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Clara Shih on The Big Reveal, with Suzanne Siracuse

We were excited to hear about Suzanne Siracuse’s new podcast, The Big Reveal, which aims to bring personal interviews with wealth management industry innovators and leaders to life. Suzanne, founder and former longtime CEO and Publisher of InvestmentNews, is herself an influential leader in the wealth management industry, and we were thrilled when she invited Hearsay founder Clara Shih to be her launch guest speaker along with Michael Kitces, George Nichols, and Bill Crager.

Here’s a link to Clara’s recent conversation with Suzanne, with a few excerpts highlighted below:

Suzanne: Clara, we met four years ago when I interviewed you at the InvestmentNews Women Advisor Summit.  I have to admit I was in awe of your background… You graduated from Stanford with undergraduate and Master’s degrees in computer science. You were an early employee at Google, then joined In 2007, you saw the rising tide of social media and became famous for creating the first business application on Facebook, known as “Faceforce.” Then you founded Hearsay Social, now Hearsay Systems, where you served as CEO for 11 years until one month ago. With all those successes, I found you to be warm, generous, and personable, and you were a huge hit with the many advisors who attended that summit.

Clara: Thank you, Suzanne. My family came to this country in the 1980s with not very much, and I’m so grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had. In my life, I have always tried to dream big and take risks. Some have worked out well. I’m thankful to have met inspiring partners and leaders like you along the way!

Suzanne: So let’s talk about your recent announcement.  You recently moved into the role of Executive Chair and promoted your COO Mike Boese to CEO.  Whenever a high profile leader leaves the top spot, there’s always speculation on why. Can you take us through this decision and why now?

Clara: After 11 years, it was time. I know you know, having been the founder of InvestmentNews, and those of you watching who have built your own business know that being the founding CEO takes everything you have– every day, every hour, every weekend, every ounce of your being.

Last December I let the board know I needed to start thinking about a longer-term transition. In Q1, I met Mike, and here was someone who has started companies and scaled companies to hundreds of million in revenue and loved our mission and culture, then COVID happened and I realized the transition could happen much sooner.

Suzanne: Do you think the pandemic accelerated your timeline?

Clara: There is no question. During crises, we see what leaders are made of. Mike rose to the occasion and truly impressed me and the entire board of directors with his compassionate leadership, incredible work ethic, and commitment to our customers. On a personal level, the pandemic for me, like many people, has been a time of reflection and soul-searching. Over the summer, I realized the time had come after 11 years for me to take a break, spend time with my family, and try something new, with the peace of mind that Hearsay would be in great hands.

Suzanne: Over the summer, before you announced your new role, you and Mike co-led a major deal with Salesforce in which they took an equity share in Hearsay.  This deal showcased an important strategic alignment between Hearsay and Salesforce marrying Salesforce’s CRM and Hearsay’s social and digital engagement capabilities. It was big news in our industry.  Tell me how that all came together.

Clara: Our partnership has been driven by market forces – compliant digital engagement and CRM need to come together in service of the customer. Customers of both companies kept asking us to work more closely together on integrations, customers like Fidelity, Prudential, Morgan Stanley. So it was really just formalizing what was already happening naturally in the market to better serve what advisors need.

The amazing thing is there are now multiple phases of digital transformation which have been made possible thanks to this partnership. It’s not just about digital marketing. It’s completely rearchitecting how advisors spend their time and leverage analytics in every part of running their practice. The implications are tremendous, more than many people realize.

Phase 1. Contact and data sync

Phase 2. Workflow

Phase 3. Routing

Phase 4. Automation

Suzanne: While both Salesforce and Hearsay are giants in serving large brokerage firms and independent broker dealers, you have not made as much traction in the RIA space, though you do count Marty Bicknell and Mariner as a client. Are RIAs an area you are looking to expand into?

Clara: There’s no question we need to serve RIAs. They are a critical and growing segment in wealth management, and it’s a matter of when, not if. That said, I’m a big believer in focus, and timing and sequencing expansion– this is why Hearsay doesn’t sell technology to life sciences or tech companies. We have always been laser-focused on wealth management and financial services firms with relationship managers. When it comes to RIAs, we have a lot of learning to do. I’d like to learn from as many people as I can. Thinking about new markets and segments such as RIAs and international geos is one key area I’ll be focused on as Executive Chair.

