexpected. I’ll never forget the day in early 2011 we stumbled on the need for reg tech. We were in Boston visiting a prospective Fortune 500 customer. Our prospect cut to the chase – she wanted to know whether Hearsay could increase her laptop storage capacity. She turned her computer toward us, and we could see that her desktop was littered with thousands of image files. It turned out that she and her team spent their days manually screenshotting every one of their firm’s thousands of financial advisors’ LinkedIn profiles every hour in order to comply with FINRA advertising rules. Their laptops were literally running out of space. We left stunned and inspired. Once back in California, we went to LinkedIn HQ and pitched them on the need for a compliance API in order to give access to the millions of users in regulated industries who were being blocked. The rest, as they say, is history. We have never stopped building, innovating, and getting inspiration from customers since.

It’s been a thrilling, challenging decade. We’ve helped 170,000 relationship sellers reinvent themselves in the digital era and enabled compliance teams to scale their workload amidst an explosion of digital communications. We’ve raised $50 million and expanded to 22 countries while remaining incredibly capital-efficient due to our industry focus. We created social selling as a category, focused to become an industry cloud, acquired a mobile communications platform, then expanded our charter to last-mile omnichannel engagement to allow our customers to drive outcomes across their full client journey, not just social.

Along the way, I’ve learned countless business, leadership, and life lessons, forged lifelong friendships, and pushed harder, dreamed bigger, and overcome more than I ever thought possible. This last decade has been the journey of a lifetime, and we are just getting started. The first wave of digital transformation in financial services was automation and self-service. Validated by the pandemic, this next wave is about authentic engagement at scale– a category Hearsay has established and will fuel its next chapter of huge growth. As co-founder and CEO, I’ve always done what it takes to make Hearsay successful. Today I’ve decided what Hearsay needs to be successful for the next decade is a new CEO.

Mike and me last week, appropriately socially distanced [photo by Radu Ranga]

Last year, after a decade as CEO, the board and I began looking for the right person to lead Hearsay into its next chapter. With our last-mile engagement category established, platform built, and customers aligning their enterprise transformations, Hearsay had entered a new stage in its evolution which required a new skillset– someone with experience threading and scaling cross-functional processes needed to align our growing number of teams and offices around the world. Our COO  Mike Boese exemplifies these skillsets as well as our company values, and it’s with so much pride and optimism that  I announce he will be our CEO for Hearsay’s next chapter, which I already know will be our biggest yet. I will step into an executive chairwoman role where I can support from the wings.

Let me tell you about him. With his prior experience leading multiple software companies, combined with his humility and “Day 1” hustle, I knew when I met Mike that he was special. Mike studied engineering at the University of Washington and has helped build some of the most important and iconic software companies of our time– Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP, Taleo. Mike is a former startup founder himself, and has also scaled companies and teams exactly to the next phase of where Hearsay needs to go. Above all, Mike is an incredibly good person, partner, and servant leader deeply committed to our people and customers.

From platform utilization to new deals and customer expansions, our business is outperforming expectations on nearly every metric. Watching how our customers have depended on Hearsay to reassure and guide their customers during the pandemic has given our team a new level of purpose. Thanks to our business performance and Mike’s leadership performance, I know in my heart that the time has come to pass the torch. Our future has never been brighter, and I know the company will flourish under Mike’s stewardship.

What’s next for me? Hearsay will always be my company. As executive chairwoman by day, I’ll be helping Mike advise our customers, codify our team culture, continue building out our leadership team. I’ll stay on full-time for as long as Mike wants, then transition to part-time. That’s the plan for now. Over the next several months, I’ll take some time off to recover from the millions of miles I’ve traveled in the last decade, spend quality time with family, and then figure out what’s next.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who have joined and supported me in this startup journey. My initial list was too long to fit in this post, so apologies in advance for this condensed version:

