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The Last Mile of Insurance: Keynote at InsureTech Connect 2020 #ITC

In the last five years, InsureTech Connect (or ITC, as it’s commonly known), has rapidly grown into the largest gathering of insurance innovators. Last year, our team joined the event in person with over 7,000 attendees in Las Vegas, and launched the Hearsay-Guidewire Connector. This year, of course, the event has gone virtual and we are so excited that our founder and Executive Chair Clara Shih is being featured in the keynote fireside chat with Guardian Life CEO Andrew McMahon.

Most insurance companies had focused most of their digital investments on automation and self-service, and in the pandemic, we’ve seen how the time has come to equally leverage digital to rearchitect how the field works and to strengthen rather than replace human connection. Using Hearsay as the front-end between agents and customers, companies are redistributing marketing and servicing work to corporate teams to allow reps to focus on value-added selling and relationship activities.

InsureTech Connect CEO and co-founder Jay Weintraub moderated a powerful, exciting conversation between Andrew and Clara. Here are some of the key insights and takeaways:

  1. Guardian Life has been in existence since 1860. They are celebrating 160 years this year. Covid is not the first global crisis Guardian has had to navigate. They’ve been able to apply lessons learned from previous pandemics including the 1918 Spanish flu and world wars to navigating the uncertainties of this year and maintain the long view of what needs to be done.
  2. Technology is disrupting every aspect of the insurance value chain from product and underwriting to marketing, distribution, and claims. As an insurance executive, it can feel daunting and hard to know where to start. But one area matters most: what customers experience. The most effective digital transformations start with the customer. Not what the carrier ideally hopes the customer will experience, but what the customer actually experiences– the last mile. Not customer surveys, but actually solving customer needs when and how they want. Start there, and the priorities will become clear.
  3. So-called personalization today doesn’t feel very personal. Has anyone ever gotten an automated email and thought to themselves how special it is and that it was uniquely made for them? Relationship advisors play a very important role. Life insurance is still very much sold, not bought, the vast majority of the time.
  4. Combining the authentic human relationship with a trusted expert with digital scale will allow advisors to maintain ongoing touch points with customers– which is increasingly important both for retention and cross-sell and also for regulatory reasons, such as RegBI. In the past, there were too many insurance customers who never heard from their agent again after the initial transaction.
  5. There is a role for direct-to-consumer and also intermediated channels. Today, most carriers approach each channel in a siloed manner. A unified last-mile engagement layer will allow carriers to blend digital, contact center, and field channels in a frictionless way for customers.

For centuries, the insurance category has played a critical role in helping businesses and families survive the hardest of times. In the past seven months, we’ve seen unprecedented human connection take place on our platforms between agents and advisors and their customers– and all signs point to this authentic digital engagement sustaining well beyond the pandemic. Thanks to Jay and ITC for featuring Hearsay this year, and thank you to Andrew and Guardian Life for being one of our boldest, most forward-thinking customers!

Three Lessons in Resilience from a Very Special Guest

We were lucky enough to have Jane Chen speak at our mid-year kickoff recently. As the co-founder & CEO of Embrace Innovations, Chen’s journey of developing a ground-breaking infant incubator for approximately 1% the cost of traditional incubators was one riddled with obstacles and setbacks – and her deep resilience to persevere through each challenge is truly inspiring.

The company’s mission and approach to design thinking necessitated a profound vulnerability and authenticity, but what was truly motivating was Chen’s stories of the roller coaster that is being the CEO of a start-up. It soon becomes clear that Chen’s got what they call ‘grit.’ At every big dip in the journey, whether she initially felt like she could do it or not, she somehow manages to persevere.

Chen highlighted three lessons that can help us all develop and foster a deep strength and resilience during this still tumultuous time.

Lesson #1: Let Go of Attachments to Outcomes

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. So goes the translation of a line from Scottish poet Robert Burns’ poem ‘To a Mouse.’ If one thing has been and remains true through the pandemic, it’s the certainty of uncertainty. Chen’s story reminded us that uncertainty is a part of life.

Though stresses may be amplified right now, many of the challenges we face come from getting caught up in fear over what might happen in the future or over indexing on a specific outcome.