Suzanne: Social media, which was the primary area Hearsay specialized in when you started the company in 2009, has become “not a nice to have” way to communicate but almost an essential way to communicate.  You were ahead of your time!  What gave you the idea to create Hearsay and the category of social selling in the first place?

Clara: Back in 2009, Facebook and LinkedIn had just launched and usage was growing at an exponential rate. A friend of mine was just starting out as an advisor, had no clients, and was just cold calling. I couldn’t believe how inefficient and ineffective it was. It dawned on me that every step of the sales relationship cycle, was going to get totally transformed by social and digital forces and that a solution was needed to bring business focus to social media. We started with social signals – money-in-motion life events being shared on social networks (the “hear” part of Hearsay), as well as social drip campaigns and 1-1 messages (the “say” part of Hearsay), and of course all of the compliance elements which are table stakes in wealth management.

Suzanne: Since then, Hearsay has made some big moves into adjacent client engagement areas, such as your compliant text messaging solution and new Hearsay Actions platform. How have you seen digital help advisors with their business development and client engagement efforts?

Clara: In every industry, technology is completely transforming how we need to work. In wealth management, this manifests as advisors focusing more of their time on value-added relationship acquisition and deepening activities. On the surface, Hearsay appears to be compliant text messaging and social selling. In reality, what Hearsay really is, is a way to automate and route marketing demand generation and client servicing tasks.

Suzanne: How has COVID changed the way Hearsay is working with clients and how advisors use Hearsay?

Clara: We’ve seen unprecedented usage of our platform since March. It’s been very uplifting to see how advisors have stepped up like never before to be there for clients when it really counts. From Hearsay’s perspective, the shift to remote work has been very seamless given we were already set-up with zoom, texting, social, and digital engagement tools pre-pandemic. With everyone stuck at home, we’ve tried to get creative in finding ways for human connection despite not being able to meet face-to-face, such as sending a supply box to everyone ahead of our largest-ever customer summit in May, or more recent virtual dinners where we have the same meal and bottle of wine delivered to a client as what we’re having so that we can still break bread together and have a slower conversation outside the hustle and bustle of back-to-back meetings.

Congratulations to Suzanne for the launch of her new podcast, and thank you for featuring Clara and Hearsay!

The Key is Context – Unlocking the Modernization of Archiving & Supervision

Why mess with a good thing? Sometimes we hit on something that works so well that it never changes – like Coca Cola. Unfortunately, most things are not Coke and need to evolve. Email-based archiving – particularly when applied to client engagement activities across social and texting – is one of those areas begging to be modernized.

To meet regulatory recordkeeping requirements and standards (i.e., SEC, FINRA, CFTC, FCA and others), firms have long relied on an email-based approach to take delivery of client communications into their archives. Email-based archiving (SFTP) is akin to sending a package – data is stripped down and organized to fit nicely in a box that can be sorted in a similar way with all the other packages. While the approach results in compliance with archiving mandates, it hampers compliance teams, rendering them less effective and efficient. What this approach lacks is context. Activities are delivered into the archive sometimes as they occur – most commonly with a delay – and are siloed by channel, forcing supervision to piece together conversations that are taking place across days, networks, and channels. This approach conjures up images of old police TV mysteries with cork boards and pinned pieces of yarn to connect suspects – it doesn’t reflect the technological progress we’ve made in other areas of financial services.

However, that is beginning to change. As more efficient, modern methods of data transfer have been introduced, some firms are re-examining how this data is being transferred to them. Archiving via API provides full context of digital communications and real time access. They have a thread based on a full view of the interactions between two contacts instead of the legacy structure imposed by an email-based configuration.

With API-led approaches, firms are gaining real-time access to communications in order to bring speed and efficiency to the archiving and review process.  We’ve made investments in Hearsay’s Compliance API to offer real-time access to a stream of activities that unlocks integrations with API-led platforms simplifying and modernizing recordkeeping, supervision, and discovery. Critically this offers Supervision teams a unified view of activities across channels to see a full, clear picture, so that the right activities are flagged and remediated.