  • To my husband Dan, thank you for supporting me and making sure I remember to eat and sleep. I love being home with you every day and never want to go back to flying 300,000 miles a year.
  • To my son Blake, it has been such a joy to get to know you deeply, read bedtime stories and tuck you in every night. I’m nervous and excited to be Room Parent for your kindergarten class!
  • To our current and former team, customers, investors, partners, supporters, believers, thank you for the opportunity to build together. You should feel proud that the company is bigger and will last longer than any individual person. I’ll cherish my 11 years as CEO working alongside you and will always carry this experience with me in my heart.
  • To my co-founder Steve, chief bottle-washer Pete, grumpy cat Robert, EQ coach Barkis, deal magician Tom, and contrarian Chris Hearsay with the yellow backpack, thanks for energizing me with your fiercely original ideas, continuously challenging my thinking and assumptions, and for your incredible GSD, support, and friendship over many years. I couldn’t have asked for a better band of misfits to be a part of and grow up with in my career.
  • To Bryan, Jon, Patrick, and Frank, thanks for your support through thick and thin, and for pushing me to act boldly and think bigger. In 11 years, never was there a wasted board conversation or meeting. You’ve always come prepared, been on point, and known exactly which parts of the business to push on.

It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as Hearsay’s CEO. As scary as this decision feels, I know in my heart I’m doing what’s best for our future. When the stars align, the choice is clear. I love this company, our team, and our customers, and am so excited for the decade ahead!

The Vitamin and the Painkiller – Where Does FinServ Fall?

Traditionally in business, a solution, product, or service is either a vitamin or a painkiller. Think about a vitamin — it’s a nice-to-have. When you remember to take it, you take it. If you don’t take it on a particular day, you usually don’t even notice — but over time, when you take your vitamins, you do feel better every day. Now, a painkiller? That’s when you have a major issue, you have a burning platform, you have to take care of it right away. Every moment that you don’t take care of it, you’re at risk.

The conventional wisdom is you can choose to build one or the other, but I believe that a great product does both: solves that burning problem right away … and makes you a little bit stronger to face tomorrow. In my recent episode of Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman, I explored how Hearsay started as a vitamin (social selling), accidentally uncovered and addressed a huge pain point (compliance), and turned that into an even bigger vitamin (human-first digital).

This metaphor is relevant today when we think about the products being created at this moment. Everyone with an entrepreneurial mindset has been watching with interest as these new markets develop. Face mask makers. Food delivery services. Virtual conferences. Parents’ collectives to organize virtual classes and pods. We’re all serving as one another’s painkillers right now – creating products and services that keep us safe and connected.

But the standout products in this new market? Not only are they saving us pain, they’re also making us a little bit better. A little happier, a little more resilient. I look at a company like Second Wind, a small mask-maker in New York. This team of women created a custom mask design with a stylishly long decorative chain — adding a dash of verve that turns the mask into an upscale fashion statement. Is this product a painkiller? Yes. A vitamin? Also yes.

While I recorded this episode early on in the Covid pandemic, revisiting the session more recently made me realize, never has this metaphor been more applicable to financial services organizations than now. The pandemic has turned lives, and capital markets, upside down. In today’s uncertain economic times, financial services organizations are in a unique position – their advisors and agents are vitamins and painkillers for clients. There is a short-term urgency and long term necessity for clients and investors to connect with their agents and advisors for that authentic guidance and personalized advice – and it’s never been more critical than now.

Our economies have been changed by this pandemic, and when it ends, they will not look the same. Lots of the products and services we need now are painkillers: Right now they’re vital, life-or-death, but when we don’t need them any more, we won’t use them any more. On the other hand, the things we’ve grown to love during this time, the things that make us better, happier, stronger … we’ll make an effort to keep those, even after. Whether it’s your new Peloton, or a delivery service that’s a delightful improvement over schlepping to the store, or a new habit of checking in with your social networks more often and being more genuine when you do. Those are our vitamins.

So my advice on how to help your advisors and agents thrive throughout this time and afterward — it turns out, it is the same advice I gave Reid and listeners in the episode. Encourage your field to be both a vitamin and a painkiller. Solve an immediate need for their clients, and strive to make their long-term vision just that little bit better too.

Hearsay Summit 2020: Delivering a Human Client Experience in Extraordinary Times

A big thanks to each of the 500 marketing, distribution, and compliance leaders who joined us at the annual Hearsay Summit – for the first time ever, virtually! We were thrilled to have a highly engaged audience and incredibly insightful presentations from our customer and partner speakers.

A few of our key takeaways were published by ThinkAdvisor, if you missed the event or want to share it with colleagues. I’ve also highlighted a couple of my favorite moments below, in both written and sketch format.

