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The Advisor of the Future: How to Stay Relevant in the Digital Age

HSS_AdvisorofTheFuture_instagram-01In episode 27, we discuss The Advisor of the Future: How to Stay Relevant in the Digital Age a new Executive Report released on February 19th, 2015 as part of our overall Predictive Social Suite campaign.  Nicole Johnson (@nicjohnmedia), and Victor Gaxiola (@VictorGaxiola) co-authors of the report sit down with Ronny Kerr (@RonnyKerr)  to discuss the changing landscape of financial services amid technological disruption, generational shifts, and the threat of robo-advisors.
Click to Download the Executive Report. 
We invite you to be part of the conversation on Twitter by using hashtag #HSonAir and/or #AdvisoroftheFuture for tweets around this new report. [relatedPosts]

Interview with Rohit Bhargava of the Influential Marketing Group

rohitbhargavaIn episode 26 we interview Rohit Bhargava (@RohitBhargava), founder of the Influential Marketing Group, trend curator, and expert in helping brands and leaders be more influential.  He is the author of five best selling books on topics as wide ranging as the future of healthcare, building a brand with personality, and why leaders never eat cauliflower. Rohit has advised hundreds of global brands and is a Professor of Marketing at Georgetown University.
Today, he joins us to share insight on his latest book “Non-Obvious: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas & Predict the Future”, now available on Amazon.com.  The book is fifth in a series exploring how to use the power of non-obvious thinking to grow your business and make a bigger impact in the world.  We think you’ll enjoy the entertaining insights Rohit provides and the lively conversation that follows.  Please join @VictorGaxiola and @RonnyKerr in the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #HSonAir.
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Will Financial Advisors Become Obsolete?

logoThe rise of automated investment services—“robo-advice” firms such as Betterment, FutureAdvisor and Wealthfront—has many advisors wondering if they will still have a client base in a decade. In the last two years alone, these firms have collectively raised over $82 million in venture capital and now reportedly have over $2 billion under management, primarily from millennial clients.
Although their recent exponential growth is impressive, and the threat they pose is real, they still represent a very small percentage of the overall wealth managed by traditional firms. That said, there has been long-standing fear and uncertainty in the financial industry about direct channels wiping out advisors. These fears are not limited to financial advice. The Second Machine Age, a powerful new book from MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, suggests that big data and automation are threatening jobs, not only in manufacturing, clerical and retail but also in professions such as law, education, medicine and, yes, financial services.
Read the rest of this post by Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih at FA Magazine.
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The Internet of things and other 2015 trends you need to know about

key15As a special holiday treat, eMarketer is sharing a complimentary report entitled Key Digital Trends for 2015.
The report is broken up into three distinct sections. First, it describes the the five key trends in consumer behavior and technology adoption that every marketer needs to know about. Next, it delves into five buzzy technologies that could possibly gain traction in 2015, but are still unproven. Finally, it plainly calls out the areas that “are more hot air than hard reality.”
Here’s a brief outline of the findings:

Five key things you need to know about 2015

  1. ‘Responsiveness’ will rule
  2. Mobile search will surpass desktop
  3. Programmatic will move beyond digital display
  4. The Internet of things will become a thing
  5. Cross-device targeting at scale

Five things that might get big (but might not)

  1. Wearables: not quite ready to wear
  2. Mobile payments? Wait until next year
  3. New life for social commerce
  4. Will content marketing sputter?
  5. Cord-cutting: still more hype than reality

Five things you won’t need to worry about

  1. The desktop
  2. QR codes: not the next big thing
  3. Social TV: the conversation is pretty quiet
  4. Baby boomers: going bust
  5. Privacy? Security? Yawn.

Learn more by downloading the full report and exploring additional resources below.
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Interview with Stephanie Sammons of Wired Advisor: #HSonAir Episode 18

sammonsIn episode 18 of Hearsay Social On the Air we invite Stephanie Sammons (CEO and Founder of WiredAdvisor.com@StephSammons) to discuss the state of social business and digital technologies in financial services. We also explore how Stephanie as a writer, speaker, and podcaster is helping individuals and businesses thrive in their use of social media to grow their influence and connect with clients.
Be part of the conversation with @VictorGaxiola and @ronnykerr on Twitter using hashtag #HSonAir.
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Disrupting the buyer journey at the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit

Digital Marketing SummitLast week we participated in the first Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit held in New York. Although the organization has held successful events in Canada, this was the first time it had brought the Summit to the U.S. as well as the first time that Hearsay Social participated as a sponsor.
The two-day event focused on challenges, opportunities and trends facing marketing professionals in financial services. Attendees representing wealth management, asset management, banking and insurance heard from industry thought leaders, influencers, and their peers in a number of sessions covering everything from 2015 trends to social media to gamification. Zeroing in on the marketer’s experience, the Summit brought to light the value of digital technologies to promote the brand and build awareness. Compared to other conferences I’ve attended, I found the conversations and themes more macro and strategic than tactical and field oriented.
Here were some of the main themes from the Summit:

Disruption

The key word of 2014 and this summit was disruption. It’s become clear to marketers today that the increased volume of potential marketing channels is challenging the way brands position their products and services to address their market. With the increasing number of mediums, cutting through the clutter of white noise is getting more and more difficult, and attracting consumer attention is requiring more creative approaches.
In his presentation, “Blending Heritage and Innovation,” Bryan VanDyke (Executive Director, Head of Digital Strategy, Morgan Stanley) shared that digital disruption shows no sign of slowing, affecting everything from how we buy travel and pay our bills to how we consume media (newspapers, music, movies, and television). The financial services industry will not be immune to these digital disruptions and are being challenged to adapt.  He suggested that firms consider adjusting by providing the following:

  1. Global presence: Be everywhere, always on, on all devices, service all needs.
  2. Be personal: Be relevant, actionable, and clear respective of your audience.
  3. Be insightful: Be thoughtful, holistic, visual and easy to grasp.
Hearsay Social booth at Digital Marketing Summit
Michael Gardineer manning the Hearsay Social booth at the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit

Digital is not just about technology

Digital is not just about technology because it’s more importantly about building connections with your customers. Firms getting caught up in technology challenges are overlooking the value in establishing a strong strategy first and then proceeding with a methodical approach that’s aimed at strengthening relationships.
In his presentation, “Strategy Considerations for Digital Marketing Transformation and Innovation in Financial Services,” Bill Barrett (Managing Director and Global Head of Digital Marketing, BNY Mellon) challenged participants to be disciplined in their digital adoption, and suggested 10 tips to follow:

  1. Develop an achievable strategy
  2. Ensure executive sponsorship
  3. Socialize with key internal stakeholders
  4. Seek out advocates in all areas of the company
  5. Listen to your audience
  6. Start from scratch if necessary
  7. Avoid “design by committee”
  8. Don’t believe everything you hear
  9. Don’t take on too much at once
  10. Keep experimenting

In essence, Bill provided a blueprint for the process marketing teams should follow when carefully adopting digital strategy: note, for example, that he specifically says in step one to develop an achievable strategy, taking into account the challenges an organization may have at the onset wanting to tackle too much at once.
Bill also reinforced how marketing teams must be mindful that their strategy needs to be flexible and nimble in order to adapt to changes recommended by consumers and internal stakeholders. If your brand is everywhere, especially in the minds of your consumers, you might as well take advantage of that by listening to their feedback and experimenting.

Alicianne RandThe buyer journey

Consumer buying behaviors are changing, and the products and services they buy are being influenced more and more by marketing and front of the funnel activities. In her presentation, “Content Marketing for Financial Brands as Publishers,” Alicianne Rand (VP Marketing, NewsCred, @aliciannerand) shared how content is core to who we are and how we live our lives. On average, we are exposed to 5,000 marketing messages every day, and we are being conditioned to tune out the noise. When you consider that only 0.01% of banner ads are ever clicked and 85% of TV ads go unwatched, how can you compete for the attention of consumers?
The fact is we choose what matters and is relevant to our lives, and today 70% of B2C and B2B purchase decisions are made before a buyer even speaks with a sales representative, according to Alicianne. As a result marketing departments are taking on more responsibility and accountability in the buying journey than ever before.
To cut through the noise, marketing departments must modify their approach with social media and other scalable digital technologies to personalize the experience and make the content more relevant to the individual consumer. Alicianne suggested that we challenge the old way of doing things with a new approach:

  1. From brand-led to value-driven: It’s all about consumers’ needs and the value proposition the brand can provide. Don’t constantly talk about who your company is and why it matters; instead position your products and services around the challenges they solve and the time or money it saves.
  2. From ad campaigns to always-on brand newsrooms: The 24/7 digital cycle is forcing brands to let go of traditional campaigns and instead leave the digital door open at all times. This is especially true for global brands that have consumers in every time zone. Social is always on, so having a presence isn’t enough if you don’t have the resources to support the ongoing conversation that is taking place. Airlines have been some of the fastest to adapt to their global customer needs both in availability and support in real-time
  3. From demographics and target audiences to the individual: Access to big data and insight data is making it easy for the brand message to be personalized to the individual needs of consumers as opposed to the general messaging to a single demographic. Targeted digital advertising platforms such as Facebook Ads has made this process much easier leveraging the data users provide to provide a more laser-focused delivery.

