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RBC Wealth Management's John Taft Makes a Case for the Social Media Revolution

shutterstock_262230557When Hearsay Social first launched in 2009, the idea of allowing advisors and agents to have a social media presence for business was considered a huge risk for most financial services firms. But over the next seven years, we’ve witnessed a steady transformation in how the industry views social media and the opportunities, not just the risks, that social and digital present – especially as they face increasing pressure from the emergence of automated robo-advisor technology and regulatory changes.
John Taft, CEO of RBC Wealth Management U.S., makes a powerful statement about the social media mandate in his recent LinkedIn post, “Social Media: Friend or Foe?” In the article, he argues that the advisor-client relationship has changed radically thanks to social media, and that advisors who “keep their heads in the social media sand” will be threatened while those who embrace the “social media revolution” will see incredible opportunity.
John also provides his perspective on the recent SIFMA Social Media Seminar that took place here in San Francisco, where our CEO and founder, Clara Shih, hosted a fireside chat with him. Among other topics, they discussed the path of today’s customer journey and the role that technology plays, as well as why and how advisors must respond to the commoditization of the industry.
Read John’s full article here.
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Highlights from SIFMA's 2015 Private Client Conference

SIFMA’s Private Client Conference, the premier conference for Private Client Groups at all levels, took place on April 8 in Chicago. Although the event has considerable history, much of the conversation centered around the future. Bringing together top industry leaders to discuss the practical and tactical ways to enhance client services and advice, it was telling that the topic of ‘robo-advice’ was mentioned in almost every session.
Remaining Relevant to the Next Generation of Investors
Tim Scheve, President and Chief Executive Officer of Janney Montgomery Scott, kicked off the conference with an idea that would be a recurring theme throughout the day, “When you just maintain the status quo, you are going to be left behind.” Highlighting women and younger investors, Scheve urged that the industry needs a more diverse workforce and to tap into a younger clients if it is going to be successful in the coming decades. According to to Scheve, over half of the households that advisors serve are led by women. Women in the U.S. are responsible for $11 Trillion in assets and that number is on track to grow to over $20 trillion.

During the panel presentation on “The Financial Advisor in the New Economy,”  Lisa Hunt, Executive Vice President of International Services & Special Business at Charles Schwab & Co., also highlighted the necessity for firms to adapt to changing demographics and expectations of investors.

What “Robo-Advisors” Mean to Private Client Services
Speakers at the event shared their comments on the rise of consumer-technology and robo-advice offerings.  Sheve said that it is important for firms to remain focused on serving their clients. “We have an obligation to provide our clients with highly skilled and ethical financial advisors, who can help them meet their financial goals,” he said, following with, “clients want technology that assists their advisor, not replaces him.”

As a representative of Schwab, which recently rolled out its own robo-advice offering, Lisa Hunt, said that advisors shouldn’t be scared about robo-advice technology cannibalizing their business. Hunt described that “the dynamic is changing….it’s more about the client than our advisor. It’s about the client and the client choice.” For Schwab, offering consumers access to robo-advice technology is providing investors the choice to engage with the firm on their own terms.
In line with the offering from Schwab, Brand Meyer, Senior Managing Director and Head of the Independent Brokerage group at Wells Fargo, shared his opinion that technology could be valuable in helping firms build relationships with younger investors who have not yet accumulated the assets to earn the attention of advisors.
Technology to enable and enrich the advisor-client relationship
Continuing the discussion on how technology is affecting the industry, Mary Mack, President and Head of Wells Fargo Advisors, shared her perspective on how consumer technologies such as Amazon, Uber, Apple, and Jawbone are changing client expectations. According to Mack, the use of technology is not just something they are seeing in the younger generation, but rather the effect of these technologies “cuts across all age levels and asset levels.”
In his session, John Thiel, Head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, reminded the group to learn from the past. Quoting Shakespeare, he said, ”remember, what’s past is prologue.”
Looking towards the future, in the panel “The Financial Advisor in the New Economy”, James Allen, President, Chairman, and CEO at Hilliard Lyons, shared the importance for financial advisors and their firms to foster and deepen relationships with clients and utilize technology to better engage future heirs and next generation clients.

During the “Trends in Wealth Management Marketing” session, much was also discussed regarding the importance of advisors first being able to “be found” by clients and potential clients in the digital era. The importance of a robust social media presence along with mobile-friendly, local-relevant advisor websites was discussed in the context of optimizing for local search via search engines like Google.

