Skip to content

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.

Copy of DSC_2776
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.

Copy of DSC_2668
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.


photo 2 (3)
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.
Copy of DSC_2758
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.
[relatedPosts]

Peter Thiel, Padmasree Warrior, Drew Houston, Clara Shih and other tech leaders center stage at Web Summit

u1Md_RDLIn Dublin for Web Summit next week?
Hearsay Social Social CEO Clara Shih (@clarashih) will be joining the technology industry’s most influential leaders–including Peter Thiel (Founder, Founders Fund, @peterthiel), Padmasree Warrior (Chief Technology & Strategy Officer, Cisco, @padmasree), Drew Houston (Founder, Dropbox, @drewhouston), and many more–for three days of discussions around innovation, marketing, machines, and the enterprise.
Here are some others that will be speaking:

Web Summit speakers

If you’re attending the Summit, you can see Clara speak in two separate sessions on Wednesday, November 5th:

  • At 10:15 AM on the Marketing Stage, Clara will be interviewed one-on-one by Martin Bryant (Editor-in-Chief, The Next Web, @MartinSFP).
  • At 11:45 AM, look for Clara on the Centre Stage, as she will be featured on a panel with Darian Shirazi (Founder and CEO, Radius, @darian314) and Tom Cheshire (Technology Correspondent, Sky News, @tomcheshiresky).

In both sessions, Clara will share background on Hearsay Social and the company’s growth trajectory in Europe, insights into entrepreneurship and women in technology, as well as her perspective on the growing importance of social media and technology at the executive and board level.
See you there!
[relatedPosts]

Disrupting financial services: Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih presents at Tiburon CEO Summit XXVI

“Financial services (and particularly asset & wealth management) [are] beginning to be disrupted much like retail, publishing, journalism, music, & travel industries.”

While specific discussions were off the record, this was the #1 high-level trend addressed at this year’s Tiburon CEO Summit XXVI, an executive event that brought together the leaders in financial services and technology to discuss the industry’s most important topics.
tiburon
Hearsay Social’s very own CEO Clara Shih joined executives from across the financial services industry, including Mark Casady (CEO, LPL Financial), Mary Mack (President, Wells Fargo Advisors), Jeff Saut (Chief Investment Strategist, Raymond James & Associates), Jon Stern (Managing Director, Berkshire Capital), and Bill Van Law (President, Investment Advisors Division, Raymond James Financial), onstage to tackle many of these topics and trends.

IMG_1521
From left to right: Personal Capital Corporation CEO Bill Harris, LearnVest CEO Alexa von Tobel, Betterment CEO Jon Stein and Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih sharing insights at the Tiburon CEO Summit XXVI.

Clara provided a contrarian “pro-advisor” view amidst an interesting panel of mainly “robo-advice” entrepreneurs Bill Harris (CEO, Personal Capital), Jon Stein (CEO, Betterment), and Alexa von Tobel (CEO, LearnVest). Afterward, industry leaders Mark Casady (CEO, LPL Financial), Mary Mack (President, Wells Fargo Advisors), Scott Curtis (President, Raymond James Financial Services), and Mark Tibergien (CEO, Pershing Advisor Solutions) validated the importance of technology in keeping up with ever-changing client expectations as well as being able to recruit and retain the next generation of advisors.
In fact, this was the second most important underlying trend discussed, on a list of 50 trends shared by Tiburon: technology powers the future of financial services. From products to channels to digital marketing and social media, technology is changing how asset and wealth managers engage with both current and prospective clients. 
Among the hundreds of financial and technology leaders in attendance, it was refreshing to see the industry’s commitment to embracing new technologies and innovations in order to move business forward.