Four years ago, Steve and I set out on a mission to bring Social Business to relationship managers. We felt Social Business could bring us back to what the industry has always been about: listening to people, understanding their dreams, and guiding their most important and impactful decisions regarding the future.
Today, we are proud to partner with people like you, and I’m excited to share that as of this week, we now power over 90,000 financial professionals on Hearsay Social in 15 countries. In addition, the company has grown over 90% year-over-year with a nearly 100% customer renewal rate.
To our newest customers – including Scotiabank, Mutual of Omaha, Vanguard, New York Life – a heartfelt welcome from the entire Hearsay Social team. To our long-standing customers, thanks for believing in us and growing with us as Social Business continues to rapidly evolve.
This year’s presenters shared more real life success stories and tangible strategies than ever before. In particular, there was a heavier focus on successful use of social media by agents and advisors in the field.
Here are the some of the key topics covered throughout the conference:
Advisor use of social media
In contrast to prior years, where it seemed the conference was primarily focused on brand or corporate use of social media, this year’s conference was much more focused on how advisors in the field successfully leverage social business practices.
MassMutual, New York Life, Sun Life Financial, Guardian Life, and other organizations shared stories of how advisors successfully leveraged social media to maintain customer relationships and grow business. Even Zuckerberg Media founder and CEO Randi Zuckerberg (@randizuckerberg), who focused on social media trends, provided some best-practice examples of advisors using Facebook to connect directly with their customers.
One standout session was a panel discussion, “Winning as a Team @ MassMutual,” moderated by Hearsay Social’s Customer Advocacy Manager, Victor Gaxiola (@victorgaxiola).
In a lively discussion, the cross-functional team from Mass Mutual, including Kathleen Mayko (Director, Brand Marketing, Life Company Marketing, @kathleen_mayko), Doug Morrin (Assistant Vice President & Counsel, Law Department, @DougMorrin), and Corina Roy (Assistant Vice President, Field Digital, Life Company Marketing, @corinaroy), shared the evolution of their social media program.
In a round robin format, Corina shared how MassMutual has mobilized its field force to embrace social technology to connect with prospects and clients, and Kathleen covered the brand perspective. Both expanded on the the need for interdepartmental collaboration and communication to meet the challenges of adoption early on and through the life of the program.
Victor categorized the challenge facing the industry well: “Social media in financial services is a revolution at an evolutionary pace.”
Representing the legal perspective, Doug was a refreshing surprise illustrating MassMutual’s progressive approach to social media understanding and adoption. He spoke about how he became knowledgeable about social media by actually creating his own social media accounts and using them. (A great tip for other legal and compliance professionals who are looking to better understand the technology.)
ATTN: Attorneys & compliance officers! Follow @DougMorrin's lead and signup for social media accts. Learn the networks. #LLSMC
Mobile and social media have always gone hand-in-hand, but this year the mobile conversation was front and center. There was some mention of mobile strategy in almost every presentation.
Randi Zuckerberg, for example, discussed a number of mobile trends. “People want to get everything within one click on their phone,” she said, sharing examples of mobile consumer applications such as Uber and asking, “so how do you give your clients what they need?” A few of the mobile applications from insurance companies that she shared were The Liberty Mutual Home Gallery, Progressive Art app, and MetLife Infinity.
There seems to be general consensus that the way people digest information has changed, and therefore firms and relationship managers need to connect with customers, employees, and investors through mobile channels. In their “Social E-Motion” session, Aaron Brickman, Adam Sherman, and Louis Cardello (senior associates at New York Life), shared the statistic that cold calls are ineffective 97% of the time, highlighting the need for other ways to connect with customers and prospects.
As the industry’s use of social media matures, it is only natural that financial services organizations become more sophisticated with their social business programs. Particularly apparent at this year’s LIMRA conference was the number of success stories concerning fully integrated campaigns across other digital channels, in-person activities, and mobile.