Beyond just being findable, the session concluded by highlighting that there’s also real ROI for those advisors who are enabled with technology for engaging clients. Citing a study by Fidelity, Amanda Smith, Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing at National Financial, shared that digitally-enabled advisors are much more productive when compared to those advisors not using technology in a meaningful way.

Michael Lock, President & COO of Hearsay Social, shared that success using social media starts with building and enhancing client relationships in an industry that has always been social. This application of social media has lead to real ROI with Hearsay Social clients successfully realizing and measuring metrics such as percent growth in client acquisition rates, percent growth in acquisition of new high net worth clients, growth in overall AUM,  growth in referrals, and increase in retention rate.

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#HSonAir Podcast: On the Road Again

ontheroadIn episode 34 we discuss the themes of my recent road trip that included panel participation at the Mutual Fund Marketing and Sales Summit in Boston, a visit to in Las Vegas, and the SIFMA Compliance and Legal Society Annual Seminar in Phoenix.   We also provide an update on the whereabouts of our old friend @RonnyKerr as he continues on his #RonnyWalk across America
For more details on the Mary Jo White comments at the SIFMA event, check out this piece by ThinkAdvisor and this one by Investment News (may require registration). To download The Advisor of the Future Executive Report- Click Here
Be part of the conversation on Twitter with @VictorGaxiola and @EliZelig using hashtag #HSonAir. You can also ask a question, make a suggestion or comment via e-mail at or LIKE our NEW page on Facebook.


#HSonAir Employee Spotlight Series: Joyce Jang (Engineering)

JoyceIn episode 33 we profile Joyce Jang (@_joycejang), Software Engineer and self proclaimed Cookie Monster at Hearsay Social.  In our discussion we explore Joyce’s journey to Engineering and the value she is adding daily in improving the user experience and enhancements of our product. We also find out more about the intern program at Hearsay Social with the addition of a special guest.
Join @VictorGaxiola and @EliZelig and follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #HSonAir.  If you have a question, comment or suggestion please send us an email at 


Highlights from the SIFMA Social Media Seminar and LIMRA Distribution Conference (Podcast)

IMG_6785In episode 31 we review the highlights from the SIFMA Social Media Seminar in San Francisco (#SIFMASocial) and the LIMRA Distribution Conference (#DistConf) that took place in Orlando, FL.  Nicole Johnson (@nicjohnmedia), Yasmin Zarabi (@yasminzarabi), and Meagan Hency (@mherf), join Victor Gaxiola (@VictorGaxiola) to talk about the key themes from the two events and explore how much has changed in social media adoption and digital transformation.
Join the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #HSonAir. We also invite you to ask questions, make comments and suggestions on line or by sending an email to
Want to connect in person? Visit our events page on our website, or check out this list of events in the 1st Quarter where our team will be presenting or participating.


Celebrating SIFMA's 2014 Year in Review

sifma-mainEarlier this year, our strategic partner the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) shared its 2014 Year in Review, a downloadable resource encapsulating the work of more than 10,000 professionals from 500 member firms who participate in 100 committees and countless working groups–all together representing one of the largest financial associations in the world.
The report opens with a message from the SIFMA Board of Directors as well as a snapshot of the U.S. securities industry today:

  • There are over 4,000 registered broker-dealers with 380,000 financial advisors in 170,000 branch offices, serving clients with over $16 trillion in assets.
  • In 2014, those firms raised $1.7 trillion in public debt and equity, as well as $102 billion in private placements, for corporate issuers; $334 billion for municipal issuers; and $300 billion in non-agency securitizations, playing a critical role in the capital formation that fuels economic growth, development and job creation.
  • There are 32,000 registered investment advisory firms with more than $62 trillion in assets under management for clients such as individuals, mutual funds and pension plans, among others.

