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8 Reasons Artificial Intelligence Is Going Vertical in 2017

robot AIThis article was first published in eWeek.
In 2016, we saw of artificial intelligence go mainstream and the amount of data captured by many different industries grow exponentially. Financial services, health care, telecommunications, public utilities, education, automotive and other verticals are making major moves to use predictive analytics and AI to better serve customers and unlock greater return on investments.
In 2017, we are likely to see data analytics products and data scientists speed their shift toward deep-domain expertise. Companies – especially those in regulated industries – will realize that all the data in the world is ultimately useless without the ability to address the highly specific industry requirements, challenges and opportunities in analyzing that data. Data science no longer will be (and in fact, never has been) “one size fits all.”
Here are eight reasons why:

1. Lack of In-House Data Experts an Issue

Current employees who do have deep industry knowledge often don’t have the analytical skills required to turn data into actionable insights. Last year, an MIT Sloan Management Review showed that 40 percent of companies report the lack of analytical skills as a critical challenge, but only one in five have done anything about it.

2. Enterprises That Hesitate to Use AI Risk Being Bypassed

With AI being more widely used in the consumer and enterprise worlds, companies that do nothing will risk falling behind irretrievably. And, any outside analytical support will have to reshape its general data models to specific industry needs. Accenture’s partnership with Amazon Web Services is one recent example of an attempt to help clients marry industry expertise with robust data capabilities.

3. Vertical-Specific Tools Can Provide Customized Applications Quickly

An AI system that swims in a data pool containing only credit-card transactions not only will become expert at detecting fraud, but also will be able to provide proactive suggestions. If your metadata shows you’re a frequent traveler, your bank not only will know not to deny you a coffee after your flight to Hong Kong, it also might prompt you to switch to a credit card that offers more frequent flier rewards points.

4. Companies Are Getting Smarter About Tech Investments

Technology vendors no longer will be able to make general appeals to the enterprise or try to woo consumers with aesthetics and style. The enterprise applications that succeed in 2017 must be able to map to specific customer and business paths, which varies widely by industry.

5. AI Portion of IT Market is Growing Fast

Data researcher IDG projects worldwide revenues for IT products and services will grow to $2.7 trillion in 2020, and a large proportion of that momentum will come from third-party platforms that aid companies in verticals such as financial services and manufacturing.

6. Complex Sales Cycles Mean Engineers Need to Be More Than Engineers

Selling a highly-integrated software application as a service means sales cycles are longer and product engineers must be involved right away, engaging directly with customer and prospects. Anyone whose sole job is to liaise between the two groups should be concerned about job security, even those with great “people skills.”

7. Big Companies Are Shedding Bloatware

Big companies will eschew bloatware for applications that provide essential industry-centric applications and nothing else. Bloatware is defined as software whose usefulness is reduced because of the excessive disk space and memory it requires. IDC predicts worldwide spending on cloud applications will increase to more than $141 billion in 2019 from $70 billion in 2015, with the vast majority of growth in industry-specific applications.

8. Companies That Use the Power of Vertical Expertise Will Emerge

Slack, the team collaboration software company, aggressively incorporated third-party apps to help its users build their channels into something much more than email. As Aaref Hilaly of Sequoia Partners said, services such as Slack that focus on integration and automation with existing systems will be used more often. Moreover, those services that people use daily can use AI to capture data automatically – something that big, isolated systems of record have yet to achieve.
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How Firms Will Reach Next-Gen Investors

shutterstock_156997538The way consumers interact with service providers—whether retail, health care or banking—has profoundly changed from just five years ago. Even in heavily regulated industries like financial services, digital disrupters have drastically altered the status quo, forcing companies to rethink traditional business models in light of new digital entrants and shifting client expectations. From robo advisors to new regulations, millennials to baby boomers, new developments are making clear that the ways of the past are no longer the keys to success in the future—or even today.
The urgent necessity of firms and their employees to adapt to the changing expectations of today’s always-connected consumer was a key theme at Hearsay Social’s recent Innovation Summit in San Francisco, which focused on the transformative changes taking place within the financial services and insurance sector, as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
To stay relevant and succeed in the face of such profound changes, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. Financial technology is an evolution, not a revolution.