To conclude, we are undergoing a digital transformation that is affecting how we market and position the value that brands add to the market and to individual consumers. This is forcing brands to question their traditional methods and embrace the opportunities that digital technologies provide to connect with the right customer, at the right time, with the right message.
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In France, Hearsay Social & Efma bring banks and insurance firms up to speed on social business

Lire ce texte en français.

“You can use social media to turn strangers into friends, friends into customers, and customers into salespeople.” — Seth Godin, author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker

HSS_France-01Earlier this month, Hearsay Social and our associate partner Efma organised a roundtable breakfast event, bringing together leading professionals from the banking and insurance sectors to discuss the latest successes and growing stakes in social media.
With digitalisation becoming a top priority for businesses, the meeting’s aim was to discuss the best ways to assist brokers, salespeople and advisers in optimizing and developing their networks and social network activities.
In a welcoming and original venue, the Atelier du France on the bank of the river Seine, guests exchanged ideas on the digitalisation stakes in their sectors, whilst enjoying a sun-filled view over the water.
The participants, who were grouped around tables named after the most popular social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc.), started by discussing a couple open questions: “How can social media help your organization increase their activity and what are the potential challenges?”
Here were some of the best answers:

  • Organisations need to understand the behavioural changes brought about by social media if they are going to take advantage of these platforms. For example, they must be more transparent, prepared to engage with other social users, ready to accept they will have less control than they are used to with other marketing channels and willing to understand how to utilise big data.
  • There is a necessity to train advisers and brokers in the use of social networks.
  • Marketing teams also need to expand their skillsets, particularly when it comes to content marketing.
  • Assessments must be made to fully understand the long-term investment requirements and potential ROI of any social media project.

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Olivier Maire (Sales Director France, Hearsay Social, @olivier_maire) also introduced representatives from two of our client companies, BNP Paribas Wealth Management and Allianz France:
Thierry Derungs (Chief Digital Officer of Monde chez BNP Paribas Wealth Management, @ThierryDerungs) presented on his organisation’s digital strategy. He explained how it was first undertaken two years ago and how it has since been integrated into the organisation’s core strategy:

  • Key takeaway: studies show that 68% of clients which leave do so because they feel that they are not looked after; social networks are therefore essential to strengthen relationships.
  • Challenges:
    – Fostering ‘management change’ inside the company, and convincing the board of importance of social networks.
    – Adapting digital communication to international markets in a coherent way.
  • Putting the plan into practice:
    – Creation of a ‘Lab’ that gives employees the chance to experiment with new channels.
    – Setting up an information sharing network between countries, to avoid content duplication and to ensure local production according to local expertise.
    – Common charters and instruction kits for every country.
    – Launch of a Relationship Manager pilot scheme with individual presence on networks.

Karine Lazimi (Digital Experiments Manager at Allianz France, @karinelazimi) presented the origins of digital client relations at Allianz: how the firm had developed alongside its clients by adapting its network of brokers and advisers to the use of social networks:

  • Key takeaway: the client forms a relationship with a broker/adviser, with whom he/she is likely to connect on networks.
  • Challenges:
    – Making brokers/advisers and managers aware of today’s transformation in client relationships, and educating them in the use of social networks.
    – Necessity to ensure brand integrity on social networks, whilst accepting less than full control.
    – Time taken to train brokers, assessors, etc.
  • Putting the plan into practice:
    – October/November 2013: kick-off with a few brokers
    – December 2013: training of assessors
    – April 2014: acceleration of plan and more voluntary brokers
    – June 2014: training of a group of extra brokers
    – September 2014: LinkedIn launch with financial advisers
    – October 2014: Allianz strengthen their presence on social networks: increasing the number of agents on Facebook thanks to the support of Hearsay Social solution

Next, Olivier Maire explained the four key stages to success for sales platforms on social media:

  1. Be findable
  2. Grow your network
  3. Do your research
  4. Establish your credibility

Olivier underlined the fact that a presence on social networks should not alter the relationship manager’s role, which has always been to build up a loyal client base that will provide positive recommendations to others. The networks are simply a means of operating on a large scale, in an ‘industrial’ way. This approach has three benefits:

  • More client contact: advisers multiply the number of people they can keep in contact with
  • More recommendations: a satisfied client shares his/her opinions with friends, family and personal contacts
  • More leads: 10-20% increase in new business