All this to say that now is the time for firms to consider evaluating whether their archiving processes are as effective as they could be. An API archiving process doesn’t require a massive transformation of the existing setup – for example Hearsay’s open APIs allow our platform to integrate seamlessly with existing infrastructure bringing more value to your existing compliance foundation. And as you evaluate options, our team stands ready to lend our expertise.

Sometimes, change is a good thing.

My First Day as CEO of Hearsay Systems

Clara and me last week, appropriately socially distanced [Photo by Radu Ranga]

Today is an exciting and very humbling day for me. After five months as Hearsay’s COO (all virtual) and working closely with Clara Shih, co-founder and CEO of Hearsay Systems, and the Hearsay Board of Directors, I am honored to take the reins from Clara as the new Hearsay CEO and continue to partner with Clara as Hearsay’s Executive Chairperson.

Clara and Steve Garrity founded Hearsay 11 years ago on a belief that the sales and relationship management profession would get upended by the social graph being created on Facebook– fundamentally disrupting the way customers buy, whom they trust, and how they’d want to stay in touch. Over this decade-long journey Clara and the Hearsay team built out a new social selling category, expanded into other key digital channels and developed a platform strategy to better align with customer engagement outcomes. Hearsay also focused on wealth management and insurance sectors and the challenges of providing last mile digital communications in a scalable, compliant manner. Over 170,000 advisors and the most prestigious financial services companies have embraced this vision.

Many Hearsay team members (Chris Andrew, Chief Product Officer and employee #1; Pete Godbole CFO; Robert MacCloy, CTO) and Board Members (Frank Defesche, Jon Sakoda, Bryan Schreier) have been instrumental in this journey and taking the long view toward building the company. I have appreciated their support and counsel over my brief tenure and the support and patience I have received from the entire Hearsay team helping me onboard in a virtual world.

To our team members, customers, and partners, as we start this new phase of our journey together, I wanted to share some of my story with you, why I came here, and what I’m excited to do.

My story

I grew up in Seattle, WA and have been married for 26 years and we have two grown kids. I started as an engineer right out of the University of Washington working at a Bay Area Refinery. I made my way into software and have been blessed to work with many great technology companies (Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft, Taleo), leaders and colleagues across many functions, projects and transformation efforts. My new, favorite capability/strength is the learnings I have gained from the wins and defeats associated with trying to scale a business, incubating new ideas or drive wholesale change initiatives. I hope to fully exploit this capability in my new role.

There are two simple axioms of leadership I try to espouse. First, everyone is a leader. Some of the most impactful people at any company have no direct reports. They muster followership by their energy, enthusiasm, smarts (EQ and IQ), and organizational and persuasion skills. We need to create environments where anyone can lead.

Second, in 25 years, I’ve learned that accountability and direct dialogue permeate winning teams. If I could wish for two things in any organization it would be a strong culture of accountability/”owning it” and frank, open dialogue on the hard, uncomfortable topics-it’s the only way to get fully aligned, build trust, and let the best ideas win. Clara and the Hearsay leadership team share this perspective.

What drew me to Hearsay

There were three fundamental drivers that made joining Hearsay an easy choice.

1. Significant market opportunity: It starts with an unparalleled customer list. In 25 years working in enterprise software, rarely have I seen this quality and quantity of marquee customer relationships, customers who view us as true partners and trusted advisors to help guide them in their digital transformation journey. Hearsay is also a rare product that is both a vitamin and painkiller, as Clara talks about in her Masters of Scale podcast with Reid Hoffman. Many customers start with our compliance platform (painkiller), but then it builds from there into wholesale transformation to deliver a modern customer experience (vitamin). Most importantly, the last decade of digital transformation was about automation and self-service. Validated by the pandemic, the next decade is about authentic engagement at scale– a category Hearsay has established and will fuel its next chapter of growth.

2. Shared values: Hearsay’s values have remained essentially the same since the company was founded–Customer Focus, Kaizen, and Get-the-Right-Stuff-Done (GRSD). For me, Customer Focus is about the big stuff and the small stuff. You need to get the small stuff right in order to earn the right to do the big stuff (be a trusted advisor). I’ve had many roles throughout my career, from leading M&A at Taleo to CEO of Certent. Each has been an opportunity for me to flex a growth mindset and continuously learn, improve, and grow or put into practice a personal Kaizen approach. Kaizen at a company level and Kaizen at an individual level is the killer combination. Prior to Hearsay, my wife and I took a significant risk in launching a new startup. I learned very quickly no environment demands GRSD more than an early stage company. Everyday you need to be ruthless in how you spend your time and dollars. We had to make some very difficult decisions when we were running low on funds and were fortunate to find a strategic buyer to execute our vision. GRSD has new meaning and purpose given this experience.