In his session “Plan for the Moment – Twitter and Financial Services Partner,” Dan Greenberg (Senior Account Manager, Twitter, @dangb) shared some impressive examples of integration with Twitter marketing programs, live events and TV broadcasts. Dan highlighted a successful campaign that New York Life ran encouraging customers to share stories.
The core day of the LIMRA event concluded with the “Silver Bowl Awards” hosted by Michael Lock (President & COO, Hearsay Social, @michaelhlock) and James Kerley (Chief Member Officer, LIMRA/LOMA). With this second-annual installation of these awards, the conference attendees had a chance to look back at each other’s successes over the past year and learn from some truly creative campaigns.
Celebrating innovation, technology and social business, Hearsay Social last week hosted its second annual Social Business Innovation Summit in San Francisco, bringing together executives and thought leaders from across the financial services and technology industries.
In attendance were CEOs, heads of sales and distribution, CMOs, and compliance officers, who packed Dogpatch Studios on Thursday morning to network, learn and understand the trends and themes that are guiding how people buy products and services as well as the opportunities and challenges driving financial firms to adapt.
Inspired by the rapid-fire, rousing talks given at TED conferences, the Summit provided those in attendance–and anyone following our Twitter hashtag #SBIS14–a front row seat into the future of technology and innovation and how businesses will survive and thrive.
See below for photos, tweets, and four key takeaways from the Summit.
Social media is about enhancing human capital, not replacing it
Kicking off the Summit, Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih (@clarashih) shared how client expectations are changing, and technology is altering how consumers make buying decisions. Online sources today are key influencers in each purchase and consumers are conditioned to expect personalized service and an ability to communicate with brand on their own terms and with their own devices.
Faced with an aging advisor population, the firms of tomorrow need to prepare to serve the next generation of investors and provide the tools to recruit the talent that will serve them. Technology scales and offers the ability to serve those previously unreachable, as it challenges and redefines existing models.
Client expectations are changing, and technology is altering how consumers make buying decisions. Online sources today are key influencers in purchases. Additionally, consumers are conditioned to expect personalized service and an ability to communicate with brands on their own terms, with their own devices, through their own channels.
Chris Andrews (Managing Director, Northwestern Mutual) and Karen Kehr (Financial Advisor, Ameriprise Financial) shared how they are using social media to grow, maintain and serve their base of clients in this new climate. Key to their success was the realization that many of their clients were already using social media platforms to network and connect. A personal and professional presence was a natural extension of their existing platform use, allowing them to convert friends into clients and find new opportunities through organic referrals.
Establish a culture of innovation
Founded in 1847 in Philadelphia, Penn Mutual has seen its share of changes, and according to Eileen McDonnell (Chairman, President & CEO, Penn Mutual), the industry is in crisis. By the year 2020, over half of the workforce will be comprised of millennials, and financial institutions need to find a way to connect and add value to these consumers. The changing face of insurance means that firms need to broaden their reach to capture new talent, especially women and millennials.
This means firms need to employ tactical initiatives to address the change by choosing the right partners, embracing innovation, and stop making excuses.
“It’s not an either/or situation. People retreat to what is comfortable to them. It will tweak…but I do believe that there will be a next generation of advisor force that will operate very differently, and they will need to co-exist.” — Eileen McDonnell, Penn Mutual
Although Eileen admits that not everyone will be open to change, the next decade will show us new producers, as well as established ones co-existing to serve the market.
Set the vision, empower the team, and keep moving forward – solid advice from Eileen McDonnell on keeping up w/the times #SBIS14
On the advisor panel, Karen Kehr shared how she uses Facebook and LinkedIn to build brand awareness and connect with the multi-generational clients she serves. Through social media, she is able to connect on a personal basis with clients, getting to know their kids and grandkids, which makes the transition to new relationships and business easy.