The phenomenon that is happening in financial services is an evolution, rather than a revolution, according to Naureen Hassan, the chief digital officer at Morgan Stanley, in her opening remarks on the future of wealth management. Amazon and Google have set the bar for what consumers now expect and demand. These new consumer expectations do not mean that traditional wealth management firms have to completely change course, but they need to evolve.
Consumer trends that started in retail are now clearly affecting regulated industries like financial services. For example, mobile now accounts for 21 percent of all transactions at Starbucks. Allowing customers to order via mobile before picking up their drink moves people through lines more quickly, but still allows for personalized customer experiences. Consumers expect to have access to certain information and activities through their phones, but that doesn’t mean that human interaction is going away. Leading financial firms are exploring similar practices and next-gen tools, and may look to retail leaders like Starbucks for ways to enhance customer experiences.

2. Skate where the puck is going.

This should come as no surprise, but following the money is always a good strategy. There is a lot of buzz in the industry about robo advisors and digital-direct financial products, but those channels only capture a small portion of invested assets. The 10 leading financial advisor channel firms still tout more than $13 trillion assets under management, compared to $250 billion for robo advisors. Focusing on capturing the generational transfer of wealth is a much bigger opportunity. As Chip Roame of Tiburon Strategic Advisors points out, baby boomers, who still hold the majority of America’s wealth, will liquidate some portion of the $59.4 trillion in retirement plans, personal assets and small businesses they currently control. A significant portion of this money will go to the current millennial generation, and getting in touch with them now is essential.

3. Know your next generation of clients.

Financial planners and advisors looking to reach this next group of investors need to know that millennials have already taken the mantle as the largest portion of the American population, and just last year became the biggest part of the American workforce. This is quickly creating a lot of new client opportunities, but firms will need a refined understanding of how to meet the unique needs of this growing demographic, as my co-founder and CEO of Hearsay Social Clara Shih has shared.
Moreover, what financial professionals may not know is that despite their digital dispositions, most millennials still crave face-to-face interaction with an advisor, just like their parents before them. However, millennials also expect those advisors to be digitally savvy. Having a strong online presence and communicating through a variety of digital channels is imperative. Digital technology is not just a disrupter, but also an enabler, opening doors for advisors to have the same human interactions with a younger generation.

4. Digital technology is not turn-key.

Simply opening new digital channels of communication for customers is not enough. You have to put in the effort to actually engage with customers where they want to interact. Kenneth Lin, founder and CEO at Credit Karma, demonstrated how his company conducts all customer interactions online, with no cold calls and no physical touchpoints. While this may not be the right approach for other financial services professionals, it certainly shows that communication will often originate online.
Today, customers expect to find and hear from you exactly when, where and how they prefer: on social media and mobile devices. Millennials are even more likely to share their experiences on social media. As a result, firms that fail to provide desired communication channels for their advisors to reach their clients—like text messaging—puts firms and advisors at risk of being left behind. Amitabh Jhawar, COO of Braintree, said his company uses social media data to inform risk modeling.

5. Financial services are being unbundled.

The primary driver of disruption in financial services is deconstruction of the one-size-fits-all product, according to Jon Sakoda, general partner at venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates. This unbundling allows new entrants to disrupt large incumbent firms by offering specialized, niche services at scale. To compete, traditional financial organizations must offer faster, more efficient services while playing to their “human” strengths. High tech but also high touch is how to win in today’s marketplace.
The undoubted winner in the digital evolution of financial services is the consumer, who will have a wider array of options at cheaper prices. If there are any losers, it will be those who fail to put forth the effort to arm themselves with digital technology to meet the needs of the always connected consumer.
This article originally appeared in Wealthmanagement.com. 
Follow the conversation at #HearsaySummit.