At one point in the life of Chen’s company, Philip’s Healthcare was poised to acquire it. This would allow them to not only continue operations but expand their life saving mission by multitudes. Then a week before they were to sign the paperwork she got a call…the deal was off. Chen was devastated and convinced her company was going under. Within a week, through an amazing turn of events, Marc Benioff of Salesforce offered to fund Chen’s life-saving technology, and the company lived on.

Immediately following this week of intense highs and lows, Chen decided to take up surfing and went on her first 10-day silent meditation. These two solitary practices highlighted the impermanence and constant change of everything—the waves, the wind, her thoughts, her feelings. It was a profound awakening. “I realized…how attached to this one outcome I had become for Embrace’s success, that even the thought of the company shutting down, threatened my own sense of identity. Through that, I learned one of the most important lessons of my life, which is that we are not defined by our external successes or failures,” she said.

Lesson #2: Feel All of Your Feelings

Close your eyes and picture a CEO. What do you see? It’s probably something similar to what Chen imagined a CEO should be: composed at all times. In fact, isn’t this what we all strive for at work? We want to be our most professional selves and exhibit a sense of stability and calmness. But, we’re all human beings and imperfect – and vulnerability in leadership is essential to leading with purpose.

Chen found this out after spending some time in India getting her company off the ground. The scenes she saw regularly at hospitals were heartbreaking and left her feeling sad, angry, and anxious. In the early days, she repressed those feelings, but “one day they just bubbled up to the surface, I started crying in a team meeting, and afterwards I was so mortified, I was so embarrassed. But my head of operations came to me later and he said something I’ll never forget. He said to me, “Thank you so much for being vulnerable, because when you’re vulnerable, it gives us permission to be vulnerable as well.””

Chen’s remedy to ensure she’s feeling all her feelings these days is mindfulness. “Mindfulness is just becoming fully aware of our thoughts and feelings, whatever arises for us, and then to accept them without judging, without labeling, without needing them to go away, just fully accepting and honoring how we feel…Every emotion is correlated with a physical sensation that’s neither good nor bad, it’s just is. And the research shows that an emotion lasts no longer than 90 seconds. So if we can just be with that emotion for 90 seconds, if we can surf the wave of the emotion as it crests and dissipates, then we allow ourselves to process that emotion.”

Lesson #3: Choose to See the World through the Lens of Beauty

We’re at a point in history where it’s easy to feel like things are not pretty. Pandemic, civil unrest, climate change, and a constant 24-hour news cycle, can easily lead one to see the world through the lens of doom and gloom. But we have a choice in how we process the world around us, and there is beauty to be found.

Chen has been through this before. “During my years in India, I could really feel myself becoming jaded. I was working in this very corrupt government system. I was surrounded by death and poverty on a daily basis. Then one day I woke up and I realized that for every horrible thing that I saw, I saw something equally beautiful. All the people who had come together to help us in this mission, doctors in these very poverty stricken areas, who would see patients all night, purely out of the kindness of their hearts. And the most beautiful thing I got to see was the love a parent has for their child. It is the purest and most selfless form of love in the world.” She points out that seeing the beauty doesn’t mean ignoring the bad. It simply means choosing to see the full picture, and leading with the beauty to improve our resilience and well being.


For those of you who practice meditation or mindfulness, the advice Chen shared may be second-nature. But that’s the beauty of it. These are three simple, powerful principles that anyone can practice to be more resilient and feel better. They can be applied to any circumstance, on a daily (hourly, minute-by-minute) basis. And if you’re not sure, you don’t have to take Chen’s word for it. Apply the scientific method; try it out and see if it works for you.

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.

Announcing the Hearsay Summit 2020 Innovator Awards!

Drum roll, please!

We had over a dozen nominees for this year’s awards. This year’s winners had a very unique experience — they received their awards in the mail and we celebrated them virtually on Day 2 of the Hearsay Summit last week. We hope you were able to join and raise a glass to celebrate them during the awards ceremony.

Learn more about our six winners and the amazing accomplishments they’ve conquered over the past year with their Hearsay programs.

Greatest Compliance Efficiencies

This award recognizes the Innovator who has leveraged Hearsay Compliance to effectively automate compliance workflows while minimizing risk and enhancing communications across the entire agent/advisor-client journey.