Digital is a Permanent Priority

Kathryn Lattuca, leader of Emerging Experiences & Analytics at the Royal Bank of Canada, participated in our keynote presentation, and she shared that although they’ve been putting in very long hours over the past month, they are seeing some silver linings. The acceleration that occurred due to COVID-19 set the stage for a more seamless digital workflow. She believes the following positive changes are here to stay:

  • A stronger partnership between compliance and marketing to more quickly triage new content and better manage how and what is distributed
  • A focus on providing customers a seamless experience into digital entry points
  • Empowered advisors leveraging digital channels to build deeper relationships with clients, at the right time, on the right channel

This sentiment that while COVID is temporary, the changes to behavior and digital acceleration we’re experiencing as a result are not, was a theme throughout the event.

“Approachable Authorities” – The Importance of the Last Mile

Naveen Agarwal, Chief Marketing Officer at Prudential Financial, coined a wonderful term for advisors and agents, approachable authorities. Prudential’s purpose is “making lives better by solving the financial challenges of our changing world.” Naveen shared that Prudential’s advisors and the last mile communications with their clients are critical to fulfilling Prudential’s purpose, since their role is to really listen to clients. He explained, “We believe that, especially when it comes to complex decisions, when it comes to things where people have to be reassured, we think about what it means for you. Without that last mile it would be impossible to help the customer in the deep way that we want to. It’s critical for us that we get the last mile really nailed.”

To learn more, the full resources from the event are available on our Summit website.

Welcome, Alex Falls! Insurance cloud veteran now leading Global Product Management

Last Friday, we announced the addition of Alex Falls to our leadership team, and I couldn’t be more excited. Alex joins us from Guidewire where he led the financial industry’s back-office transformation, delivering industry-changing core systems across billing, policy, and claims management. This experience is invaluable in his role leading Hearsay’s new product development, where he’ll be heading up the financial industry’s front-office transformation as Hearsay delivers insurance and wealth management workflows and analytics to allow field distribution to become more systematic while enhancing rather than replacing the human touch.

Alex Falls, Global VP of Product Management, Hearsay Systems

I sat down with Alex for a few minutes to help everyone get to know him better.
Clara: Welcome to Hearsay! Tell us a bit about your background, Alex.
Alex: I’m excited to join the team leading product management. For over two decades, I’ve been delivering product vision, strategy, and execution in insurance and financial services. My background encompasses core systems, CRM, and analytics.
Clara: What about Hearsay made you decide to join the team?
Alex: Hearsay has been at the cutting edge of financial services from the start. The company is moving the industry into the future with compelling solutions that work together to solve complex issues while helping advisors and agents improve relationships with clients and prospects. I can’t wait to work with this outstanding team as we transform the financial services industry.
Clara: Thanks, we’re so excited to have you here! What’s something that has surprised you about working with financial services institutions?
Alex: I came into financial services in the form of core software for the property and casualty insurance market. Most people look at insurance as a necessary evil, a tax, and an industry that values profit above all else. What I found was one of the most deeply human industries I’ve ever encountered: an industry that wants to liberate people from risk so they can deliver amazing things and an industry that cares deeply about its customers’ happiness, livelihood, and wholeness. I’ve become an evangelist!
Clara: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Alex: You will always regret a choice not to try something new far more than choosing to try it, no matter the outcome.
Clara: Let’s let people get to know you a little more personally… What do you like to do in your spare time?
Alex: I’ve traded in kayaking, scuba diving, and globetrotting for something far better: being the father of a wonderful, headstrong five-year-old daughter. We still travel, but our vacations have become much more relaxed!
Clara: Where would you chose to live if you had to leave your country and why?
Alex: My wife and I would likely choose London, where we lived for a time many years ago. Walking down a single city street, you hear several languages, see food from many cultures, and experience more variety and newness than anywhere else we’ve been.
Clara: I’m sure our London team looks forward to your visit! Great to have you on the team.

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?

Hearsay Summit 2019: Creating a Human Client Experience in an Omnichannel Financial Services World

Last week, 150 distribution, marketing, IT, and compliance leaders at the world’s largest financial services institutions and Silicon Valley disruptors gathered at our annual Hearsay Summit to discuss the challenges and opportunities we face as we make our way through digital transformation. Here are my top takeaways.  
There’s been a lot of talk about (and investment in) creating a seamless client experience. As consumers have become accustomed to amazing service from B2C companies like Netflix and Amazon, their expectations for digital business services has sharply increased. Even the most conservative enterprises today – and I count many financial services firms among those – have begun their digital transformation efforts. The goal: create those delightful customer experiences.
Yet, for all the talk about customer experience, the one component I don’t hear nearly enough about is the human side of the client experience.