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Hearsay Innovation Summit 2016: Enabling the Omnichannel Advisor in the Age of the Always-Connected Consumer

Hearsay-IS2016-1409San Francisco was the perfect backdrop to Hearsay Social’s fourth annual Innovation Summit (#hearsaysummit), celebrating the intersection of financial services, innovation, and technology. Last week, we had the pleasure and honor of hosting over a hundred thought leaders in technology, wealth management, mortgage, insurance, and banking.
The Summit, which took place on Thursday at the Terra Gallery, provided a unique opportunity for a select group of senior executives, heads of sales, marketing, and compliance, and technology leaders to discuss the most important challenges and opportunities facing the financial services industry.

Key themes included the ongoing role of human advisors and agents and the necessity of firms to leverage technology to empower their advisors to keep them at the center of all customer journeys. Presenters focused on the changing business models and client expectations, including their perspectives of the industry, companies, people, products, and trends poised to emerge in 2016 and beyond.

Here are additional highlights, photos, and key takeaways from the day’s event.

Meeting the expectations of both advisors and clients will challenge existing financial services firms

Hearsay-IS2016-0409Kicking off the Summit was Shelley O’Connor, co-head of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management (@MorganStanley), who shared how her company’s goals to increase efficiencies in branches, enhance the advisor-client experience, and make it easier for advisors to touch more clients more often will be met digitally. 
Today’s shifting client expectations will require advisors to cut through the noise and deliver insights that go well beyond a company’s product offering, she said during Thursday’s opening keynote. I’ve shared this sentiment before and believe the key to connecting with today’s omnichannel client is to engage them in the ways they want to use, not the ways we find convenient.
Naureen Hassan, chief digital officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, outlined four key areas that the company will focus on to reach its digital goals; namely, marketing, digitized processes, next-gen products, and client experience. Hearsay-IS2016-0438The company uses data and technology to better understand, acquire, retain, and serve their clients during their whole life cycle.
My co-founder and Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih (@clarashih) spoke about today’s omnichannel advisor and client, and what firms must do to own the digital last mile. For example, in order for advisors to move up the value chain over the next several years, firms will need to leverage next-gen technology tools that enable advisors to deliver the right content, to the right person, at the right time.Hearsay-IS2016-0572
This underscores the importance of marketing to millennials and devising effective solutions that help reach, engage, and convert this highly influential market.

Understanding your customer is crucial to building an ecosystem that lasts

Kenneth Lin (@kennethlin), CEO and founder of Credit Karma, a financial technology startup that continues to challenge financial industry incumbents such as banks and payment networks, spoke during a fireside chat with Noah Wintroub (@nwintroub), global head of internet and digital media at JPMorgan, and challenged everyone to think of their data and what it can do to help companies truly understand their customers.
Hearsay-IS2016-0774
The pair spoke about how communicating with customers via social and mobile is a huge part of that, as is optimizing your platforms to get a good grasp of what’s important to your consumer base. In Credit Karma’s case, they’ve built a billion-dollar business disrupting the credit score industry by giving people free access to their scores and helping to match consumers with mortgages, auto loans, and more.
In a fireside chat with The Wall Street Journal tech reporter Deepa Seetharaman (@dseetharaman), Braintree COO Amit Jhawar (@Braintree) discussed the next generation of online payments, and how his company democratizes payments, allowing easy access to loans for the masses. His advice? Companies will need to retool their business models to meet consumers’ growing demand for convenience and security. Hearsay-IS2016-1002