Greatest Compliance Efficiencies Winner – Christy Zielinski, MassMutual 

Christy partnered with Hearsay’s Compliance & Supervision Advisory Practice to develop a secondary review process for monthly internal audits of supervision activities. This process enabled MassMutual to mitigate risk by monitoring its compliance admins through an audit feedback loop. This operational efficiency ensures the supervision review procedure is properly followed in order to adhere to industry regulations and best practices using social media. Christy’s leadership drove this initiative to completion and MassMutual is now averaging 3K automatically captured posts a month that will result in an expected reduction of 24K alerts annually!

Best Strategies for Improving ROI

This next category recognizes Innovators for each Hearsay product category (Social, Sites, and Relate) for establishing and measuring program ROI, increasing field agents/advisors adoption, and driving greater client efficiencies.

Best Strategy for Improving ROI – Sites winner – Wendi Phillips, The Co-operators

Wendi has launched over 600 fully custom-themed sites in two languages, English and French.

She has been working to harmonize advisors’ sites with the Social program team at the Co-operators, combining forces to roll out a smooth program for advisors. Wendi has been pushing Hearsay to the best of its abilities to roll out a customized Sites platform and to brainstorm ways in which the Co-operators can better integrate Social and Sites, all while demonstrating clear ROI to advisors.

Best Strategy for Improving ROI – Relate winner – Nicohle Schluender, Thrivent Financial

Under Nicohle’s direction, Thrivent is completely transforming the digital experience for its financial representatives and the clients they represent by creating a seamless client experience. Nicohle spearheaded the full field rollout of Relate to all 2,600 financial representatives during the COVID-19 crisis to make sure communication between financial representatives and clients never stopped. Thrivent has also greatly increased the number of leads they receive through their Advisor websites. Nicohle is a true visionary!

Best Strategy for Improving ROI – Social winner – Scott Carlisle, Kiersten Shank, Lincoln Financial Distributors

Scott and Kiersten have demonstrated a relentless pursuit of transformation. Over the past year, they have grown Lincoln Financial’s Social program at an unprecedented rate while establishing ROI benchmarks and catering to their wholesaler client on a daily basis. As part of their efforts, they’ve optimized LinkedIn profiles, doing a full audit of all 272 of their wholesalers and providing them with best practices to make their profiles go “from good to great!” Scott and Kiersten also created a digital resource hub with educational videos. They’ve seen an 85.5% increase from last year for wholesaler onboarding, a 74.5% increase in LinkedIn connections from last year, and continual organic growth for their LinkedIn and Twitter pages. Additionally, they’ve experienced an increase of 128.8% in creating and posting content on behalf of their wholesalers from 2019 to 2020 per business line.

Most Influential Insurance Leader in Transforming the Client Experience

This award recognizes the Innovator who has leveraged the Hearsay platform to effectively lead their organization through change management while increasing client transparency to transform the client experience.

Most Influential Insurance Leader in Transforming the Client Experience Winner – Erin Fenton, Allstate

Erin received two Innovators nominations this year and is this year’s winner for Most Influential Insurance Leader in Transforming the Client Experience. She has increased traffic to from the Agent Social program by about 1,400% since 2016. The agent active rate each month on social has grown by about 20% since 2016. The program adoption of agents has also increased by 22% since 2016. The total published content per year has increased by 164% since 2016. These are incredible wins for Erin and Allstate!

Most Influential Wealth Management Leader in Transforming the Client Experience Winner – Chris Johnson, Janney Montgomery Scott

The next award recognized someone who has leveraged the Hearsay platform to effectively lead their organization through change management while increasing client transparency to transform the client experience.

Chris has been managing the Hearsay program since its inception in 2015 across Social, Sites, Relate, and multiple integrations, as well as dealing directly with the field for training and communication. He has spearheaded unique integrations with Hearsay including threaded archiving for Relate and third-party site integration to the Hearsay publisher. He also led beta testing for any new features that Hearsay develops. Under his leadership, yearly adoption of the Hearsay Program at Janney Montgomery Scott has grown over 280% in users since the start of the program in 2015. In the past year there were thousands of visits to the teams’ financial advisor sites. Hearsay Social was the top referral source for traffic and third in total acquisitions, directly behind organic and direct referrals for Hearsay Sites. Hearsay Sites has also generated over 650 leads in the past year.

Congratulations to all our winners and nominees this year!

