We’re proud to announce that Clara Shih, Founder, CEO and fearless leader of the team here at Hearsay, was recently named the first Fintech Woman of the Year at the inaugural Finovate Awards. This award is presented to the woman whose achievements in the fintech-related areas of financial services have most enhanced the sector or raised its profile as a career for women – through education, leadership, mentoring, coaching or acting as a role model.
“Finovate has always aspired to highlight the accomplishments of the people and companies driving fintech forward. Our inaugural awards program takes this a step further by celebrating our industry’s brightest stars,” said Greg Palmer, VP of Finovate. “Clara Shih has led the charge of women in fintech since she burst onto the scene. Now she is helping to develop the next generation of leaders. We are delighted to honor her as a true role model.”
Known as a trailblazer throughout her career, Clara developed the first social business application in 2007 before penning the New York Times-featured best-seller, The Facebook Era. After founding Hearsay to provide innovative, compliant fintech solutions for advisors and agents, she authored a sequel, The Social Business Imperative.
If you’ve met Clara, you know she combines her expertise in social media with what she lives and breathes: Fintech. Clara has consistently prioritized mentoring others and at Hearsay specifically, she guides teams to empower one another through activities such as the monthly ‘Ladies of Product’ meetups. STEM education has also been an area of emphasis, from working with Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, on the school’s STEM program, which now graduates among the highest number of female engineers in the country, to her involvement with Girls Inc, a national organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.
You will hear more from Clara in the coming weeks. She will be speaking at the upcoming FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit 2019, in Washington, DC. She’s on a panel discussing ‘The Art & Science of Board Composition,’ where her role on the Starbucks Board of Directors will provide a good perspective.
She’ll also be speaking at Dreamforce this year. Be on the look out for more details!
To view all of the Finovate Award winners, please visit https://finovate.com/drumroll-finovate-awards-winners-announced/.
Last week I hosted a webinar full of leading industry voices. From American National, Christy Morgan, a digital marketing specialist, and Matthew Daley, an agency owner, joined us to talk about how they’re using social media to drive real revenue. Jim Kerley, Chief Membership Officer, at LIMRA also joined us to give us a broader industry perspective. Our discussion touched on everything from how the client journey has changed, to creating engagement to tracking ROI.
For those of you that prefer the written word to sitting through a webinar, here are the highlights.
The Client-Advisor Journey has Changed Significantly with Digital Channels
Many of you may remember the “pre-Google” days, where nothing was digital. Jim shared a ‘back in the olden days’ story about how agents actually read a newspaper to find out about important life events – birth and death announcements, who got hired and fired – and then sent a physical letter, followed up with a phone call to get a meeting, there was phone back and forth until the prospect had all of the information they needed, until finally a contract was signed. This took a LOT of time.
Matt then contrasted today’s “post-Google era,” noting that customers are more educated than ever before. He noted that people are no longer looking to TV and newspapers, but social media for answers. By the time people reach out to Matt, or he’s given their name to contact, they are already well into researching the product/service they want. Matt said, “What we try to do using Hearsay Social is make that beginning of the process of them getting to know me, on my terms…We attempt to provide value to them before we ever speak to them. What I’m trying to create is being [on LinkedIn, Google, Facebook] before they even know they’re looking for me – seeing my name, learning information from me. I want them to feel like they know me before they call me.”
The Key to Social Success is Building an Emotional Connection
Building relationships has always been the key to being a successful advisor or agent. Though it may seem hard to believe for some, this can absolutely be done online, through social media. Jim believes that social media allows you to present yourself in a way that allows others to decide whether you match what they want and need, and being pre-qualified in the relationship is a very powerful thing. He shared that research shows many consumers are very interested in buying what advisors have to offer; they’ve done a lot of research and they’re looking for relationships. If you can present yourself in a powerful, engaging way – a human way – they’ll reach out to you.
Matt’s agency perspective brought several concrete steps one can take to build these relationships:
- When you meet people at local events, follow them, friend them, then invite them to like you. Let them get a sense of who you are before you begin discussing products.
- Create a sense of community. Do personalized, local interest posts. His agency shares things like ‘Where’s the best apple picking?’, ‘Who has the best pies on Long Island?’, and curated lists the Long Island community will value. He strongly believes in providing value beyond answering insurance questions. This is what keeps people coming back!