“America has the largest and deepest capital markets in the world – according to the Federal Reserve,” cites SIFMA, and “the capital markets provide approximately 75% of financing for businesses in the U.S.”
sifma 2014 data
Further along in the report, SIFMA highlights its policy and advocacy agenda, explores the member committees that help amplify the association’s collective voice, and highlights the community work achieved through the SIFMA Foundation.
In short, the state of our financial union is strong, and we at Hearsay Social are committed to the continual development of the products, services and solutions that will enable financial professionals the leverage to connect, engage and serve their clients.  To that end, follow along as Clara Shih and Yasmin Zarabi take the stage at the SIFMA Social Media Seminar this Thursday in San Francisco. Clara and Tom Sagissor of RBC Wealth Management, will kick off the event with a fireside chat on the ROI of Social Media with perspectives from the field, and later Yasmin will be part of panel discussing navigating the web of social media.  You can follow all our tweets using hashtag #SIFMASocial.
Read the full report or click some stories below to learn more.

#HSonAir Employee Spotlight Series: Interview with Meagan Herfkens Hency of Hearsay Social

meagan herfkens hencyIn lucky episode 13 of Hearsay Social On the Air we continue our employee spotlight series by introducing Meagan Herfkens Hency (Director of Product Marketing, @mherf) to discuss how we position Hearsay Social products and services in the market to connect with new customers and to enrich the relationships with our existing clients.
We also discuss our participation in industry events with a review of the SIFMA Social Conference in New York City. Listen to the podcast below and don’t forget to join @VictorGaxiola and @ronnykerr on Twitter to be a part of the conversation using hashtag #HSonAir!
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Advisor use of social media matures, regulatory requirements are still a challenge: Recap from #SIFMAsocial


Last week we attended the sold out SIFMA Social Media Seminar in New York City, a one-day event in the heart of Wall Street that brings together experts from a variety of business roles including marketing, business, compliance, and legal, as well as financial advisors, to discuss the expanding use of social media for financial services.

Major themes from the conference included:

  • The financial services industry has greatly advanced its use of social media in recent years, but there is still a lot of opportunity for social media to impact the business.

  • Interpreting regulatory and compliance requirements continues to be a challenge for firms and financial professionals.

  • Social media can be a truly valuable tool for advisors and branches to build their business, especially if they leverage it to expand their client base in a target niche.

Michael Lock (President & COO at Hearsay Social, @michaelhlock) kicked off the seminar with a lively perspective on technology trends and how consumer expectations are changing. In his session, Michael shared some ways in which financial professionals are using social media to build customer relationships. Harking back to a lesson familiar for every good salesperson, he reminded us that social media is about listening first. OnWallStreet author Andrew Welsch (@AndrewWelsch) published a great recap of Michael’s session here.

Here are more key takeaways from the event:

Updates from the social networks

The next session was a panel moderated by Mike White (CMO at Raymond James, @MikeRJF) with financial services industry leaders from LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Mike set the stage with learnings from a roundtable conversation that a group of SIFMA members had shared the day before: “We’ve come a long way over the past few years, but there is still a lot of opportunity,” he said, however, noting “the importance of not looking to social media as a standalone panacea. […] The most successful advisors and firms are looking at it as a piece of an overall marketing program.”

The following conversations from the respective social networks followed these same themes. Some of their insights included:

  • Brad Murphy (Client Partner, Financial Services Vertical at Facebook) described how the Facebook platform has evolved over the past 18 months. Although many business owners have seen a decrease in the organic reach of their pages, Facebook has greatly expanded its targeting ability with its evolving advertising program. Brad specifically referenced new data partnerships, such as with Acxiom, that help financial professionals reach exactly the audience they’re targeting.

  • Jennifer Grazel (Head of Category Development, Financial Services at LinkedIn, @jgrazel) provided insight into the core pillars of focus for LinkedIn: “identity, network and knowledge.” She also explained how the network’s continued push into content publishing and sharing is intended to support the “knowledge” pillar. In addition, she said that LinkedIn’s acquisition of Bizo will support the company’s plans to enable marketers to run nurture programs.

  • Michael Wong (Head of Financial Services at Twitter, @mw145) said that when it comes to content, timing and quality is more important than frequency and volume, citing Vanguard and Motley Fool as two organizations that excel at sharing good content during volatile times. He also predicted that, going forward, the focus will be on developing a mobile experience for end users as well as better analytics to measure effectiveness of campaigns and activity.

Static vs. dynamic content and other regulatory requirements

In the second panel, “Navigating The Web of Social Media Regulation,” Rick Apicella (Morgan Stanley Wealth Management), Thomas Selman (FINRA), Doug Preston (Bank of America Merrill Lynch), and Melissa Callison (Charles Scwhab) discussed the regulatory requirements that govern social media use.