3. Opportunity to have an impact: As I got to know Hearsay and got to understand the challenges and opportunities it faces, I realized it is a great match for my diverse set of experiences. More importantly, It’s been inspiring to watch how our customers have depended on Hearsay to reassure and guide their customers during the pandemic – which in turn has given our team a new level of purpose and hustle.

What we will do going forward

The pandemic has only accelerated our next phase of growth, as Hearsay’s engagement platform is now mission-critical for relationship sellers who can no longer meet clients face-to-face. From Social and Sites to Relate and Actions, Hearsay platform utilization, new deals, and customer expansions are accelerating. Our business is outperforming expectations on nearly every metric.

As we embrace this momentum, there are several concrete actions I will be working with our team to drive 2021 performance and make our vision a reality. First and foremost, we need to fill all key existing and new roles across the organization. We need the right talent in place to execute on our ambition sales and product plans. Second, we need to drive a focused set of initiatives to help deliver customer outcomes. The migration to our new, modern reporting solution is a great example. Third, in the next several quarters we will be launching new integrations that help our customers unlock the value in their CRM, marketing automation, and core systems investments.

In everything we do, we need to continue to lead and collaborate with humility and purpose.


Welcome Iain Duke-Richardet! Financial Services and Tech Compliance Authority Joins the Hearsay Team

Get to know more about Iain Duke-Richardet, Hearsay’s new Compliance Strategy Principal. Find out what a typical day is like, his take on RegBI, predictions for the industry, and more!

We’re thrilled that Iain Duke-Richardet has joined the Hearsay team as Compliance Strategy Principal! Iain joins us from Accenture’s Regulatory & Compliance Practice where he helped guide clients on a range of issues including regulatory change and reporting, technology-related legal and regulatory issues, cybersecurity, privacy, and more. Prior to his time at Accenture, he spent a decade in our customers’ shoes (some of that time literally) as a compliance leader at global financial services firms, including RBC Capital Markets and Goldman Sachs & Co.

We’re excited by the ideas and expertise Iain brings to the table, so we sat down for a Q&A to help you get to know him.

William: Welcome to Hearsay, Iain. Let’s start with an easy one – what is your typical day like?

Iain: I spend a lot of time with Hearsay customers sharing best practices and guidance to leverage Hearsay as a key part of their compliance strategy, including providing advice on governance, change management, technology infrastructure, and any other area of compliance and supervision that matters to their business.

I am also entrenched with industry regulators such as FINRA, IIROC, the FCA and others, as well as deepening relationships with trade groups like SIFMA and LIMRA. You’ll see me engaged in thought-leadership discussions, which is essential as I articulate Hearsay’s perspective on compliance.

Finally, the balance of my time is spent collaborating with Hearsay’s Product teams to continually infuse compliance into our solutions both as they are engineered today, as well as how the product offering evolves.

William: What’s your initial impression so far? Anything that surprised you?

Iain: That’s a good question. From working with Hearsay for many years I knew that compliance formed a foundational element of the platform. What’s been heartening to discover in the first few weeks is the commitment Hearsay has to developing in-house expertise. We’re building what I call a “Practice of Practitioners,” and that really distinguishes us; only Hearsay draws on a team with deep industry expertise to guide product development, regulatory interpretation and program support. So it’s been great to meet the team and recognize the depth of industry and compliance knowledge that is embedded throughout the firm.

William: What trends are you seeing in the industry lately?

Iain: The global pandemic has resulted in the emergence of new engagement models among our customer base, typically in an effort to replace the in-person connection. This has also been occuring in the context of a work-from-home environment. This has meant that compliance processes have been challenged and, in some cases, strained such that we have seen a number of adjustments being made to how supervision is performed, with an increased focus on efficiency. Among the trends are strategies to shift review between the lines of defense, to lower spikes in items to be reviewed, to expand the use of existing messaging channels, and to rapidly deploy compliance controls that enable the use of new messaging channels.