Chris had a similar experience: recognizing that the financial services business is about high trust relationships, he understood that the ability to relate and share in similar circles makes it easier to grow a book of business based on commonality. Long gone are the days of using the phone to connect with new prospects and expect any kind of exchange, especially when people are avoiding their phones or not using them at all.
“The old models of calling people worked in the 1950s. The 40-calls-a-day model is now broken. There is a lot of power in social, lots of information, and we need to keep it personal.” — Chris Andrews, Northwestern Mutual
Social doesn’t just help grow new business, but it also helps retain existing business. People will continue to work with advisors they trust and can relate to, and social makes it easier for people to understand who you are on a personal and professional level. It reduces the intimidation that one may feel working with a financial professional and makes clients feel comfortable and connected.
The dial-and-smile mentality is broken and no longer addresses how clients are making buying decisions. Karen concluded: “If you don’t have a presence, you don’t count.”
Joe Fernandez (CEO and founder of Klout, @JoeFernandez), whose software measures social influence and explores how people buy products and services, expanded on this idea during his presentation.
People today don’t pay attention to ads or billboards like they used to, and consumers are using information from peers to differentiate and select products. We listen to our friends, not brands.
“84% of millennial say user-generated content influences what they buy.” — Joe Fernandez, Klout
The leverage and reach provided by social media has increased the power consumers have over brands to influence the perception of products and services. In the post-advertising world, we only care what our friends say, and the power shifts back to consumers. If you don’t recognize the power of the people, you are missing an opportunity.
As an example of one platform that empowers both individuals and brands, Ralf VonSosen (Head of Marketing for Sales Solutions from LinkedIn, @rvonsosen) shared how LinkedIn is helping professionals connect with current and prospective clients, making them more productive and successful.
In total, LinkedIn has over 300 million global members representing 300,000 jobs and billions of updates on a daily basis. They have built their platform to focus on three main areas:
Identity: The resume is not as important as it once was when you can now use a digital resume that brings to life your professional background and the ability to create an online brand.
Networks: LinkedIn continues to expand the growth of the network and talent pool available on a global basis.
Knowledge: LinkedIn is quickly expanding as the definitive professional publishing platform, as evidenced by its acquisition of SlideShare, the growth of Groups and Pulse, and the expansion of its Influencer program.
At a high level, LinkedIn continues to define the role it plays in providing value to its members and continues to develop the platform to serve as an Economic Graph–a digital representation of the economy by connecting talent with opportunity at a massive scale and creating a capital of talent.
“The vision is to digitize this and then leverage this capital to where it can be more productive.” — Ralf VonSosen, LinkedIn
For users, this can only increase the value that LinkedIn provides its members, whether they are looking for job, a connection or new talent.
Resist naysayers and embrace disruption
Tapping into its Silicon Valley network, Hearsay Social was proud to present a unique panel of entrepreneurs–Bill Ready (CEO, Braintree, @williamready), Aaron Vermut (CEO, Prosper, @vermooti), and Bo Lu (CEO and founder, FutureAdvisor, @bolu)–who joined the Summit to share their views on entrepreneurship, technology trends in financial services, and how to succeed in the digital era. The panel was moderated by Amir Efrati (Senior Reporter, The Information, @amir).
Although each business is focused on a unique value proposition, they each share a common theme: disruption.
Whether it’s addressing the underserved masses with financial advisory services, micro-lending opportunities or new payment options, each company is challenging existing business models with ones that are meant to improve efficiencies and client experiences.
This is not unlike what social media is doing in financial services. It would be easy for advisors and firms to ignore the benefits of social media and hide behind the excuse of regulatory or compliance concerns. As the panel of entrepreneurs pointed out, however, the changing consumer base is wired differently, and technology is making it easier to disrupt existing systems that have yet to evolve, echoing some of the same sentiments shared by Joe Fernandez of Klout and Chris Andrews from Northwestern Mutual.
John Taft (CEO of RBC Wealth Management — US) provided a different perspective on the disruptive challenge these new companies are creating. Like Eileen before him, John recognizes that the next generation investor’s mindset is different and that more established brick and mortar businesses need to adapt to serve this new consumer. But it won’t happen overnight. And not all consumers are the same.