Automation and Time-Saving Workflows

The recent world events surrounding the coronavirus outbreak have helped us all realize that our time is a priceless commodity. There never seems to be enough time for our most valuable activities and now that most of us are homebound, it’s a good moment to think about how to automate some of our more menial daily tasks to carve out more time for meaningful interactions. Luckily, digital assistants and time-saving automation tools can help manage many day-to-day tasks so we can give our attention to the valuable time we spend with one another, be they in-person or virtual meetings.

As many of us have personally experienced in recent days, striking the right balance between high-tech and high-touch in today’s digital world is a daily challenge for most businesses. With the vast array of digital solutions at our fingertips, it can be easy to get lost in the weeds and unintentionally distance ourselves from our customers. However, when used effectively, multi-channel digital tools can help connect agents and advisors with their clients by giving back valuable time that can be spent on meaningful personal interaction rather than losing oneself in the process.

This kind of innovation can seem trivial at first; why digitally delegate tasks we can do ourselves? But like any new product or idea, once put into practice, we soon wonder how we ever managed without it. Spending time on meaningful interactions rather than rotary functions can be one of the biggest gifts we can give ourselves and our clients.

Making time to regularly communicate with clients and making oneself available – especially in these difficult times – is what sets elite advisors and agents apart from the crowd. The daily vicissitudes of the market and the fundamentally shifting landscape of our daily lives has many worried and now, more than ever, it is important to make yourself available to your clients and prospects on the channels they prefer.

Optimizing Your Multi-Channel Digital Presence

As digital tools become a more integral part of our daily lives, the days of doing business strictly in person are becoming a thing of the past. The best way to succeed in today’s increasingly connected world is to know how to best leverage digital tools in order to offer a holistic high-tech, high-touch approach that effectively reaches your customers. Building a dynamic online presence begins with understanding how clients search for you and the services you provide, by learning what kind of customized content to share – and knowing what story to tell – through each digital channel.

Today, clients spend a fair amount of time researching their options online before ever contacting prospective agents or advisors. As clients express more interest in controlling their path to purchase through digital channels, it’s crucial to know where you fit in. By establishing a strong digital presence and following a few best practices to optimize your approach, you can stay top of mind with potential clients long before you ever speak to them online or in person.

The first step in the new digital path to purchase is ensuring you have a strong online presence to help nurture strong leads and referrals. If a prospect tries to research you online and comes up empty, it means you’ve failed a simple digital validation; the conversation is over before it even starts. Prospective clients want to learn about who you are, what your credentials are, and read reviews about you before they can move forward with considering working with you. Creating and maintaining online profiles across different digital platforms introduces you to prospective leads and also helps you strengthen relationships with current clients.

Building an online presence also helps clients get to know you personally and build trust. Digital channels such as your website and social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram give you the ability to do more than just share your contact information and professional offerings. Striking the right balance between sharing corporate, industry, and non-industry content can position you as a thought leader, a source of knowledge, and someone your clients can trust. More importantly, sharing curated, customized content to each channel regularly keeps you top of mind through digital nurturing.

A Peek Inside SIFMA’s RegBI Vendor Forum

On January 16, SIFMA hosted its Regulation Best Interest Vendor Forum at its conference center in New York.  The Forum was sold out and demand was so high the event was live streamed as well.

The purpose of the forum was for technology vendors to highlight technology solutions and/or service offerings to assist firms to comply with the Regulation Best Interest (RegBI) requirements, which go into effect in mere months (July 1, 2020). Even with the deadline looming, regulatory guidance is still emerging; the SEC published an updated FAQ on RegBI on the Monday before the conference.

Consulting firms, technology vendors and others all shared their ideas on how to address RegBI compliance and accelerate implementation. The Forum also offered 3 panels of experts to discuss various aspects of RegBI. Topics ranged from measuring the business impact of RegBI, to analyzing various duty and disclosure requirements, to potential changes to supervision and surveillance practices. I was fortunate enough to participate in the afternoon panel entitled “RegBI Compliance from Front to Back,” where the panel focused on the duty of care and delivery of Form CRS in more detail. At our booth, we showed attendees a demo of how the delivery of Form CRS could be automated using Hearsay Relate, through integration with a CRM system.

The general sentiment of the Forum was that firms have to be realistic when implementing RegBI compliance programs, given the rapidly approaching July 1st deadline. While everyone wants a single end-to-end system, the scope of RegBI is too large to be completely outsourced. There was acknowledgement that the best approach is to evaluate how to make solutions modular. On people’s minds: Would there be an opportunity for systems to integrate or link into one another so that, even if there was no single system to manage RegBI compliance, a firm could implement a single RegBI workstream program that could be implemented across many different systems?