- Interaction is critical! Where a lot of people lose credibility in social media is in the response. Make sure when people engage with your post, you respond to them. Matt gave a hilarious analogy here: If you were at a party and someone came up and said ‘Hi, my name’s Jonathan” and you turned around and walked away, it would be rude. Same goes on social media
What Fuels the Emotional Connection?
The answer to this question is no great surprise. Christy and Matt agreed a combination of content and brand – a set of attributes you want prospects/customers to think of when they think of you or your agency – were the necessary foundation for building an emotional connection.
For content, Matt shared that “insurance is still sold at kitchen tables and in the back of pickup trucks, but the funnel starts online now; content has to be local and personal.” By this, Matt means that he and his agency invest a lot of time in building custom content that let his brand shine. He noted that using Hearsay is critical for them to schedule their content and ensure compliance, and occasionally share corporate content. The scheduling feature in particular is a favorite, since it allows him to appear to be always accessible. He can schedule posts all day and night, on holidays and have a consistent presence. Consistency is a point that Matt stressed repeatedly.
While Christy sees the value of organic (custom / personalized) content, she knows that it doesn’t come as easily to some agents as others. Her job in the home office is to support the field with ideas, strategies and content to engage with their audiences. She provides plenty of content through the Hearsay Social Library to supplement advisors’ own efforts. She makes sure they have a strong content library, and educates agents on using content in a way to personalize and humanize themselves for validation rather than advertising, which is a trap many inexperienced advisors fall into.
An important note from Jim: he strongly believes that while contests and gimmicks may work, what consumers want today is understanding and advice. There is so much information out there, they’re looking for someone who they can trust to turn to for education. The real prize they are looking for is education.
The other big topic we touched on is metrics. At Hearsay, we’ve developed new metric guidelines (KPI suggestions) for companies to evaluate the impact of advisors and agents at each stage of the client journey, as well as actions to be taken with Hearsay Social at each stage to support those goals. I talked through these, Christy talked through what metrics are important to her and Matt shared what tracking helps him as an agency owner. It was a pretty robust discussion so I encourage you to tune in to the recorded version of the webinar to learn more.
I’ll leave you with a story Matt shared as our final thought: Earlier this year, Matt was doing a campaign via traditional marketing (letters) and social media. He was contacted by phone, by someone who saw a post on Facebook through a friend who followed Matt. Because he saw Matt’s information through a trusted connection, he was predisposed to trust Matt. Matt signed this large account that would typically have a 6 month to 1 year sales cycle in just 3-4 weeks!
Four years ago, Mutual of Omaha launched a corporate strategy that placed a high priority on digital transformation to deliver greater value to its customers. As one of the key leaders of this initiative, Chief Information Officer Mike Lechtenberger knew it would take a combination of new digital technologies sourced both internally and externally to successfully complete the mission. Mike recently shared some of the transformation strategy, process and keys to success as the IT operation evolved to a more agile, customer-centric approach.
Digital transformation: It’s all about the business outcome
A common – and understandable – misconception about digital transformation is that it’s all about new technologies. While it’s true that technology is a critical component of these initiatives, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg; enterprises have decades of legacy systems, processes and culture that also need to change to realize the true value of the latest technologies. The true impetus for any new technology is to achieve tangible business results. For technical teams, it can be easy to lose sight of this.
A strategic decision-making framework
As Mutual of Omaha kicked off its digital transformation, the first step was to establish a mission and vision statement that would support its decision-making framework. In this case, as with many digital transformations, the ultimate goal was to better serve their customers.
One of Mutual of Omaha’s core values is “we exist for our customers,” which helps ensure everyone in the company is aligned around their customer-centric mission – from frontline advisors and customer service representatives to corporate operations and IT. Mike credits this organizational clarity as a key driver in the success of transforming the IT operation and how they perceived their role in the company. According to Mike: “We focused internally on our people, helping them adopt a new mindset and expand their skillsets, as well as hiring new people to drive innovation. Our focus on culture is the best thing we could’ve done.”