Financial services continues to be a high trust, high touch business that demands a personal relationship. The average age of clients is in the mid-50s and their advisors are about the same. Businesses have been built around the trust that advisors gain through personal connections established at local golf clubs, associations and common interest groups. RBC Wealth Management – US, although progressive in its approach to social, is not looking to address the unseen client market. That being said, they are looking to explore the effect that digital technology is having on wealth management.
People want to support businesses whose principles align with their own. — John Taft of @RBC#SBIS14
John challenged the notion that younger generations don’t like or use the phone because it’s really a matter of where you are in your life cycle. Life gets more complicated as you age, as do your needs. Professional advice is a premium and, the more complicated your life gets, the greater the need to have someone help you navigate through the tough decisions.
To this end, technology is both part of the problem and the solution. Although consumers today have access to more information and are perhaps more confident to make decisions on their own, it’s still a relationship business. Social media provides the avenue for shared values and ideas that ultimately make it easier for people to select the financial professional who is right for them.
Bryan Schreier (General Partner at Sequoia Capital, @schreier) agrees with John that Generation Y is unlikely to abandon their phones once their lives get more complicated.
Sequoia Capital spends a lot of time listening to college-aged consumers. What they’ve discovered is that this generation has a “lean back” mentality and prefers to see things in their social streams. They are very willing to share — by taking photos, using Snapchat and sharing online. However, they also expect the brands and services to come to them–an important lesson in the high touch and high trust environment of financial services.
Today, in the age of information, strong relationship management matters, and those that embrace technology to scale both new opportunities and maintain existing relationships will have success. There is a premium in offering personal attention and nothing beats face-to-face; in fact, that’s why we hosted the Innovation Summit in San Francisco, not online via a Web connection.
We’d like to thank all of our clients, partners, speakers and panel members for joining us in San Francisco. And thank you to all of those who joined us on Twitter using hashtag #SBIS14, as well as the Hearsay Social team who made it happen.
Recently we were honored to be in Florida for LIMRA’s annual distribution conference, where our CEO Clara Shih shared the stage with Mark Hug (Executive Vice President Product and Marketing, Individual Life Insurance Prudential), Patrick T. Leary (MBA, Assistant Vice President, Distribution Research, LIMRA), business experts Daniel Pink and Ryan Estis, and many other industry leaders.
For those who weren’t able to make it, here are some of the best takeaways from the event, where we discussed the future of distribution in financial services.
Kicking off the conference, Mark Hug framed his presentation around key challenges the industry faces today. You may be familiar with the industry challenges as listed below, but what made Mr. Hug’s presentation especially insightful was how he tied the challenges to the opportunities facing the industry.
The Economy: The pressures of low interest rates are especially affecting the life insurance industry. Although the U.S. is projected for a full economic recovery by 2015, the recovery of the life insurance industry is lagging.
Regulations: “The industry has never been more regulated,” said Mark. He described the growing regulatory pressure, especially as new technologies emerge and make information more accessible.
Distribution: Distribution volume is at a low point, and by some measures, there are 25% less producers than there were 10 years ago. Life insurance distributors are also greying at a faster rate that their financial services counterparts. Today, the average age of a life insurance advisor is in the upper-50s compared to a financial advisor who is in their lower-50s.
Mark described how some organizations are experimenting with “alternative” distribution channels, such as websites or big-box chains. But “we are not going to make progress through experimentation,” he argued, encouraging LIMRA members to move faster to keep up. “We can’t experiment anymore, we need to disrupt.”
Specifically, through technology and big data, he sees key opportunities for the life insurance industry to innovate and adapt in the areas of marketing, distribution and customer experience. Some producers have adopted social media as a means of building relationships with clients, but he also encourages other digital channels of communication such as chat or video conferencing.