The advice industry must adapt to changing client demographics

Chip Roame (@chiproame), managing partner at Tiburon Strategic Advisors, led an incredible discussion and shared some staggering statistics, noting that consumer wealth is approximately $60 trillion and expected liquidation is $30 trillion. 
Hearsay-IS2016-1046In a robo-advice start-up versus traditional brokerage “debate,” panelists Michael Sha, CEO and founder of SigFig (@sigfiginsights), Bo Lu (@bolu), CEO and founder of FutureAdvisor, and Naureen of Morgan Stanley cleared up some misconceptions that often surround robo-advice options. All parties agreed that the future of wealth management will include a combination of traditional and online advice offerings to meet the needs of a diverse and ever-changing client base. Bo challenged us to think of our own jobs – how many of us utilize software to provide products and services. Advisors and agents have been somewhat under-armed, and firms must do a better job at ensuring advisors are armed. 
Hearsay-IS2016-1187  Hearsay-IS2016-1214
Hearsay-IS2016-1375We were also thrilled to have as a guest Debbie Sterling (@debbieblox), CEO and founder of GoldieBlox, a toy company out to inspire the next generation of female engineers. During a fireside chat with The WSJ’s Deepa, Debbie shared why and how she has made it her mission in life to tackle the gender gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Watch this video for an inside look at how the company has introduced engineering concepts to girls through storytelling and toy building.

Advisors and wealth managers aren’t making the most of technology

Jon Sakoda (@jonsakoda), general partner at New Enterprise Associates (a Hearsay Social investor), discussed the big tech challenges that lie ahead. He says we’re experiencing the “unbundling of financial services” and admonished that “disruption is a leap of faith.”
Hearsay-IS2016-1472The overarching takeaways from all the speakers? Advisors need every advantage to navigate uncertain change, including digital technologies that free their time to focus on what they do best – helping coach clients through tough life decisions.
Thank you to everyone who came to see us, and thanks to the entire Hearsay Social team, our attendees and invited guests, and our partners for the support and for making this the best Summit yet!
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View slides from the presenters at SlideShare, and check out the Summit videos on YouTube.
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Hearsay Social Receives Two Patents for Technology that Advances Social Media Compliance and Security

shutterstock_149720036We’re  excited to announce today that Hearsay Social has been granted two new patents that empower firms to manage social media risk and ensure regulatory compliance.
Our innovative, market-leading product team has developed unique solutions that address the challenges of social media for the regulated industries that we serve.
We’re thrilled that the patent office recognizes the propriety, best-in-class solutions that the Hearsay Social team has brought to market.
U.S. Patent No. 9,070,110 and U.S. Patent No. 8,914,454 pertain to “Identification of unknown social media assets” and “verification of social media” respectively.
The now patented Rogue Social Account Finder is offered by Hearsay Social as a part of the industry’s first Predictive Omnichannel Suite for advisors. The Rogue Social Account Finder makes it possible for companies to identify social media accounts, such as Facebook Pages, Twitter handles and LinkedIn profiles, that are representing the company but not approved by the company’s policy or process. With this latest functionality, companies can efficiently identify financial professionals who are doing business on social media out of compliance with industry regulations or company policy.
The second patent, for verification of social media data, has been granted to Hearsay Social for innovative work in the area of verification of data accessed via social network APIs. In order to increase the accuracy of the data Hearsay Social uses for compliance and analytics purposes, we’ve invested in technology and processes to create checks and balances. 
We are excited to provide these proprietary technology solutions to our clients and partners.
For more details, check out our press announcement.
Read more about our recent product innovations below:

 