With this in mind, panels at the conference discussed how project plans to address RegBI have been conventionally split into two different implementation tracks: so called “Day 1 Implementation,” consisting of absolutely critical compliance requirements that must be in place by July 1st, and “Day 2 Implementation,” consisting of automating and scaling the program to complement other compliance workstreams. Day 1 activities included items such as expanded training programs for impacted individuals, policy reviews, and current advertising audits (including advertising lexicon reviews). Day 2 activities discussed were things such as CRM integration and the ability to automate review processes and other similar workflows.

Firms were challenged to view Day 1 activities vs Day 2 activities from three perspectives: monetary cost, time cost and opportunity cost. With limited budgets, firms should look internally to existing solutions and determine their capabilities to solve parts of the RegBI problem rather than finding net new solutions. Firms should also be mindful of IT and other resource constraints on time. For example, what is the best use of personnel time in achieving compliance and is there a way to naturally pair Day 1 time with Day 2 roadmaps? And given this limited amount of time, firms need to be mindful that the opportunities chosen provide the most value.

The conversations and discussions at the forum were very lively and honest. RegBI compliance is a serious challenge that requires thoughtfulness, flexibility and, most importantly, efficiency.  If you are interested in learning more about how Hearsay can assist with your firm’s RegBI compliance project plan, take a look at this previous blog post I wrote or please contact your customer success manager.

Maximize Your Digital Marketing Content Strategy for 2020

Each new year is a chance to look back on what did (and didn’t) work for your content strategy as well as look ahead at what digital marketing trends will be important in the year ahead. Content strategy is a constantly evolving, continually moving target that every organization needs to stay focused on in order to hit the mark. Here are some top trends in 2020 to help you keep your content strategy on point:

Personalization: “It’s not personal; it’s business,” the old saying goes – old being the operative term. When it comes to content strategy, personalization is paramount in both customer acquisition and retention. Employing a content strategy without personalization is like throwing a bunch of ideas against the wall to see what sticks. Personalization is what adds an authentic voice to your branding and makes your audience feel connected to a real person that understands them. Without it, your content will seem generic and one-dimensional, sending the message that you haven’t done your research into who your customer actually is. In fact, an overwhelming 90% of consumers polled found messages and ads not customized to them as annoying. And as you might guess: organizations that take this approach have much less success connecting with customers and prospects.

Interactive content: Like any discussion, once you’ve started communicating with a customer, you need to keep the conversation going. Providing your audience with unique and refreshing content that stands out not only keeps them engaged but encourages them to share your content with others. Word of mouth communication is priceless, and by creating content that is both useful and shareable, you can broaden your horizons to reach new prospects and also build trust with your existing contacts. In a time of countless digital distractions fighting for your customers’ attention, interactive content helps keep it focused on you.

Shoppable posts: As you tweak your content to generate more visibility and engagement, it’s crucial that you have posts that are shoppable, meaning they allow customers to take action directly from the publication. As consumers continually move toward controlling more of their buying journey, it’s more important than ever to provide online content that’s optimized for a cohesive, holistic customer journey no matter where your customer is on their path to purchase.

Social messaging apps and texting: Part of creating a holistic online customer journey means providing as many ways for your customers to reach you as possible. Gone are the days of only communicating from 9-5; being able to text and communicate on social and email keeps the lines of communication open at all times. Look for messaging apps that also allow you to automate some of your workload such as scheduling appointments, reminders, and invitations to events. As we discussed last month, automation is a growing industry trend that lightens your workload, giving you more time with your customers.

Compliance Trends in Advisor Communications – Summit 2019 Takeaways

I had the privilege of moderating a session on “Compliance Trends in Advisor Communications” at Hearsay Summit this year. The session was well attended by compliance officers from enterprise wealth management and insurance companies whose respective organizations have taken a careful, thoughtful and pragmatic approach to enable advisors to communicate with clients and prospects over multiple channels.