The Human Client Experience

A seamless digital-only experience might work in B2C categories like video streaming and retail, but it doesn’t work for financial planning advice and insurance. The data shows that most customers don’t want to choose one or the other – they want a seamless omnichannel experience which sometimes means looking up their account balance through a mobile app without having to talk to anyone, and other times means being able to get their advisor or agent on the phone (e.g., when Brexit happens or their house has just been destroyed by the Napa fire).

Joe Nadreau, Wells Fargo Advisors

Joe Nadreau, Head of Independent Brokerage & Platform Services for Wells Fargo Advisors shared that as robo platforms have become commonplace, there’s been a trend toward clients looking to advisors for holistic advice. Today’s clients are much more interested in talking to advisors about goals – saving for retirement or to put kids through college – and how to achieve them than about their investment portfolio and its performance.
The issue too with digital-only experiences is that they quickly become commoditized table stakes. Every insurer’s mobile app these days basically has the same functionality (make a payment, file a claim, look up your insurance card), and same for investments (accounts, watch lists, trade, transfer). Digital has become table stakes– you need mobile apps and robo to stay in the game, but having a mobile app and robo doesn’t score you any extra loyalty because everyone else has it too. Typically, it’s a race to the bottom where firms compete on price alone.
What still commands a premium, and is priceless, is the human experience. As Ella Hilal, PhD, Director of Data at Shopify discussed in the Tale of Data Science, the stories we share can stimulate the endorphins that truly engage your customers (and build loyalty). The Holy Grail is, as Steve Jobs said in 2000, “the intersection of computers and humanism” where technology can be used to enhance human connection.

Driving Advisor and Agent Adoption

But getting advisors to embrace technology is hard. There are a host of regulation and supervision burdens that every new communication channel brings with it. After all, advisors and agents are human beings – who can become set in their ways and resistant to change. They must, however, change to accommodate consumer habits and that seismic shift in consumer expectations.
“In this business, the most critical piece is to get your advisors to use it. With any digital field solution, it’s critical to get the training right and integrate everything fully so there’s an end-to-end workflow. You have to make it easy to drive adoption.”
Neal Maglaque, President, Advice & Wealth Management Business Development and COO, Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.
Around the world, the average adult spends over two hours each day on social media and a total of six hours engaging on a digital screen. In this era of Google and constant connectivity, consumers prefer to do their own research and validation – CEB/Gartner estimates that 57% of the buying decision has been completed before a prospect is willing to speak to a rep. This means content marketing and being findable online are more important than ever. Since most individual advisors and agents don’t have the ability to manage content marketing and SEO, corporate marketing teams play a critical role.
We heard from so many of our customers on how they simplify the advisor and agent experience with digital. While some organizations leverage Hearsay’s Dynamic Campaigns to provide their field teams with corporate-suggested content, Allstate provides a customized digital experience of offering their agents the ability to create unique content. And of course, no discussion of marketing’s critical role would be complete without exploring the theme of marketing and sales alignment, which David Karr, Chief Distribution Officer and Kathryn Ferrero, Chief Marketing Officer, from AXA in a fireside chat led by Ty Heath of LinkedIn. I can vouch firsthand that the AXA team’s alignment is impressive; David and Kathryn literally cannot make decisions without one another which leads to the best decisions for their advisors.

David Karr and Kathryn Ferrero from AXA; Ty Heath from LinkedIn

Introducing Hearsay Billing Orchestration and Lead Orchestration, powered by Agent Actions