Selman, who is responsible for advertising policy at FINRA, summarized how the regulatory authority thought about social media. They “took a principles-based view of social media,” he said, in order to write regulation that would not have to be changed every time the technology changed. And they “tried to leverage existing rules and terminology” wherever possible instead of introducing new terms. This approach lead to FINRA Regulatory Notices 10-06 and 11-39, which directly address social media.

Supervision and review requirements for social media address two key content categories: “static” content and “dynamic” content. FINRA requires that all static content be pre-reviewed before it is published, and therefore what is categorized as dynamic or static is often a hot topic in conversation amongst legal and compliance professionals.

At this event, Thomas Selman notably commented that “a case can be made for why a tweet is considered dynamic content.” Somebody from the audience even asked him to repeat this because this opinion was in contrast to other interpretations of the regulation that we’ve heard.

“Content is king, and context is queen”

After spending the first half of the day discussing mostly advisor use of social media, the panel “Social Media Strategy & Use at the Corporate Level” specifically zeroed in on corporate and brand use of social media.

Ruth Papazian (HD Vest Financial Services) moderated a discussion with Joe Corriero (Bank of America Merrill Lynch), Kraleigh Woodford (UBS Wealth Management Americas), Jon Pauley (Ameriprise Financial), and Melissa Socci (LPL Financial). This conversation kept coming back to the importance of content, with each team member describing how their respective organization sources, develops and distributes content.

It was especially interesting to hear how firms of different sizes deal with the challenges of creating social content. Joe Corriero, for example, said that Bank of America Merrill Lynch created a “social media newsroom,” which is a regular meeting bringing together all the disciplines (including research, marketing, legal and compliance) to brainstorm and plan their content timelines. And sometimes internal teams aren’t enough. For example, Melissa Socci explained that they occasionally turn to contractors to create additional content pieces like infographics for social media because their traditional, print-first content team doesn’t have quite the right skillset for that. With a much leaner team, Ruth Papazian and her team rely upon the integration of Trapit and Hearsay Social to curate a regular stream of social media content.

Kraleigh Woodford from UBS Wealth Management Americas pointed out that, in additional to the common adage “content is king,” “context is queen.” Kraliegh argued that “it’s the ‘why do I care’ factor” that leads to successful social content. Companies don’t have a shortage of content but they have to be thinking about what people want to consume through social media; feeding them the wrong content, like “linking to a 60-page report,” might not be the be the most effective strategy.

When it comes to a corporate presence and approach to social media in financial services, Melissa Socci said it best: “We are not social media marketing, we are marketing in a social media age.”

Social media strategies for financial advisors and client communication

In the second panel moderated by Mike White (CMO at Raymond James, @MikeRJF), five financial advisors representing Raymond James Financial, Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, Ameriprise Financial, LPL Financial, and Robert W. Baird & Co. shared some of their most successful social media strategies for enhancing communication with clients and prospects.

One theme that stood out? Each of the panelists has found success using social media a little bit differently–depending on their target clients, location, and team structure.

Evan Shear (Branch Manager with Raymond James Financial) uses social media to stay up with what is happening in the lives of his client. One anecdote he shared: he saw via social media that his client had lost a family pet, and so he sent a thoughtful sympathy card and gift. Fueled by what he learns through social media, according to Evan, this type of activity strengthens client relationships and builds deep client loyalty.

Charles Camilleri (Financial Advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services) uses social media to stay top of mind and to get the word out to his extended network that he is a financial advisor. Within a week of using social media for business, Charles got a new client referral from a friend of a friend, simply due to the fact that they learned Camilleri’s profession after connecting on LinkedIn.

In addition to the financial advisors on the panel, Dan Swift (Director of Financial Services at LinkedIn, (@danjswift) shared insights into social selling and some of the exciting functionality that LinkedIn Sales Solution provides to help financial professionals. Dan described how LinkedIn Sales Navigator solves for the “now what?” feeling that often accompanies users who are new to social media. He recently spent three months on the road training 160 advisors on social selling with LinkedIn, and they saw some amazing success. Within that same time period, a subset of those financial professionals won over $100 million in new investable assets–impressive ROI for a program that was just getting started!