William:  Now let’s move on to a hot topic—RegBI. What have you learned from our customers regarding Reg BI? What is the traction for becoming compliant with these customers?

Iain: Many customers are well on their way to establishing the controls that will enable them to meet the new standard of conduct established by the rule. Many have spent time assessing and updating their business practices, reviewing and augmenting their policies and procedures where necessary, and evaluating their compliance controls.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize that Reg BI sets forth a standard of conduct that is ongoing. Firms are not just focusing on being compliant by the immediate deadline but rather are looking at building a foundation for ongoing compliance. Policies, procedures, technology, governance—the entire compliance ecosystem will need to be regularly evaluated against this framework to validate that firms are continuing to meet the new standard.

William: What are some of your overall thoughts on where compliance needs to head in the next year and 5 years? What are your thoughts on any of the other pending compliance or regulations that may be put into effect?

Iain: Over the next year, I expect to see the ongoing development of Privacy regulation, primarily as individuals and companies increasingly leverage the right to be forgotten under the CCPA, but also as other States design legislation of their own. I also expect there to be additional clarity to the FCC’s TCPA following the Supreme Court hearing in May. Both will pressure customers and their compliance organizations to have clear policies and well articulated processes to address the demands of these regulatory developments.

Over the next five years, I expect compliance organizations to double-down on two primary areas of focus. The first is to manage the continued pressure on the cost of compliance. Organizations seeking to optimize the cost of their operations have moved on from areas where gains were simpler (e.g., technology) to other areas, including compliance. Compliance leadership must exercise the levers available to it, such as functional organization (e.g., is Compliance solely conducting compliance activities?) and cost rationalization (e.g., technology, expense management, subscription based processes). Secondly, and relatedly, to what extent can technology be leveraged to simplify compliance tasks through machine learning, natural language processing, and automation. This is already underway within leading compliance organizations where systems have been upgraded to incorporate such advances, but I expect the next five years to see this continue and proliferate through the majority of compliance functions.

William: Let’s end on an inspirational note; what excites you about Hearsay’s vision?

Iain: While on the surface one may look at Hearsay and see a solution for marketing, for distribution, and for advisors and agents, in helping deliver omni-channel outcomes, Hearsay truly puts the compliance user-experience at the forefront. We’re passionate about making life simple for compliance teams. So as our customers empower advisors and agents with more channels to deliver outcomes across the digital customer journey, we’re simultaneously arming compliance teams with tools like universal supervision across multiple channels – including reporting of calls and text messages – to simplify supervision and review by offering a complete, contextual view of the client relationship. This helps teams administer programs more effectively across channels via Hearsay’s unified platform for maximum scale and efficiency.

William: Thank you, Iain. We’re excited to have you at Hearsay and eager to hear more from you!

Iain: Likewise, and stay tuned for more from me and the Hearsay compliance team as the year goes on.

Reflections on Hearsay CKO: Connection and Inspiration for the Year to Come

Last week, the entire global Hearsay team united in person in New Orleans to get excited about all of the initiatives and outcomes we will be driving with our customers in 2020. One of the major benefits of having everyone together in one place is getting face time with people from all of the global offices. So often we are in our day to day, chatting with someone online or sending them an email with a request, but how often do you get to connect in person with employees across a global company?

We asked for takeaways on the kickoff from across the company, and here is what folks had to say:

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet and work with team members from various departments around the world. It allowed for some great knowledge sharing, department insights, and team building! Having everyone new to the city was also a fun touch as we were all open to exploring and being present for one another. We truly have a unique and talented team at Hearsay that I feel grateful to be a part of. Looking forward to taking the learnings from our Omnichannel Orchestrated Outcomes, one of our large customer’s motivating presentations and from the shared knowledge across the board to my upcoming client meetings!” – Cristine Sousa – Customer Success, Toronto, Canada

“CKO is one of my favorite times of year. As someone who works in a smaller office (we are growing fast though!) getting face time and meeting people in person is so beneficial. There’s also always a motivating and family-like atmosphere. Everyone is so friendly and it really makes you feel like part of a bigger picture. I love it!” – Lauren Wyatt, Engineer, Seattle, Washington