My goal for the session was to create a collaborative environment that offered the following:

  • A setting conducive to open sharing of thought leadership, idea generation and best practices across financial services firms specific to advisor communications capabilities.
  • Cross-fertilization of ideas and problem-solving for common and uncommon problems associated with electronic communications across multiple mediums.
  • Professional development that translates into actionable tasks that can be shared and implemented across each participant’s respective organization.
  • Education for participants on the “hot-issues” / roadblocks that may impede organizational readiness to comply with electronic communications requirements specific to advisor communications.

There is no Competitive Edge in Compliance

Throughout the session, one common theme continually emerged – “There is no competitive edge in compliance.” As compliance officers, we all benefit from sharing ideas and thought leadership with one another. As a result, we are able to create cohesive and consistent approaches to common problems shared across our respective organizations. Creating best practices together, for our industry as a whole, instills confidence on the part of our regulators. As we all know, regulators like standards; when firms approach compliance for the technology solutions we use to fulfill our compliance responsibilities in a common manner, we’re all better off.

The Use of Social Media – Is it Finally Socially Acceptable?

I was truly impressed with the proactive steps many of the participant organizations are taking with respect to enabling social media for advisors. This included a close collaboration with marketing departments and the creation of workflows that enabled efficient processes specific to creation and/or curation of marketing materials approved for advisor dissemination over social media. Many organizations were beyond “pilot” social media rollouts and had either fully implemented an enterprise approach and strategy for social media, or were well on their way.

From a pure compliance perspective, participants indicated their workloads had only increased incrementally due to the use of technology (in this case, Hearsay) to aid in the creation of the appropriate workflows and approval processes. As we all know, this can be a huge gating issue when organizations are contemplating the net effect of enabling new and different approaches to advisor communications. This is extremely encouraging since it’s coming straight from the compliance officers/people in the trenches actually using this technology on a day-to-day basis, not the vendor trying to sell their solution.

To Text or Not to Text – That is the Question!

Texting and the use of chat apps have become the preferred way to communicate in writing, especially among younger people. The financial services industry has struggled with texting, as most organizations have not embraced a mechanism to capture, retain and supervise business-related texts.

As an industry, we have historically taken a strict position against texting for business-related purposes and managed it only through policies, attestations and certifications. However, the data shows that texting and the use of chat apps are occurring and nearly impossible to control without the right infrastructure in place. As a career compliance officer, I have never believed that managing risk through policy alone is an optimal way to create an adequate control environment. It is incumbent upon organizations to trust but verify that advisors are adhering to the policies and procedures developed to protect investors, firms and the advisors themselves.

With the advent of new technologies to now help organizations meet their respective record retention and supervision requirements, the problem appears to be one that can now be solved.  Several of the organizations at the session were starting to dip their toes into texting capabilities, with some further along in their implementation than others. Based on the initial feedback received during our session, the compliance officers in the room indicated the workload associated with supervising texts was not material, though they were all early in their implementations.

Please Purchase This Technology – It Makes My Life Easier

As we were nearing the end of our session, we rounded out our conversation focused on strategic investments in technology and building the appropriate business case to support it. I have been purchasing technology on behalf of organizations for over two decades. One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned is that the purchase of technology will never be supported by management based on the fact that it may make the life of the compliance officer easier. A business case must be presented that clearly articulates and quantifies the business benefit – creating efficiencies, cutting costs, enabling redeployment of existing resources to do bigger and better things and ultimately, working smarter. When organizations throw up the “What is the ROI?” smoke screen, a compliance officer must be prepared to justify the investment.

Closing Thoughts

I left the Hearsay Summit truly impressed with the quality of the overall event, and the level of engagement of the individuals that participated in the session I led. As a huge proponent of leveraging technology to assist in the execution of compliance responsibilities,  it was exciting to be surrounded by so many “evangelists” that came ready to openly share their experiences and perspectives – good, bad or indifferent. From an industry perspective, it was truly encouraging to not only see this first-hand but to surround myself with professionals that approach their respective roles and responsibilities with a high degree of care and sophistication.

We work in an industry where, as compliance officers, it can feel like we have a target on our back. But at Summit there were so many cross-functional leaders who ‘got it.’ It was a treat to be in a room full of people focused on making advisors successful through digital communications – and understanding that compliance is a critical part of that. Everyone I met at the Hearsay Summit demonstrated a stance where they and their respective organizations are approaching this risk pro-actively, taking control of their situation in a compliant and commercial manner. Here’s looking forward to next year!

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.