The session finished with a Q&A session linked to the participants’ debates on the importance of social networks for boosting their sales. Also discussed were the benefits for clients in being voluntarily connected to his/her adviser and the privacy issues around networks such as Facebook.
All participants expressed a real interest in the digitalisation of their organisations. At the same time, they voiced their doubts and queries, whilst confirming the obvious benefits of social network tools. To make the event more fun, prizes were presented to the person who had most tweeted using hashtag #HSParis2014 during the session, to the first to ask a question, and to a lucky winner whose business card was drawn out of a hat.
The morning in tweets:
https://twitter.com/Mathew9/status/530274860363440128


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For wealth managers in Asia-Pacific, digital, mobile, and social will be crucial to meeting client expectations

The same trends driving rapid adoption of mobile and social technologies in North America and Europe are not only playing a role in Asia-Pacific as well, but they’re actually even more impactful there.
Asia-Pacific Wealth Report 2014
For example, 82% of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) expect most or all of their wealth management relationship to be conducted through digital channels in five years, in contrast to 61% of HNWIs in the rest of the world, according to the Asia-Pacific Wealth Report 2014 recently released by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management. Not only that, but the study found that Asia-Pacific HNWIs across all ages and wealth levels will increasingly demand mobile and social technologies for interacting with wealth managers.
According to Jean Lassignardie (Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Capgemini Global Financial Services, @jlassig):

“The risk of not getting digital right is high for wealth management firms in Asia-Pacific, as its high net worth individuals are distinguishing themselves as more digitally-minded than their peers in the rest of the world. Asia-Pacific wealth management firms will need to offer a deep, multi-channel experience that takes into account regional variations in order to meet these high expectations.”

Of course, social media is especially crucial to the younger generation. Over half of Asia-Pacific HNWIs under the age of 40 indicate social media as an important channel for their wealth management relationship. The Asia-Pacific wealth manager should share that perspective, especially since Asia-Pacific HNWIs are already openly sharing information about themselves on social networks, which will be a useful resource for the digital-savvy financial professional.
To further explore Asia-Pacific’s wealth management climate and how the digital movement will play a part, download the free 52-page Asia-Pacific Wealth Report 2014.
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Research: Financial advisors improve client retention and increase AUM with digital and social tools

Digital Wealth Management researchAt Hearsay Social, one of the most frequent questions we hear from the financial services industry is this: “What is the ROI of social media?”
Depending on who you ask, there are a few answers. What we’ve seen is that social media ROI is largely qualitative, with a social media presence alone resulting in new business or better relationships with existing clients. Additionally, the ROI for each firm will depend on the goals associated with that firm’s particular social strategy. For many firms, the first measure was growth, connectivity, and having a compliant social presence with little to no infractions.
Beyond that, however, we’ve heard countless anecdotes directly from financial advisors attributing increased business to their use of social media. Backing up these anecdotes, Accenture recently published a report entitled Reimagining Wealth Management for the Digital Age, which explores not only how digital technologies and social media are changing the wealth management industry, but also what results have been seen.
Here are a few of the best results:

  • Over half of financial advisors have found and/or converted clients via digital channels
  • 77% of financial advisors have improved client retention via digital/social tools
  • 74% of financial advisors have increased assets under management (AUM) via digital/social tools

Besides these and other eye-opening statistics, Accenture’s 20-page report analyzes how digital technologies and the new “digital generation” have disrupted traditional ways of doing business in the wealth management industry. Near the report’s conclusion, the consulting firm offers three essential components that will help financial firms, advisors, and their clients find success in the new digital era:

  1. Empowerment: of both client and advisor, building trust by making clients better informed
  2. Engagement: to enable a more collaborative relationship between client and advisor
  3. Agility: of both mindset and business model, to adjust rapidly to the speed of change

To learn more, download the full Accenture report here.
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Ignore, innovate or die: A new era for financial services firms and advisors

At the recent LIMRA Annual conference, innovation and opportunity took center stage. The theme of this year’s conference was “The Leadership Challenge: Connecting in a Distracted World,” highlighting for executive-level conference attendees the importance of evolving their firms to grow their business in today’s digital era.

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Left to right: Joe Monk (State Farm), Rand Harbert (State Farm), Bob Kerzner (LIMRA), Clara Shih (Hearsay Social), Michael Lock (Hearsay Social), Scott Davison (OneAmerica), Rino D’Onofrio (RBC Insurance), and Kenny Massey (Modern Woodmen).