Telisa Yancy, American Family Insurance

In the US alone, property and casualty insurance companies lose an estimated $30B each year due to billing issues. Telisa Yancy, Chief Marketing Officer of American Family Insurance, said that the very best agents simply do not let their customers lapse. These agents have instinctively figured out that they should be using a combination of texting, emails, and calls to make sure customers pay before their policies lapse, but the process is entirely manual today. And as we know, the very best agents make up a small percentage of any field team within an organization.
On the new customer acquisition front, over $7B is spent each year by P&C insurers on advertising in the US. Then, on top of this, agents spend on local advertising and for leads from 3rd party aggregators. Whether the leads are sourced from corporate or by the agents themselves, the follow-up is poor and inconsistent. Even the best agents don’t always consistently and systematically follow up on leads because there are too many steps and everything is manual.
Hearsay’s new configurable Actions Orchestration Engine changes all of this. It allows every agent to behave as the very top producer does, and automates 90% of the manual steps.
Today’s next best action AI efforts typically fail because agents are not incentivized to manually report back to corporate whether or how they performed the suggested action. Without the closed-loop feedback, machine learning cannot occur. Hearsay addresses this problem by closing the loop with built-in tracking on Hearsay Social, Hearsay Sites, and Hearsay Relate texting and calling.
Thanks to regulations and Hearsay’s role in “last mile” compliant communications, we can harvest and analyze digital exhaust to determine which agent actions result in the best outcomes, such as preventing a policy lapse. This is an incredible opportunity to help all agents become more efficient and systematic through automation and mobile notifications and a closed feedback loop.
As we tackle these field execution gaps with Billing Orchestration and Lead Orchestration in Insurance, and the various moments that matter in wealth management such as Market Movements, Financial Planning and Annual Reviews, and RMDs, we expect to shift the typical normal distribution of low, mid, and high-performing agents to a new world where everyone can easily behave as the best agent would. This will completely change insurance and wealth management, with a human client experience that is also data-driven, leading to the high-tech, right-touch advisor and agent!
Thank you and Congratulations
Hearsay Summit was a success because of our inspiring customers and partners. Your leadership, program best practices and lessons learned have been inspirational to us and have helped define the next phase of our journey together.
To that end I want to congratulate our Innovator Award winners:

  • Transforming the Enterprise – Josh Feyen, Jeff Frye, and Ashley Mortimer from American Family Insurance
  • Best Strategies for Driving Adoption – Stacey King, Sean Carey, Katie Leimkuehler, Katie Pfledderer, Jake Thompson and Nia Copeland from Charles Schwab
  • Greatest Productivity Gains – Joanne Koenig, from RBC Wealth Management
  • Top Digital Performer – Renee Corwin-Rey of Farmer’s Insurance

Finally, if you weren’t able to join us or want to revisit one of the session, check out recordings of some of our main stage Hearsay Summit sessions here.

Hearsay Summit 2019: The Digital Impact of Advisors & Agents on Transforming the Client Experience

As the 7th Annual Hearsay Summit (#HearsaySummit) kicks off, I’m excited to spend the next 2 days with 150 of our top customers, leaders in financial services. Today we are launching our certification program followed by role-based roundtable sessions to discuss best practices, lessons learned and industry trends in Marketing, Sales/Distribution, Compliance and IT.

Today’s conversations will continue on stage tomorrow where I’ll discuss how the digital experience is defining the client experience. 97% of adults have their mobile phones with them at all times. Two trillion text messages were sent last year in the U.S. alone. And how many people do you know who have actually listened to those who suggest we’d all be better off deleting our social media profiles?

Where consumers go, business goes, and the world of finance and insurance is no different. For a few years there, investment in robo exploded and upstarts like RobinHood in wealth or Lemonade in insurance were born. Cries of digital displacing advisors and agents were everywhere. I never for a minute believed it.
Think about your dad, your mom, your brother – people in your life who don’t understand investing – or how much coverage they need for insurance. My guess is there are plenty of people like that. TurboTax bet on that this year too when they promoted talking to an accountant by video while doing taxes as their #1 feature of the year. They have a digital solution that they married with a human advisor to transform the client experience.

Register to watch the Day 2 (May 1) livestream

For those who will not be able to join us live, I encourage you to attend Day 2 virtually. Listen in to the ever-popular main stage inspirational TED-style talks, fireside chats, and dynamic panels featuring exceptional leaders from financial services and Silicon Valley.

Finally, stay tuned to hear how our latest announcements will transform the agents and advisor experience to enhance sales, increase satisfaction and avoid unnecessary customer churn.

The agenda for Day 2 is as follows:

