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4 Ways Digital Can Help New Financial Advisors Build Their Books

For new advisors, figuring out how to attract and acquire clients is never easy. But modern technology has become a competitive advantage for many successful advisors. Thirty-one percent of clients under 50 would leave their wealth manager if the technology used was inadequate; 67 percent of clients prefer advisors who offer interactive digital tools, such as mobile apps.
We’ve worked with more than 150,000 advisors and sales leaders at top financial firms, and we’ve found that the organizations that commit to and invest in digital innovation – and the salespeople who embrace it – are the ones that come out on top.
For a new advisor in particular, it can be a powerful way to provide prospects (and eventually, clients) the best experience from start to finish.
Here are four strategies that new advisors can implement to start building their client books.

1. Define Your Target Audience(s) to Ensure You’re Sending the Right Message

Prospecting is one of the most important activities for any new advisor, but getting in front of potential clients is the biggest challenge financial advisors face. While there is no magic bullet to make prospecting a breeze, knowing who your ideal customers are and how to reach them is a critical component of sales success.
New technology now enables advisors to interact with prospects on a myriad of devices and get to know a particular clients’ unique needs and requirements. Each digital “touch” that advisors have with a prospect – whether via a website, email or text – allows them to deliver “in the moment” personalized content, communication and value.
Imagine a scenario where a prospect fills out a form on an advisor’s local business website and downloads a report about saving for college. With solutions like Hearsay’s Advisor Cloud, the advisor is immediately notified of this activity, along with a prompt to send a pre-written email to the prospect with links to more college savings resources. This is followed, a few days later, by a prompt to send a pre-written follow-up text that suggests setting up a call. This workflow can be automated for every prospect that downloads that specific college savings report, making it easy for an advisor to segment his/her client base and avoid pushing out irrelevant content. After all, you wouldn’t send a stock market volatility index report to a person who is looking for college planning tips.

2. Be Proactive in Following Through on Marketing Leads

The client experience begins the moment a prospect realizes he has a financial problem that he can’t solve on his own and needs help. These days, this journey typically starts with researching a firm online – and that usually means ending up on the brand’s main website, and perhaps its social media profiles. Whether advisors realize it or not, corporate marketing teams are most likely generating potential leads on their behalf.
Yet, when it comes to turning those leads into qualified prospects, many advisors don’t actually take advantage of the opportunities that corporate marketing provides. They may not follow up with a lead soon enough (or at all), or they might not be sharing the right information, or at the right time, or on the right channel.
The key to converting corporate-sourced leads into prospects? Advisors must be proactive on a one-to-one level and – above all – be timely. According to research published in Harvard Business Review, “Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later – and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”
With platforms like Hearsay, firms can now trigger, track and automate a lead follow-up workflow where once an advisor is assigned a lead, he/she can quickly send a pre-written email with corporate-approved copy through Hearsay’s Advisor Social solution, as well as promptly follow up with a text and voice call (with Hearsay Relate).

3. Use Data-Driven ‘Triggers’ to Communicate With Prospects at the Right Time

Financial advisors have long relied on life events and market activities to identify new business opportunities. Money-in-motion milestones such as getting married or buying a home – events often shared freely today on digital channels, especially social media – are prime opportunities for advisors to reach a prospect or client concerning a possible need for financial advice.
Thanks to emerging technology powered by machine learning, advisors can “listen” for key client insights or “triggers” on a variety of digital channels, and use this knowledge to communicate with clients and prospects at the right time, with the proper information.
By combining the insights gained from digital signals, coupled with knowledge of where a prospects sits along the customer journey, advisors can appropriately step in as a resource as the prospect makes a decision, with a highly tailored offering.