Our Mission: Helping Customers Adapt to Constant Change

shutterstock_162870431Consumer social media platforms change constantly, and as an innovation partner and technology provider to our customers, we make it our job to keep up with these changes to ensure our customers are able to best utilize these social networks to engage clients and build deeper relationships.
In 2014, Facebook announced that it would be making a change to its API for accessing data within a Facebook Profile. This was driven by Facebook’s user privacy policy to provide users more control of the data they share with 3rd party applications. This change affects any application–e.g., games, dating, recruiting apps–that used this API to access information about a user’s Facebook friends.
What This Change Means for Financial Services and Our Customers
Each time any one of the social networks, search engines, or other internet properties changes APIs, policies, or algorithms, we strive to understand what that will mean for the financial services industry and our customers in particular. In addition to sharing this analysis privately with our customers, we wanted to make it available more broadly in the hope that it would be helpful.
Given that financial services companies and their advisors are regulated on how they use social media for business purposes around the world, the first question many of our clients have is, “What impact does this have on our ability to monitor, supervise, and archive social media activity on Facebook?”
Facebook Pages — the primary vehicle for commercial activity on Facebook — aren’t impacted by this change. The publishing of posts, replies to posts and private messaging with an individual can still be supervised, monitored, and archived, and are not impacted by this change.
Facebook Profiles, while primarily used for personal reasons, can also be used incidentally for business. With this change, Facebook has restricted the ability to archive Messenger conversations, which for many of our customers will require actively prohibiting any business activity at all on Facebook Profiles. We recommend that firms update their written compliance policies to state that advisors must direct inbound, business-related private messages from Facebook Friends to the advisor’s Facebook Page, which can be monitored and archived.  
For any Hearsay Social customer that has advisors on Facebook Profiles, our Customer Success team is happy to help with the one-time migration plan from Profiles to Pages to ensure the above activities from the Facebook Page can be managed compliantly.
To align with the new Facebook API changes, we are also updating Social Signals to leverage our same predictive algorithms while allowing contacts to maintain control over what information they share with an advisor over Facebook.
All About our Customers
As with any growing technology company, there are always technical and business changes to navigate. With our exclusive focus on financial services, Hearsay Social is committed to helping our clients meet technology changes just as we are committed to helping our clients meet changing federal regulations and company governance requirements.
What doesn’t change is our commitment to our clients, our partners, and our employees.  At Hearsay Social, we hire, develop, and operate against our three core values which serve as our guiding principles:

    • Commit to each customer’s success
    • Win together as a team
    • …and GSD (get ‘stuff’ done)

To that end, we don’t view ourselves as a technology vendor, but rather our clients’ trusted innovation partner. So when things change with external regulations or social networks or anything in-between, we do what we do best — innovate and GSD as one team to drive each and every customer’s growth. We look forward to your success.
For best practices on how to use social networks to engage with clients and build deeper relationships, visit www.HearsaySocial.com.
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Congratulations Bryan Schreier, Hearsay Social’s first investor, on being named to the Midas List

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 16.50.12Forbes last week unveiled its Midas List, featuring technology’s best venture capitalists, whose combined investments have produced a total of $95.2 billion in exits. Today we’re proud to congratulate one of Hearsay Social’s investors for making the list: Bryan Schreier (@schreier), partner at Sequoia Capital.

As our company’s first investors, Bryan and Sequoia Capital saw in Hearsay Social the right combination of visionary imagination and technical expertise to transform the largest companies into successful social businesses. We’re here today and poised to go even further tomorrow because Bryan supported us from the beginning.

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The original Hearsay Labs team working out of a conference room at Sequoia Capital (March 2010).

In addition to managing Sequoia Capital’s investment in Hearsay Social, Bryan has also led the charge in Dropbox, Qualtrics, Trulia, Good Eggs, and others. This week’s recognition in Forbes simply demonstrates all the great work he has accomplished, and how much great work he has ahead of him.

Congratulations Bryan!

Hearsay Social for Google+ Pages: Manage your corporate-to-local brand on the big four networks

This morning we are delighted to announce that Hearsay Social now supports Google+ Pages, allowing Hearsay Social customers to effectively manage multiple local business profiles on Google’s social network for the first time.
Since the launch of Google+ Pages last week, our customers have expressed interest in using Google+ and its Circles feature to grow their brands and books, and deepen customer relationships. Customer feedback is critical to driving our platform roadmap, so we jumped on the opportunity to partner with Google+ to fulfill those requests. This morning Google+ announced that Hearsay Social was selected as one of just a handful of industry leaders for the trial API release and partnership.
Our brilliant engineering team has worked diligently to ensure that Hearsay Social’s core product modules are supported in Google+ from day one:

  • Hearsay Social Content Publisher for scheduling posts and campaigns across brand and local pages
  • Hearsay Social CRM for deepening local customer relationships
  • Hearsay Social Compliance Module for FINRA and SEC compliance and infraction monitoring (used by financial services customers)
  • Hearsay Social Analytics to roll-up metrics across every brand or local page