9:00 AM Welcome Remarks
Chris Andrews, COO, Hearsay Systems
9:10 AM Transforming the Client Experience: The Digital Impact on Advisors and Agents
Clara Shih, CEO and Founder, Hearsay Systems
9:45 AM Separating Hype From Reality – How Wells Fargo Advisors Responds to Industry Trends
Joe Nadreau, Head of Independent Brokerage & Platform Services, Wells Fargo Advisors
10:05 AM Marketing and Sales Alignment Matters – Here’s Why
Kathryn Ferrero, Chief Marketing Officer, AXA US
David Karr, Chairman & Chief Distribution Officer, AXA
Moderated by: Ty Heath, Global Lead, Market Development for Marketing Solutions Group, LinkedIn
10:30 AM Programming Break
10:50 AM Introducing Agent Actions
Telisa Yancy, CMO, Amerian Family Insurance
Eugene Lee, VP Insurance Solutions, Hearsay Systems
Clara Shih, CEO and Founder, Hearsay Systems
11:10 AM CIO Approach to Building an Innovation Ecosystem
Vijay Sankaran, Chief Information Officer, TD Ameritrade
Sunaya Tuteja, Head of Strategic Partnerships & Emerging Technologies, TD Ameritrade
Moderated by: Donna Prlich, Chief Business Officer, Hearsay Systems
11:30 AM How Content is Transforming the Next Wave of the Customer Journey
Owen Donley, Chief Counsel, Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, SEC
11:50 AM FinServ Past, Present and Future: How Thrivent Financial is responding to the Evolving Tech Landscape
Paul Johnston, General Counsel, Thrivent
Nichole Schluender, Vice President Integrated Marketing, Thrivent
Moderated by: Elizabeth Casey, Vice President, Product Management, Hearsay Systems
12:10 PM Programming Break for Lunch
1:05 PM The Tale of Data Science
Ella Hilal, Director of Data at Shopify; Data Scientist, IoT Strategist, Women in Tech Evangelist
1:30 PM The Modern Advisor: Turning Mobile Phones into Traveling Offices, Part I
Neal Maglaque, President, Advice & Wealth Management Business Development and COO, Ameriprise
Rohit Mahna, SVP & General Manager, Financial Services, Salesforce
Chris Andrew, COO, Hearsay Systems
Moderated by: Clara Shih, CEO and Founder, Hearsay Systems
1:55 PM The Modern Advisor: Turning Mobile Phones into Traveling Offices, Part II
Alpesh Patel, Vice President, Enterprise Strategic Industries, DocuSign
2:10 PM Lessons from the Field: Sharing Social Strategies for Client Engagement Success
Erik Jepson, Managing Director, Head of Digital Marketing, Morgan Stanley
Emery Skolfield, General Partner, Edward Jones
Roger Tye, Vice President, Digital and User Experience, Allstate
Moderated by: Nikhil Lele, Principal, Financial Services, Ernst & Young
2:40 PM Hearsay Innovator Awards
2:55 PM Thank You & Wrap Up

For more information on our event, please visit

Don’t forget to register for the livestream and participate in the conversation on Wednesday, May 1, when we take to the main stage! You can:
Watch the livestream, which begins at 9 a.m. PT, May 1

Follow #HearsaySummit, @HearsaySystems, and me (@ClaraShih) on Twitter
Subscribe to the Hearsay blog to read my event takeaways after the show!

Hearsay Summit is Almost Here: Top Insurance, Wealth Management and Tech Leaders Come Together to Discuss The Future of Field Advisors and Agents

For the seventh year (!!), 150 top leaders from some of the biggest financial services, insurance, and technology companies in the world, will gather in San Francisco April 30-May 1 for Hearsay Summit, and I couldn’t be more excited about this year’s line-up. Executives from Wells Fargo Advisors, Ameriprise, Morgan Stanley, Allstate, American Family Insurance, and AXA will join tech leaders from Salesforce, LinkedIn, EY, and DocuSign to tackle how to turn corporate data into field action.

This event is designed for FinServ and FinTech executives to share ideas and gain an edge with next-level insights and strategies. We will discuss the familiar topic of breaking down organizational silos and empowering the high-tech, right-touch agent and advisor. This year, go deeper with our theme of Transforming Data into Action. We’ll examine how data and the technology used to harness it change the traditional roles of agents and advisors to meet today’s client demands for rapid, personalized response across any channel (such as social, email and text) they may be using at the time.

“Hearsay Summit is always an outstanding event full of rich cross-functional dialogue, and it has never been as important as in the current climate,” said Joe Nadreau, Head of Independent Brokerage & Platform Services, Wells Fargo Advisors. “Advisor roles are changing dramatically as a result of seismic shifts in client behavior and expectations. Financial industry leaders must be prepared to address these changes head-on and embrace new approaches, practices, and challenges. Hearsay Summit is a great forum for learning, sharing best practices, and better understanding the technology forces reshaping the future.”