4. Automate Data Input to Free Up Time for Prospecting and Planning

As a company laser-focused on the financial services industry, the Hearsay team has called, visited, surveyed, interviewed and analyzed the data of thousands of advisors across the country. We were shocked to learn that servicing clients via manual processes continues to dominate the advisor’s work day.
We also found that advisors were overwhelmed with having to manually input data into legacy or siloed data and contact management systems, instead of spending that time speaking with clients and prospects.
Advisors have only so many hours in a day to devote to prospecting and planning. Using a cloud-based CRM system to keep track of client details – e.g. who you’ve already contacted, who you need to follow up with, and what methods you’ve used – is an effective way to make the most of that time. Not to mention, since CRM data is stored in the cloud, it can be accessed directly from virtually any device, at anytime.
New York Life is a good example of a company leveraging CRM to improve advisor productivity and efficiency. By integrating their CRM system with Hearsay, advisor-client engagement activities on social, mobile, email and web are synced automatically with their CRM, eliminating the need for agents to manually enter information and providing a complete, data-rich view of every client or prospect.

Another Hearsay client uses CRM to allow their advisors to automatically send life event content that has already been approved through LinkedIn and Hearsay’s “Smart Leads” program. Since advisors usually have more personal relationships with their social media connections than a corporate brand, they can tailor their communications and engage in a more meaningful way.
Gone are the days where newly minted advisors were given a giant binder on how to sell and then left on their own to figure things out. Armed with technology that is purpose-built for the way they work – and the support of sales leadership that understands the importance of being digital-first – today’s new advisors are, more than ever, poised for long-term success.

4 Digital Best Practices to Boost Advisor Productivity and Client NPS

Financial advisors are often known for their people skills, which are essential to maintaining the confidence of clients and winning the trust of prospects.
However, when it comes to leveraging those skills using digital communication methods, many salespeople and senior managers are falling behind – which is unfortunate, given how these tools can significantly improve advisor productivity and client NPS (Net Promoter Score).
Financial advisors have long had an online presence, and many have used social media to share ideas to grow their businesses. But the advisor’s digital toolkit has grown in recent years, giving financial services companies more opportunities to save time, improve the quality of communications, and create more frequent touchpoints with both leads and current clients.
As such, financial leaders increasingly recognize the importance of using high-tech systems to foster high-touch relationships. Between websites, social media, online messaging and texting, there are a multitude of ways that advisors can boost engagement with clients and prospects, as well as take mundane tasks off their plates so they can focus on what will really move the dial.
Here are four digital best practices we’ve heard from the leaders in this space.

Tip #1: Think “Digital-First”

The term “digital native” is often associated with millennials who prefer to communicate by text or chat versus over the phone or in-person. Given the influence this group has had on communication preferences for all age groups, financial advisors and business leaders would be wise to start thinking like digital natives, too.
Paul LaPiana, senior vice president of MassMutual, suggests that advisors develop a “digital-first mindset” – essentially, be where clients are to connect with them on their terms. In practice, this might be as simple as wishing them happy birthday via social media or using text messaging for real-time communications.
Texting, specifically, has become an area of focus for more financial services companies. Recent studies show that 98 percent of texts are read/opened, versus a 22 percent open rate for mass marketing emails. Embracing text messaging has helped Prudential, a Hearsay customer, achieve better engagement between advisors and clients, with advisors reporting “how intuitive it is to be able to send a text message to a client,” said Birdia Chambers, Prudential’s Head of Social and Digital Strategy.
Learn how Prudential rolled out a winning text messaging program for its advisors
Popular financial advisor authority Bill Winterberg says, “as advisers pick up more digital-savvy clients, those clients are going to demand texting because they use it with every other professional in their lives.”
Rohit Mahna, SVP and GM of Financial Services at Salesforce, a Hearsay partner, says that “technology has vastly changed the way customers expect to interact with financial institutions, so wealth management firms need to provide more personalized and engaging experiences to compete.”
But the lessons here aren’t limited to advisors and clients. Many financial services leaders feel that email alone isn’t enough, forcing them to find more modern ways of communicating to their organizations and beyond.