“This was one of the best CKOs of my career! I was impressed by the coordination and it was of course also a ton of fun. Most importantly though I’m inspired by the vision for the next 5 years and look forward to deepening our partnerships with our strategic customers. Orchestrating hundreds of thousands of agents and advisors to leverage multiple channels to get everyone behaving (and performing!) like the top reps are going to be transformational to Financial Services and I’m proud to be a part of it!” – Matt Haney, Sales, New York

“Social is a key element to any advisor based digital transformation. However, Social in a silo is not good enough. It has to be combined with outcomes sought and the necessary orchestration with other channels to optimize its value in the digital ecosystem. Rarely does a customer journey start on one channel and stay on that same channel to conclusion.” – Adrian Del Busso, Sales, West Coast

“Any successful CKO has to focus on 2 different fronts: aligning on corporate outcomes and objectives, and connecting the people. I appreciate we took the time to reflect back on our prior year for areas to be better, as well looked ahead on where we need to go to be successful. Bringing everyone together in a city like New Orleans made it extremely fluid to bond in a city conducive of fun and silliness, which is immensely important to fostering a strong corporate culture.” – Roger Liang, Partnerships, San Francisco

“As a new Hearsay employee, I cannot imagine a better opportunity to meet individuals from every part of the company.  The cross-pollination of ideas, personalities, and experiences gave me deep insights into the company as a whole and helped me better understand our shared goals.  Meeting everyone on neutral ground in a fun and historically-rich location was an operations masterstroke. CKO 2020 was an absolute blast!” – Daryl Benzel, Full Stack Developer, Seattle

“We had so much fun in the product and design team breakout. Not only did we build structures with spaghetti and marshmallows as a team building exercise, but we also spent time envisioning future Hearsay products, and brainstormed how to get there. It was an eye-opening collaborative session.” – Yingying Zhang, Product Design, Seattle

Now that we’ve spent a great week connecting, we are more energized than ever to provide the maximum value for our customers in 2020!

Join Us in Congratulating Clara Shih, the First Finovate Fintech Woman of the

We’re proud to announce that Clara Shih, Founder, CEO and fearless leader of the team here at Hearsay, was recently named the first Fintech Woman of the Year at the inaugural Finovate Awards. This award is presented to the woman whose achievements in the fintech-related areas of financial services have most enhanced the sector or raised its profile as a career for women – through education, leadership, mentoring, coaching or acting as a role model.

“Finovate has always aspired to highlight the accomplishments of the people and companies driving fintech forward. Our inaugural awards program takes this a step further by celebrating our industry’s brightest stars,” said Greg Palmer, VP of Finovate. “Clara Shih has led the charge of women in fintech since she burst onto the scene. Now she is helping to develop the next generation of leaders. We are delighted to honor her as a true role model.”

Known as a trailblazer throughout her career, Clara developed the first social business application in 2007 before penning the New York Times-featured best-seller, The Facebook Era. After founding Hearsay to provide innovative, compliant fintech solutions for advisors and agents, she authored a sequel, The Social Business Imperative.
If you’ve met Clara, you know she combines her expertise in social media with what she lives and breathes: Fintech. Clara has consistently prioritized mentoring others and at Hearsay specifically, she guides teams to empower one another through activities such as the monthly ‘Ladies of Product’ meetups. STEM education has also been an area of emphasis, from working with Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College, on the school’s STEM program, which now graduates among the highest number of female engineers in the country, to her involvement with Girls Inc, a national organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.
You will hear more from Clara in the coming weeks. She will be speaking at the upcoming FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit 2019, in Washington, DC. She’s on a panel discussing ‘The Art & Science of Board Composition,’ where her role on the Starbucks Board of Directors will provide a good perspective.
She’ll also be speaking at Dreamforce this year. Be on the look out for more details!

To view all of the Finovate Award winners, please visit

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

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

Alex Falls, Global VP of Product Management, Hearsay Systems

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

Get to Know Hearsay: Bryan Yeung, Director of Prototyping, Triggered Actions

Efficiency and innovation are the name of the game here in the Silicon Valley, and our Triggered Actions team at Hearsay is staying ahead of this trend for the financial services industry. In this employee spotlight, we wanted to introduce you to part of that team, Bryan Yeung, who’s helping to create a new era for agents and advisors. Get to know him here and find out more about the work he’s doing on our Triggered Actions team!