Day 1 of Summit is dedicated to each important role that works with Hearsay, with role-based roundtable sessions tailored for marketing, sales/distribution, compliance, and IT professionals to discuss trends, best practices, and key success factors.

For the first time ever, Marketing and Compliance professionals can kick off Day 1 getting Hearsay Social certified. Marketing and Compliance Administration Certification is designed for program leads and social administrators using Hearsay Social. The new certification program enables users to get hands-on experience with some of the latest Hearsay functionality.

As in previous years, on Day 2, all Hearsay Summit attendees come together to learn from TED®-style talks presented by the industry’s biggest disruptors and innovators, including:
Kathryn Ferrero, CMO, AXA US
Ty Heath, Global Lead of Market Development, LinkedIn
Erik Jepson, Managing Director – Head of Digital Marketing, Morgan Stanley
Paul Johnston, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Thrivent Financial
David Karr, Chairman, AXA Advisors
NiIkhil Lele, Partner/Principal – Digital Enterprise Transformation – Financial Services, Ernst & Young
Rohit Mahna, SVP & General Manager Financial Services, Salesforce
Joe Nadreau, Head of Independent Brokerage & Platform Services, Wells Fargo Advisors
Alpesh Patel, Vice President, Enterprise Strategic Verticals, Docusign
Roger Tye, Vice President, Digital and User Experience, Allstate
Telisa Yancy, Chief Marketing Officer, American Family Insurance

We will also honor our innovative customers with the Hearsay Innovator awards on the mainstage on Day 2. This program celebrates customers who leverage the Hearsay platform to delight and provide value to their clients in new and exciting ways. Past winners include Morgan Stanley, American National, and Thrivent Financial.
We are looking forward to seeing you at the end of the month. If you haven’t registered already, don’t miss out! Learn more by visiting the Summit Registration page. Registration is limited and almost full!

Welcome, Frank Defesche! Bringing Industry Cloud Expertise to the Hearsay Board of Directors

Defesche was an early cloud pioneer and brings over a decade of industry cloud experience to Hearsay Systems.

We recently announced the appointment of Frank Defesche, General Manager for Veeva Systems, to the Hearsay Board of Directors.
I’m thrilled about Frank joining the board for a number of reasons. As a cloud pioneer and current leader in a vertical cloud-based software company within a heavily regulated industry, Frank’s expertise will be invaluable to Hearsay as we continue to transform and modernize the insurance, banking, wealth and asset management industries.

As an executive over the past 11 years, Frank has played an instrumental role in Veeva becoming the leading technology partner to the life sciences industry and in recently surpassing an $18B market cap. After building Veeva’s professional services function from scratch – an area Hearsay has provided for years and is currently scaling operations – Frank most recently launched the Vault business line as Veeva expands to address new industries such as Chemicals.

As a company advisor to me over the past several months, he’s already made an impact. Frank has helped us optimize our company and key initiatives for industry depth and focus. He’s helped us learn lessons and operationalize around a few areas that are key to success as an industry-focused cloud company:

1. Win by out-focusing everyone else. While horizontal players seek to be “something for everyone” and widely extensible, Hearsay takes the opposite approach. We build with so much specificity that if you are not in financial services, you will not understand our software.

2. Hire and develop people obsessed with the industry you serve. Hearsay has shifted our recruiting focus so that at least every 2-3 hires is coming from insurance, banking, or wealth management, or the tech and consulting firms which serve those industries. Across all of our existing employees, we set up quarterly customer “follow me home” visits so that everyone in the company, from engineering to accounting, can observe how our customers work (the painful manual tasks) and viscerally internalize our company mission of enabling the High-Tech, Right-Touch Advisor.

3. Deliver turnkey, end-to-end solutions rather than one-off features. Horizontal companies ship features. Industry companies must deliver end-to-end solutions, from product features to partner ecosystem integrations to business process remapping, training, and analytics, to close the loop on what worked.
We look forward to executing these and learning more from Frank in the coming months and years. Welcome to the team, Frank!