Mark pulled out his iPhone and used Siri to search for a life insurance advisor to make a point: it is just not that easy to find a life insurance agent online. He went on to explain how important it is for advisors to be findable on the Internet, using the legal industry as key example. Social media profiles and pages boost search results, making social media a key tool for producers to make themselves more findable.
Another area of opportunity that Mark highlighted was big data and analytics. He encouraged LIMRA attendees to start leveraging the information they already have to better serve their customers and prospects.
“Leverage predictive analytics, learn about your customers and understand how they are going to change in advance,” he said.
In his parting message, he focused on customer experience. At Prudential, they are spending more time on customer experience than ever before. Mark urged his peers that if they are not already investing heavily in their customers’ experiences, then they should be. And the investment can’t be done in isolation by a single team. Distribution and marketing should work as partners, understanding your customer and potential segmented consumer better.
“If you do this,” he said, “you’ll be right along with us next year.”
The second main stage presentation was led by Daniel Pink, bestselling author of “To Sell is Human.” Daniel started out his presentation with a bold assertion that the disintermediation predicted as a result of digital distribution hasn’t happened. He supported this assertion with U.S. employment numbers showing that the number of salespeople in the workforce hasn’t declined. The percentage of American workers that are in sales has stayed constant at about 11% from 2000 to 2014, according to Daniel.
Sharing some data his team researched, Daniel described the negative connotation most Americans have with “sales.” The team asked approximately 7,000 adult full-time workers, “When you think of ‘Sales’ or ‘Selling,’ what’s the first word that comes to mind?” Results were overwhelmingly negative: 20 of the top 25 adjectives they recorded were negative, including words such as “pushy” and “smarmy.”
We are no longer in a “buyer beware” world: with all of the information available online, the warning is “seller beware.” Not only can buyers now do extensive research on a product before making a purchase, they can also research the salespeople. Daniel highlighted three key qualities of salespeople in this new era: attunement, buoyancy and clarity.
Daniel also debunked a popular myth that people with an extrovert personality are the best sales reps. In their study they found that “ambiverts,” people who are neither exclusively extroverted nor introverted, are actually the most productive salespeople.
Daniel’s key message: selling has changed more in the past 10 years than it did in the previous 100. Salespeople today need to recognize these changes and return to customer-centricity.
Social Media and the Future of Agency Distribution
On day two of the event, we were proud to take the stage with business leaders from Pacific Life, Thrivent Financial, and New York Life to discuss how social media affects the future of agency distribution.
Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih (@clarashih) was joined by Greg Bailey (VP, Marketing, Pacific Life Insurance Company, @gregbaileyco), Knut A. Olson (CLU, FIC, Chief Distribution Officer, Thrivent Financial), and Maurice B. Springer (CLF, CVP Manage Development, New York Life Insurance Company).
Building off of Mark’s and Daniel’s presentations described above, Clara discussed how multiple factors—shifting customer demographics and buyer expectations, an aging advisor population and the unprecedented pace of technological change—are challenging the effectiveness of traditional distribution models. She argued that innovations in social, digital and mobile technologies for the advisors can help solve many of the problems discussed at the conference.
To support her arguments, Clara passed the microphone to distribution leaders from Pacific Life, Thrivent Financial, and New York Life in the audience so they could share their social business success stories. Selling is transforming, but that doesn’t mean it’s dying. The most adaptable firms will embrace new technologies as way to help, not hinder, their field forces.
Once again, we’re proud to be in Florida for LIMRA’s annual Distribution Conference, where our CEO Clara Shih will be sharing the stage with Mark Hug (EVP, Product and Marketing, Individual Life Insurance, Prudential), Patrick T. Leary (MBA, Assistant Vice President, Distribution Research, LIMRA), business experts Daniel Pink and Ryan Estis, and many other industry leaders.