Tip #2: Get the Whole Organization Involved

Digital channels were once thought of as the marketing team’s domain, but that’s no longer the case. Today, everyone – from the CEO to the advisor to the back office – must embrace a modern way of communicating and collaborating.
It all starts at the top, with firm leadership walking the digital walk. Just as Tim Cook uses social media, business leaders in financial services need to embrace the use of digital channels like texting and social media in appropriate ways, and not limit their own communications to in-person, email and voicemail.
MassMutual’s LaPiana makes it a point to “lead by example” when it comes to adoption of digital tools. He notes that it’s inauthentic to ask employees to use new communication platforms if he’s not using them himself.
LaPiana uses and encourages advisors to use Hearsay Advisor Cloud to engage deeply with clients through social media, but also to align processes such as website lead collection (Advisor Sites) with new digital advisor-client engagement tools like texting (Hearsay Relate).
Digital also has the power to transform clients’ user experience, which can take time-consuming tasks off advisors’ plates. “20 percent of incoming advisor calls are password reset requests,” says one executive vice president. Solving the system access problem at a digital experience level will allow advisors to spend more time “engaging with clients in a relevant, valuable way.”
Corina Roy, assistant vice president of digital at MassMutual, points out that “retail has really set the bar that other businesses have to shoot for when it comes to digital. Firms such as Amazon have revolutionized our ability to obtain what we want with fewer steps.”
As a result, MassMutual is working with partners like Salesforce to build a platform that enables advisors to deliver a compelling user experience, such as an online quote that doesn’t require any paperwork; clients can e-sign and be set up with a policy in a matter of seconds.
Adopting these digitally-driven efficiencies won’t only result in loyal, delighted clients and higher NPS metrics – it frees up advisors’ time for activities that build their businesses and keep clients happy.

Tip #3: Create a Marketing-Sales Data Feedback Loop

When it comes to leveraging digital, advisors can usually look to their marketing team to provide air cover. But what really creates marketing-sales alignment, not to mention higher client NPS, is the ongoing sharing of data and insights from the marketing organization to the field, and vice versa.
“What we’re trying to do is use digital as a test bed,” says Amanda Rierson, head of digital for Farmers Insurance, noting that advisors tend to want to see data in order to feel confident about a new digital strategy. “You’ve got to show success, show positive customer interactions – then you can scale widely (to the field) when you have some points on the board.”
Jon Pauley, interactive strategy and chief digital officer at Ameriprise, lists several instances of using data to drive better practices in the field – from proving that a professional headshot drives more clicks on advisors’ websites, to discovering that advisors using social media had 250 percent higher net flows and 400 percent more high-value acquisitions than advisors who abstained.
“We were challenged by our CEO to make marketing and sales act as one organization,” says Pauley, who admits they had a rough start of it when they handed a digital framework to advisors without backing it up with data. But when they began to test and measure, then pass those reports to sales, “advisors started to listen.”
And sharing insights isn’t a one-way street. Marketing teams who leverage the field for testing and data gathering can learn valuable lessons for their broader efforts. “The more you can help advisors test and learn, you can figure out what capabilities you can leverage and do at scale,” says Jennifer Atkins, head of marketing strategic capabilities and insights at Wells Fargo.

Tip #4: Embrace Digital Tools to Save Time

Financial services industry expert Michael Kitces often shares tips on how technology drives advisor productivity. He famously wrote that he’d gladly pay $100 to save him one minute a day, observing that “one minute a day is actually five minutes a week, or 20 minutes a month, or a non-trivial four hours a year,” and can be a 900 percent ROI for a busy professional.
Kitces challenges us to do more, noting that if you spend 10 times that amount (about the cost of some leading, cloud-based productivity platforms), you would save the equivalent of a full week of work per year.
MassMutual’s LaPiana states that digital technology should be used to “get activities off the advisors’ plate” so that they can focus on the interactions with clients – a fair point, given the fact that 70 percent of advisors’ time is not spent meeting with clients.
LaPiana adds that the future of wealth management – while marked by fee compression, since consumers will be able to make price comparisons more easily – will require “more personal interactions with customers to guide and coach them to the right decisions.”
Prudential’s Chambers notes that Hearsay’s texting technology helped their advisors not only to engage clients better, but also led to a significant boost in productivity – advisors or their support staff can easily pre-schedule meeting reminder texts instead of leaving voice messages, over and over. Digital platforms like Hearsay’s can give a major boost to advisor productivity and client NPS, for example by automating workflows, making touchpoints more frequent, and automating and delegating tasks to the advisor’s support team.