2019: The Year of the Resurgence of the Financial Advisor, With Technology’s Help

advisor mobile technology
As we start the new year, feelings of both anticipation and anxiety are palpable for many Americans. Uncertainty reflected both in this country and across the globe are challenging financial markets, and the economy is looking unsettled for the first time in years.
With this as the backdrop, the financial services industry will have its fair share of challenges in 2019, but there are exciting opportunities also. In these turbulent market times, technology advancements used to amplify advisors’ human touch will matter more than during bull markets and will define client relationships to years to come. Here are three areas that will be top of mind for advisors and advisor firms in the new year:

1. Shift from Data to Insights and Action

The amount of data amassed on a yearly basis is staggering. According to a PwC research report, by 2020, we could see 44 zettabytes of data created annually. Financial services firms are investing heavily in data systems and predictive analytics, with multiple applications including security, fraud and client experience and personalization.
In theory, putting data to work with the right tools should help deliver the advice clients need at precisely the right moment. But it’s been easier said than done. For one, many advisors ignore so-called “next best actions” because the suggestions aren’t very good or performing the actions requires too many arduous steps. Firms have also tried to deliver these nudges directly to consumers through emails and app notifications, but the follow-through rate on automated suggestions is a few single-digit percentage points at best, compared to over 50 percent follow-through from a human advisor nudge, according to the Chief Product Officer of a popular robo advisor (which brings us to the next prediction). Perhaps 2019 is the year that data-driven advisor nudges will become viable.

2. Robo Advisors Will Cease to Exist on Their Own

Despite over $2 billion of venture capital flowing into robo advice startups, the hype about human advisors getting replaced by algorithms has simply not played out. There has not been an exodus of either boomer or millennial clients leaving their human advisors for apps. A 2017 study by LendEDU revealed that only about one-fourth of millennials polled had used a robo advisor. Almost 70 percent responded that a human advisor would give them a better return on their money, while two-thirds believed a robo advisor would be more likely to lose their money than a human advisor.
Many robo startups have closed or exitedhired human advisors, and/or gone the B2B route selling their software to advisors. Large established players like Vanguard, Schwab, and Morgan Stanley have built their own automated investment algorithms to bolster their core business.
Robos will continue to be challenged in 2019. First, they are untested in a down market. Most were developed post-2008 and it remains to be seen how they will perform in a significantly volatile market like the one we are starting to experience. Will they be able to adjust fast enough or provide enough guidance, flexibility, and personalization to meet antsy investors’ specific needs?
Second, investing is a highly personal and complex task in which emotion plays a big part. Human beings don’t bet their family’s financial future on the accuracy of a faceless algorithm. As they experience ups and downs and as the market fluctuates, investors are voting with their assets that they prefer to have a trusted person help them manage through it.
I predict that in 2019, robos will solidify as software utilized by advisors, rather than replace advisors. It’s a great example of how people can leverage AI and machine learning to free up their time, upskill, and focus on higher order work. We’ll soon see a model that combines robo efficiency with the human touch as today’s robo advisors morph into something more akin to a modern assistant.

3. Digital Basics, Like Texting Clients During a Major Market Event, Will Go a Long Way (no AI required)

With all this talk of data, AI and machine learning, it’s easy to get out over our skis. In fact, in 2019 and probably for at least a few years beyond, tremendous productivity gains and differentiation will come simply from digital basics like e-signature and text messaging. Unfortunately, advisors have been hamstrung due to growing regulations and slow-moving, risk-averse firms.
Take mobile, for instance. Today’s expectation is that everyone has a mobile device and everyone texts. Clients are used to getting answers quickly. They don’t want to play phone tag or trade voicemails, especially when it comes to their finances. Clients don’t understand why they can’t text their advisor.
Regulators have taken note. In December, the SEC issued a risk alert on advisors texting, Hearsay saw unprecedented demand for our compliant texting solution. New technology enables firms and advisors to mitigate risks and comply with record-keeping, advertising, suitability, supervision and security rules – and it all runs in the background so advisors can focus on connecting with clients on a human level during moments that matter.
Expect to see client-advisor relationships change for the better as advisors embrace the basics and continue digitizing manual processes this year.
With technology, financial professionals can increase the frequency and quality of client touchpoints, stripping out the manual inefficiencies and becoming more tailored in their outreach. Less time will be spent manually building individual portfolios and more time will be spent engaging with clients to address relevant market trends, life goals and opportunities.

The Final Word

The year ahead underscores a resurgence of the human advisor, thanks to the development of new technologies that enhance rather than replace the human touch. Volatile markets will test relationships as people inevitably stress over their financial future, and more than ever, the trust and empathy of an advisor enhanced with data and convenience will serve to establish lasting client trust, differentiation, and loyalty.
So, while the market could get wild in the coming months, the financial services industry has much to look forward to in the days to come.
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