Presenting at the conference were industry speakers and moderators including Scott Davison (President and CEO, OneAmerica), Joe Monk (chief administrative officer, State Farm Life), Bob Kerzner (President and CEO, LIMRA, LOMA and LL Global, Inc.), Kenny Massey (President and CEO, Modern Woodmen of America), Deanna Mulligan (President and CEO, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America), William Wheeler (President, Americas, MetLife), and Larry Zimpleman (Chairman, President, and CEO, Principal Financial Group), as well as external speakers including Lou Gerstner (former Chairman and CEO, IBM Corporation), Clara Shih (Founder and CEO, Hearsay Social), David Plouffe (SVP for Policy and Strategy, Uber), Don Yaeger (President, Greatness), and Jason Dorsey (The Gen Y Guy, The Center for Generational Kinetics).
Speakers focused on a few key consistent themes throughout the conference:

Adapting to changing demographics

One trend that fueled the topic of change was Millennials. According to LIMRA studies, 37% of Gen Y are unemployed, marrying later, and less likely to trust firms and individuals. In spite of all that, Millennials are more likely to buy life insurance than any other generation. They represent 80 million individuals spending $1 trillion in the US alone, 70% of whom want to learn more about financial education.
Conference speakers such as Bob Kurzner, David Ploufe and Jason Dorsey recognized that this segment of consumers represents a huge opportunity for financial services firms – especially their advisors, but that Millennials are going to buy differently than Boomers.

Adapting to the new buyer journey

Reaching Millennials will require very different methods than past tactics of “smiling and dialing.” For example, Millennials will decide to refer individuals and professionals they trust based on their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. In addition, Millennials consider phone calls an invasion of privacy, preferring engagement via text, email (only reading the subject line, of course), and social media.


Millennial buying drivers also differ, requiring financial education about different topics than their parents. According to Deanna Mulligan of Guardian Life, Millennials seek a secure platform for paying off loans and/or taking care of parents as opposed to buying a home and saving for the college education of their kids – more traditional priorities from the past.

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Left to right: Bob Kerzner (LIMRA), Deanna Mulligan (Guardian Life), William Wheeler (MetLife), and Larry Zimpleman (Principal Financial Group).

The implication is that advisors need to adapt to consumer changes – both in how they engage and where they engage.

Adapting to technology

With the rapid emergence of cloud technology, mobile devices, and social media over the past several years, consumers – and not just Millennials – now expect different things from businesses. The conference highlighted key technologies that require advisors to adapt to stay relevant in the digital era:

Social media, mobile, & big data

Kicking off the conference, Bob Kerzner highlighted how industry firms need to enable agents to be authentic and engage as individuals, not as brands, especially since the financial services industry is among the least trusted industry (per a recent Gallup survey). Deanna Mulligan also said that social media is required to be where clients are and that social media is key to engaging with clients. Larry Zimpleman agreed and offered that, for the middle and upper income clients, there are primarily two locations to reach potential retail clients: in the workplace and on social media.


The good news is that, based on a LIMRA study earlier this year, 93% of life insurance companies now have social media programs in place vs. 55% in 2010. 70% of surveyed life insurance firms now have a social business program for their advisors.


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Clara with Kenny Massey (Modern Woodmen) on the main stage at LIMRA Annual.

Clara Shih, in her presentation, “The Future of Distribution and Marketing – Staying Relevant in the Digital Era”, discussed how today’s consumers and customers have vastly different client expectations than those from the past. This has primarily been driven over the past five years by rapid growth of technology acceptance, from the Internet to mobile devices to social media. This expectation isn’t driven by competitors in the financial services industry, but rather by the likes of Amazon, Starbucks and Uber.
Clara also highlighted for the audience how social media addresses three key challenges that the Life Insurance industry faces today, including (1) changing client expectations, (2) an aging agent force coupled with the generational gap between agent and new clients, and (3) an outdated distribution model that needs to increase productivity at scale.
Finally, Clara challenged the leadership in the room to innovate beyond social within their firms, revealing the opportunity to enable a true omni-channel experience for clients as well as the opportunity to leverage technology for information discovery, data mining, and informed interactions to simplify the customer experience from signing up to underwriting to customer service.
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Clara with Kenny Massey (Modern Woodmen) on the main stage at LIMRA Annual.

With today’s big data & predictive analytics technology being more business-friendly along with the right models and data specialists, the industry has the opportunity to apply behavioral economics and data mining to better understand their clients.
In closing, Shih offered three final actions that leaders can take to lead their organizations for success in the digital age:

  1. Commit as management
  2. Incorporate into business process – training, prospecting, etc.
  3. Let early adopters do the talking

Like other industries, the financial services and insurance industry has three choices: ignore these trends and opportunities, innovate, or die. Clearly, the sentiment during and after the conference was that life insurance companies must embrace technology, adapt and integrate this into their training and internal processes, and enable their advisors to engage their clients at scale through technology, strong leadership, and innovation partners.
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