A move to scalable, agile methodologies and technologies
Within the IT operation, the culture shift was manifested in a couple of ways. The team started moving to more scalable, agile methodologies and technologies, including a preference for buying SaaS and cloud solutions rather than building solutions exclusively in-house. These changes brought meaningful gains in efficiency and cut time and expenses from projects.
“As business becomes increasingly complex, we need to deliver more value in the technology we roll out,” Mike said. “We have to move quickly and efficiently and Agile methodologies and SaaS technologies allow us to that.”
The team also shifted from selecting one-off technologies to fit a specific scenario to evaluating technology by how it complements the company’s mission and fits within the overall ecosystem.
“We took a step back to evaluate the tools we had already purchased and asked, ‘What do we use this tool for? What is its purpose and are we getting value from it? How well does it integrate with the other technologies we use? Is it positioned to grow with us, the industry and technology trends for the next 5, 10, 20 years?’” Mike said.
Technology that complements strategy for enhanced digital experience
Answering these questions helped guide Mutual to technology partners that complement their strategic focus. CRM technology was a big part of that equation, and Mike notes that when it comes to developing a CRM strategy, selecting a partner like Salesforce is only one aspect of the journey. CRM encompasses all the systems that must interact with it, including technology like Hearsay for industry-specific compliant digital communications and workflows, Marketo for marketing automation, as well as the people (customers and advisors) and processes. The goal behind this initiative is to build a true cloud ecosystem.
One of Mutual of Omaha’s overarching goals is to remain relevant to its customers long term, which will require attracting, retaining and developing a modern workforce and recruiting advisors that embrace new digital technologies as they interact with customers.
“One of the best investments we made was to update our digital presence for our Mutual of Omaha advisors to ensure consistent design and branding and an excellent user experience,” Mike said. “Not only does this updated digital experience better serve our customers and support our advisors, it helps us achieve our goal of remaining relevant in the marketplace. It has been a cost-effective and impactful effort and Hearsay has been a great partner.”
Recognized by WealthManagement.com in Technology Providers: Social Media Leadership and Innovation New Applications categories
Hearsay is on a mission to make compliant digital communications easier for financial advisors and more personalized for their clients. So when the only awards program of its kind to honor outstanding achievements by companies, organizations and individuals that support financial advisor success notified us that we’d been named a finalist for two awards this year, needless to say we were thrilled.
WealthManagement.com’s prestigious Industry Awards recognize new technology innovations, product categories and products that enhance advisors’ ability to move the industry forward, help advisors better run their businesses and enhance service to their clients. Based on outstanding achievements over the past year, Hearsay Social was recognized as a finalist in the category of Technology Providers: Social Media Leadership. We’ve also been nominated for Hearsay Relate, our compliant text and mobile calling solution, for Technology Providers: Innovation New Applications categories.
With a record number of nominations for its awards program this year – more than 650 – we’re especially honored to have been named a finalist in two categories. WealthManagement.com is laser-focus on supporting, educating and elevating wealth professionals that aligns perfectly with Hearsay’s undertaking to transform the financial services industry. To be named a finalist in two award categories by an organization with such a mission underscores the importance of the work we do every day to help our customers’ advisors better support their clients.
We made it to finalist in the Social Media Leadership category, on the strength of Hearsay Campaigns. Hearsay Social makes it simple for advisors to subscribe and automate social marketing activities so that they can spend more time one-on-one with clients and prospects. Hearsay Campaigns posts fresh, relevant content on the advisor’s behalf so that even the busiest representatives can be social leaders. Advisors can increase social activity and engagement while reducing the impact on compliance and supervision teams. Additionally, Hearsay Campaigns offers corporate marketers increased distribution for their best content, ensures brand consistency across the field and provide ROI measurement of their social selling programs.
In the Innovation New Applications category, Hearsay Relate was recognized as a game-changing communications application that helps regulated financial services firms modernize the way their advisors communicate with clients, increasing personalized touch points across the digital channels that clients prefer. Relate’s features provide advisors the ability to delegate administrative tasks; artificial intelligence that simplifies common, industry-specific workflows, such as predictive, one-touch “quick replies” to texts; and pre-scheduling texts for annual review meeting confirmations, billing reminders, bond maturation and more.
A panel of independent judges made up of top names in the industry will determine the WealthManagement.com 2019 Industry Award winners who will be announced at a special event in New York City on September 12, 2019.