A Digital Culture is a Productive Culture

To be relevant and competitive in today’s digital world, where real-time responses are the norm, leaders must adopt and embrace digital platforms. But beyond platforms, leaders must follow best practices that bring marketing, sales and the enterprise together to engage clients in a modern way, power productivity gains, and deliver superior client experiences.

Texting Goes Mainstream for Financial Services Firms

Everyone from Prudential and Morgan Stanley to New York Life and now Merrill Lynch are allowing advisors to text, adding to the momentum that texting is gaining as an indispensable client communication channel. (See previous coverage on how financial services companies are embracing the texting/SMS channel on the Hearsay blog, InvestmentNews and Financial Advisor.)
The reasons for this accelerated momentum within financial services are many.

Helping Advisors Be More Efficient

Above all else is the client expectation of advisors being responsive on multiple digital channels. A recent study found that 60 percent of millennials prefer mobile apps, texting and email over other communication channels when interacting with businesses. In another survey on the great wealth transfer, 66 percent of adult children leave their parents’ financial advisor because they can’t connect with them.
Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and other wirehouses are not only recognizing this, but making enormous investments in opening texting as a channel as part of larger efforts to fully digitize their sales force.
“This is going to be an incredibly powerful sales productivity tool that is going to help people be more efficient and create deeper engagement earlier on in the process,” said Caroline Feeney, President, Prudential Advisors, during her keynote at our Hearsay Advisor Cloud Summit.

Heightened Scrutiny From Multiple Regulators

FINRA released compliance guidance for texting last April that requires firms to retain records of chat and text communication in the same manner that you would email or written communication. This means that regardless of your company policy, FINRA could request an audit of your advisors’ activities on this channel.
Regulatory agencies have started issuing fines for improper texting. In one case, FINRA found that an advisor who sent business text messages from his personal phone caused the member firm to violate its own recordkeeping policy. Similarly, the SEC found an investment advisor sent false and misleading text messages to induce a client to make a risky transaction. These types of cases appear to be part of a trend of increased scrutiny on text messaging by regulators.
In addition to regulatory fines, financial services companies are facing increased liability for improper texting. According to an August 2017 study by the Institute of Legal Reform, litigation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a law that regulates commercial text messaging, has increased by 46 percent since July of 2015; of that number, nearly 36 percent of all TCPA litigation target the financial services industry. The consequences of this can be severe: Liability under the TCPA ranges from $500 to $1,500 per text message, which can quickly add up given the volume of texts and the size of most advisory sales teams.

Compliance-Only Solution is Bare Minimum Approach

The initial approach by financial firms was similar to what they have done with any new communication channel: take an ultra conservative, compliance-control approach that ensures firms can monitor the new channel. There are three problems with this:

  • Compliance-only solutions are based more on compliance needs than advisors, resulting in poor adoption of the technology by the field.
  • Opening up a channel like texting, where expectations regarding response times are shorter versus other types of communication, overwhelms already burdened advisors who don’t have the time to respond to clients across multiple channels.
  • The end result is a frustrated advisor and an even more frustrated client.

The good news is that many companies see these market changes as a positive force. Instead of looking for compliance-only solutions that are built to monitor and control texting, more innovative companies – like Prudential – are seizing the opportunity to empower their advisors to engage on this channel, and capture client mindshare and wallet. For example, advisors can text all of the clients in their book to offer an annual review and financial plan, with one click.
Solutions like Hearsay Messages that are purpose-built for busy financial advisors not only enable compliant texting for them, but also capture the interactions in their customer relationship management (CRM) systems for driving sales insights. (See how Prudential leverages advisor text messaging with Hearsay Messages.)
The results so far are promising. More prospects and clients touched. More meetings confirmed. Fewer no-shows. Higher conversion and better relationships. Fully compliant.
Download our free report: Technology Landscape: 3 Approaches to Advisor-Client Texting Solutions for Financial Services
Disclaimer: The material available on this blog is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. We make no guarantees on the accuracy of the information provided herein.