When Google+ first rolled out a public beta over the summer, several forward-thinking organizations built company profiles–but these were soon shut down by Google+ because it was not yet ready for non-individual users on its network. Last week the social media-savvy companies returned, but this time their profiles were allowed and encouraged.
Here’s our Hearsay Social Google+ Page:

Be sure to circle us and we’ll return the favor!
From driving brands to embrace local pages, to integrated social media campaigns and customer segmentation through Google+ Circles, we affirm our commitment to keeping your organization at the forefront of social media innovation.
Additional resources:
Announcing Hearsay Social for Google+ Pages, Corporate-to-Local Management for Top Brands
Five things the biggest brands need to be doing on Google+
Create a Google+ Page

Facebook Pages + Places: What’s changing

The news has leaked out – Facebook is getting ready to launch another significant change to Facebook Pages and Places. As you may remember, they’re merging Places with Pages so users will now be able to check in to Pages with physical locations. Now there’s more: in a week or so, Facebook will launch a beta “parent-child” system that allows organizations to manage all of the Facebook Pages created by their local agents, owners, and retailers. We can’t wait!
For a while now, corporate/local brands have been creating and maintaining not only a corporate brand Page but individual local brand Pages for each location. You can imagine things get pretty hairy when you’re talking about hundreds or thousands of Pages, and that’s why companies turn to Hearsay Social–to help set brand guidelines and compliance rules across the enterprise, to marshal the marketing resources of the brand effectively, and to understand the dynamics of how their social strategy works across the organization.
But up until now, we could only take it so far. A truly “rogue” location or representative could refuse to adopt corporate standards, or leave the company and keep control of their branded Page, leaving the brand no recourse but legal action.
With this new announcement, Facebook is taking a major step to help corporate/local brands (our favorite!) with baked-in API support for claiming and retaining control of their brand. By rolling in these new APIs to our existing corporate/local social management suite, brands will have more control and flexibility than ever, while still maintaining authenticity at the local level.
We’re excited that Facebook is beefing up their platform so we at Hearsay Social can deliver richer functionality for large companies. For example:

  • enterprise systems integration
  • enterprise-grade compliance tools
  • centralized content library with hierarchical control
  • distributed campaign management tools
  • and lots more exciting stuff to come

P.S. Facebook, while we know you’re listening, can we have that API to edit Pages and profiles next? 😉

Can't access LinkedIn or Facebook from work? You need Hearsay Social.

If you got here from our homepage, you probably can’t get to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites from your work computer. We know you weren’t trying to play FarmVille. You probably wanted to communicate with your customers or clients, and it can be bad for business when your access is prohibited.

But do you know why you’re blocked? It could be because your company is concerned about compliance regulations.
Financial services companies are held to strict standards by government bodies like the SEC, and self-regulatory organizations like FINRA, to ensure customers and investors are protected. It’s a noble goal, to be sure, but it does make things a little more complicated when you’re trying to use social media to grow your business. This is why your company needs Hearsay Social.
Hearsay Social gets your company compliant so you can get on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more while complying with the Securities Act of 1934, the Investment Acts of 1940, NASD 3010 & NASD 3110, and everything else the SEC and FINRA require. These regulations state what communications need to be archived and for how long, as well as what can and can’t be said in these messages, posts or exchanges. With Hearsay Social, everything that passes through these social media services is checked and archived, so there’s no longer any reason to block your access.
But wait, there’s more. Hearsay Social is not just about compliance. It’s about being effective. Compliance means you’re merely staying out of trouble. We know you want more than that for your company. We make you successful by providing marketing capabilities that help you get started on social media, post engaging content and campaigns, grow your client and referral networks, then measure the results. No other solution out there combines compliance, content, workflow, and analytics. It’s what we do.
So tell the powers-that-be social media is now safe, compelling, and ready for prime time at your company with Hearsay Social. Get ready to use LinkedIn and Facebook from the office (for work purposes only, of course!). But know that we will have you covered whether you are connecting from home, work, or a mobile device.