What is your role at Hearsay and how long have you been at the company?

I run rapid prototyping and solutioning for our newly formed Actions team. I began my career at Hearsay a year and a half ago on the sales team, in solutions consulting, and naturally progressed to the Actions team.

Why did you join Hearsay?

I joined Hearsay to build out our pre-sales functions, including optimizing the solutions consulting team, refining our product evaluation experience for customers, and advising/building our technical integrations across the revenue operations teams.
What I find notable about Hearsay is that concepts typically stand based on merit and not by their owner. I’ve had many ideas here replaced by better ones because they were well intentioned but not well informed. I subscribe to “Culture is what happens when no-one is looking.” When you see self-assembling teams critically vet their own thinking, as a manager it’s refreshing, as a participant it’s engaging, and as a shareholder it’s the only way your organization should scale.

What’s something that has surprised you about working with financial services institutions?

I think scale and reach. I spend a fair bit of time traveling across rural areas in the US, and many of our customers’ logos are found in all corners of this country. There aren’t many industries that have that type of reach, with that level of personal and local representation.

Where do you see Fintech heading?

I see an outsized opportunity to empower professionals to engage their clients in a relevant and material way.
I see an insurance agent with a view of their business through real-time updates, but – most importantly – the next most important items surfaced not for their rote execution, but for their professional judgement. I see a financial planner or wealth advisor with a path of possible outcomes for their clients, and clear methods for how to get them there.
Relevant and easily interpreted analyses surface at exactly the right time within the right context for easy implementation (one click in most cases). Risks are shown but, more importantly, the right pathways are automatically built to add the advisor or agent’s human expertise. Because implicit expertise and hidden wins are surfaced, bias can be positively addressed while improving outcomes for clients. This is a well placed use of our current technology and we can do this now.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I generally alternate between cooking, researching health and nutrition, spending time with family, and keeping our dog Jax from kitchen counter surfing.

What’s a skill you have that not many people know about?

I used to cook part time at a Japanese restaurant while also learning the pre-sales game.  Though spare time was fairly limited.

Greatest accomplishment to date and why?

A memorable event was a hiking race I completed, before endurance events became mainstream. Less than an hour in, we saw teams quitting. The first event of many was to figure out how to carry 100lbs of rocks, between two people for 6 miles…in addition to your 60ish pounds of gear each. In the 23 remaining hours, we slowly made it across the finish.