On Friday, Clara will be joined by business leaders from Pacific Life, Thrivent Financial, and New York Life to discuss how social media affects the future of agency distribution. Most executives recognize that the financial industry is in flux, so we are likewise seeing a challenge to the traditional distribution models. Driving agent success through social business will be essential to compete in today’s market. (See full session details below.)
Tonight and for the rest of the week, conference attendees will also hear executives from Prudential, Sun Life, and Thrivent Financial discuss how to adapt field reps to the new age of marketing and sales. It’s sure to be a very informative week!
Social Media and the Future of Agency Distribution
WHEN: 9:30 am on Friday, February 21
WHO: Clara Shih (CEO of Hearsay Social and Board Director, Starbucks Corporation) will be joined by Greg Bailey (VP, Marketing, Pacific Life Insurance Company), Knut A. Olson (CLU, FIC, Chief Distribution Officer, Thrivent Financial), and Maurice B. Springer (CLF, CVP Manage Development, New York Life Insurance Company).
WHAT: The financial industry is in the midst of seismic change. Shifting customer demographics and buyer expectations, paired with an aging advisor population and the unprecedented pace of technological change, are challenging the effectiveness of traditional distribution models. The solution, however, isn’t to bet everything on direct channels. Rather, the agency distribution leaders of today and tomorrow must empower their field organizations with the latest social media, digital, and mobile technologies to stay relevant, stay competitive, and appeal to younger generations of advisors and customers alike. Silicon Valley innovation leader Clara Shih will share her insights on how social business is transforming how agents sell. Distribution leaders from two leading firms will join Ms. Shih to discuss how they are driving these programs at their respective organizations and the key role that field management must play to ensure the success of Agent Social Business initiatives.
See you there, or check back on our blog to see live notes and tweets from the event at #distconf!
People often ask me why Hearsay Social started with the insurance industry and have so many insurance companies as customers. The reason is very simple: relationship-based sellers such as insurance agents are the most natural “social networkers” in the planet. They have been helping educate clients, investing in long-term relationships, and growing their businesses through word-of-mouth referrals long before social, mobile, and digital technologies existed.
Since our inception, Hearsay Social has been proud to power leading insurance companies’ efforts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. With invaluable input from marquee customers such as Farmers Insurance, Northwestern Mutual, and Thrivent Financial, we’ve equipped tens of thousands of insurance agents, marketers, and compliance professionals with social media software that increases leads, referrals, and revenue, all while helping them achieve full regulatory compliance.
Today, I’m happy to announce several new customers in the financial services and insurance space: Allstate, AXA Equitable, COUNTRY Financial, and Primerica.
We are so excited to see even further validation across tens of thousands of additional agents that Hearsay Social is indeed the solution of choice for the industry when it comes to social sales, marketing, and compliance.
Over the summer, the International Data Corporation (IDC) labeled insurance an early adopter of social media in a report titled “2012 U.S. Social Media Trends by Vertical.” Compared against any other industry or vertical, insurance is a stand-out model for forward-thinking social media usage.
As part of today’s customer announcements, I am also excited and honored to welcome my dear friend and mentor, Mr. Lee M. Gammill, Jr. to the Hearsay Social Advisory Board.
An illustrious figure in the insurance and financial services industry, Mr. Gammill served a 40-year tenure at New York Life Insurance Company, where he held various executive positions and was Vice Chairman of the Board until 1997. Incredibly, he was the first member of the Board who began his career as an agent in all of the Company’s 150-year history.
In addition to helping lead New York Life, Mr. Gammill has also served as Chairman of the Board of LIMRA (Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association), now part of LL Global, Inc., as well as Chairman of the Board of the Life Underwriter’s Training Council. Recognizing his achievements and leadership in the industry, in 2004 Mr. Gammill was awarded the highest honor bestowed by the American College, The Huebner Gold Medal. He served on the College Board of Directors and currently serves as Director Emeritus of the American College Foundation Board of Directors.
On behalf of the entire Hearsay Social family, we extend a warm welcome to Mr. Gammill and our new partners.