The case for listening to advisors & agents

Your digital program success depends on it

In reflecting on my recent article in FastCompany on the importance of listening to your customers, I can safely say that one of the best things I’ve done is to mandate that all Hearsay employees and new hires spend a day with our end users – your financial advisors and insurance agents.
As important as it is to meet the needs of social admins, compliance personnel and IT, the success or failure of your digital program ultimately depends on having a product that fits the current day-to-day processes of your advisors or agents. Your success hinges on improving their results at the same time as you make their lives easier.
Understanding how advisors and agents work, what their processes and pain points are isn’t information that’s easily gathered from a survey or while sitting around a conference table. It needs to be experienced on the ground, in the advisors natural environment. User experience designers call this “ethnographic research.” If an end user visits a lab or a tech company, she may answer questions differently than if she is in her office doing her actual everyday work. In a lab or on a survey, it’s also easier for technology product teams to ask leading questions and make assumptions. But when you visit your end user’s office and simply observe, many of those biases and assumptions quickly disappear.
One of my favorite examples is the day I spent with an employee in a local field office of one of our top insurance customers. Let’s call him Joe. Joe is precisely the type of person we designed our product for, as Hearsay looks to reinvent the client experience with compliant digital communications and workflow solutions. Since I could recite this customer’s corporate priorities and annual goals and thought I deeply understood their business, I expected this visit to be fairly routine. I would talk with a few people who’d ultimately validate what we already knew about serving their agents. But I was in for quite a surprise!
My time with Joe changed the trajectory of our products and approach to product development. We had developed a text messaging solution that we expected Joe to embrace; he couldn’t have cared less about it. Joe spent the entire day tracking down customers’ late bill payments through a painfully manual process consisting of spreadsheets, phone calls, voicemails, and Post-it Notes. Between dozens of call attempts, he shared that this was how he spent too much of his time. Our minds were blown.
This afternoon with Joe helped me and my engineering and product design teams realize that we were so heads-down refining our product based on feedback from the customer HQ offices that we were missing an opportunity to be so much more. We could deliver the type of innovation and value that changed workers’ lives.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not just me visiting your advisors and agents. Over the course of a year, every single Hearsay employee, from engineers and product teams to our accountants, support staff, and recruiters have had similar experiences sitting down with end users. It has been a huge investment in time and coordination, but incredibly high-return on investment. Our employees come back feeling inspired and viscerally understanding our company mission and opportunity. We’ve visited all types of advisors and agents – young advisors struggling to engage enough clients to build a viable business, experienced advisors wanting to do less as they wind down their careers, and everyone in between.
The conversations we have with end users have shifted from what they think of our product to the pain points they feel daily. The questions we ask aren’t, “What do you like and what’s hardest to use about our product?” They’re, “What do you like, what’s hardest about your job, and how can we help?”
Visits with agents like Joe have inspired our team to introduce several new products, to solve business challenges in processes like billing, claims, and lead management. We’ve also refined existing offerings to focus on actual tasks that our end users must get done each day.
“Spend the Day with an Advisor and Agent” continues to be an important program for our employees. Specific individual users and anecdotes are now always on our minds and come up in meetings when we debate trade-offs and prioritizations.
If you’re like many of our clients, you may have a rich, even resource-intensive advisor or agent adoption program (e.g., Charles Schwab, American Family Insurance). Programs like these focus on critical aspects of program success like education and training where the emphasis often falls primarily on sharing information with agents and advisors.
Now imagine if you expanded these programs to incorporate a ‘Spend the Day’ to see how agents and advisors worked with the tools and content you gave them. What if you built their feedback into the your quarterly reviews with Hearsay? How much more could we do together to improve the advisor/agent experience and make your digital program wildly successful?

Hearsay Cloud is now SOC 2 Certified: That’s an extra layer of data protection for your customers…

Today, virtually every website you visit is collecting various amounts of your data, with varying levels of security. And chances are good that within the last week or two, you either heard a news story or got a notice of a data breach.
Even in financial services where regulations enforced by FINRA and other agencies are strict, customer data is compromised far too often. Like every other industry, financial services firms store almost every bit of customer information online (i.e., in the cloud). The data gold mines that are wealth and asset management firms, insurance providers, and banks are a tempting target for hackers.

If you’re using Hearsay, your customer data just got safer. We recently underwent a SOC 2 audit by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and were awarded SOC 2 compliance. SOC 2 is one of the most common compliance requirements that technology companies need to meet today. It is specifically designed for service providers storing customer data in the cloud. While considered a technical audit, it goes beyond technology to establish strict information security policies and procedures for managing customer data based on five “trust service principles” – security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy. To be compliant, service providers must have clear, well-documented, proven strategies around all five of these topics.

Source: AICPA

Why does SOC 2 Compliance Matter to Hearsay?

If you’re in IT or have any experience in the world of infrastructure, you may know that SOC 2 compliance isn’t a requirement for SaaS and cloud computing vendors. Even most financial services clients require that vendors who store their customer data in the cloud either be SOC 2 compliant or “leverage a provider who is compliant”. Many providers do indeed rely on their IaaS or managed hosting provider – i.e., AWS, Google, Microsoft Azure – to meet the SOC 2 compliance requirement.
However, the SaaS and cloud computing companies who are truly serious about data protection know that simply meeting SOC 2 through leveraging AWS’ certification, for example, is no longer sufficient. With Hearsay’s SOC 2 certification, customers can be assured that Hearsay has end-to-end defined security controls across the entire organization, ensuring an extra layer of protection for your customer data.
As data security becomes an ever-increasing concern and attacks become more sophisticated, we believe this is crucial for every SaaS and cloud provider that does business with financial services companies. Handling customer data according to strict guidelines is at the forefront of our operations. It’s more than ticking a box – it’s a reflection of our commitment to building trusted client relationships.
If you’re going through a security review or doing pre-sales due diligence, we can share our own internal SOC 2 report – just ask.