With the various success stories that can be correlated to a social presence, we think financial professionals would do well to take advice from one other participant on the panel, Jamie Cox (LPL Financial): “You don’t have time to not be on social media.” We would agree.


How digitally enabled advisors enhance the private client experience: Recap of the SIFMA Private Client Conference

“SIFMA members share in the common goal of bettering the industry along with the ability to change it for the better” – from SIFMA Private Client Conference 2014

sifma-mainAt the SIFMA Private Client Conference hosted by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) earlier this month, “the client” took center stage. Over 300 leaders across the private client industry gathered in New York City to discuss and share best practices regarding how to provide better client services, serve the next generation of clients, and bring on a new digitally-enabled advisor to improve the overall client experience.
Clara at SIFMA PCC     Thiel at SIFMA PCC
Our very own Clara Shih (CEO and founder of Hearsay Social) and John W. Thiel (Head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management)–both pictured above–joined other main stage speakers at the conference including:

  • Valerie Brown, CEO, Cetera Financial
  • Gregory Fleming, President, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management & Morgan Stanley Investment Management
  • Mary Mack, President and Head, Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC
  • Robert Mulholland, Group Managing Director & Head of Wealth Management & Investment Solutions, UBS Wealth Management Americas
  • Joseph E. Sweeney, President, Advice & Wealth Management Products & Services, Ameriprise Financial, Inc.
  • John Taft, CEO, RBC Wealth Management
  • and Mike White, CMO, Raymond James Financial.
From left to right: Mike White (CMO, Raymond James Financial), Justine Metz (Head of Global Wealth Management, Marketing and Sales Support, Bank of America Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc.), Penny Pennington (Principal, Branch and Region Development, Edward Jones & Co., L.P.), and Rodney Prezau (SVP, Affluent Client Experience, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.) speaking at the SIFMA Private Client Conference 2014.

The client experience, changing expectations and the next generation

Kicking off the conference, Robert Mulholland from UBS Wealth Management Americas shared that, with a large aging population in the U.S., discussions at the dinner table among Baby Boomers have shifted to concerns related to long-term care, including the health of aging parents.
With this changing set of priorities, Robert argued that advisors need to be attuned to their Boomer clients’ needs, as well as those of their children, in order to improve client services and the overall client experience.

With over $30 trillion flowing from Boomers to Generation Y over the next few decades, the topic of Millennials came up as a key segment for financial advisors to reach. Millennials are seeking financial advice but will check online first (e.g., Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles) before reaching out for help or speaking with advisors, according to Valerie Brown, CEO, Cetera Financial.
Valerie added that advisors need to understand the outlook of the Gen Y investor who keeps 52% of their assets in cash, don’t want to be sold to, are much more skeptical than their parents on the value and returns of capital market, and demand transparency. Perhaps most striking: most Gen Y heirs don’t stay with their parents’ financial advisors.

With these evolving client needs and expectations, Mary Mack, President and Head, Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, highlighted that the industry and its advisors must work to transform the client experience. She added that this is especially the case since the client is now used to interacting when and how they want in today’s world of Amazon, Google and Starbucks-like consumer experiences. Mary also highlighted in her talk that the industry must adapt to a client who is on social, digital, and mobile.

How technology can enhance, not replace, the financial advisor

To reach clients – older and younger — Brand Meyer, Head of Independent Brokerage Group, Wells Fargo Advisors, commented that people are consuming info differently – 24/7 – and that the industry must embrace mobile and online solutions as an extension of their forms of communications and services.
Valerie cited a survey stating that loyal clients have up to 24 non-financial “touches” (i.e., informal communications) per year from their financial advisor over 12 months versus those less loyal clients who get 3 non-financial touches per year on average.
So how does social media help advisors?

Raymond James CMO Mike White joins Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih onstage at the SIFMA Private Client Conference 2014.

The digitally enabled advisor

With a growing set of Gen Y investors, an aging population of Boomers, and a third of advisors set to retire in the next ten years, a critical call-to-action was made to grow the advisor base organically and enable advisors with technology.
In her keynote, Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih stated that social media can help the industry and financial advisors with many of the top challenges they face, from meeting the changing expectations of clients’ consumer behavior, to enabling advisors to build and deepen client relationships, to growing the advisor population, and to addressing the lack of trust in institutions by empowering the individual financial advisor.
Clara reinforced that advisors now need to meet their clients where they are, noting that nearly two billion people, including 60% of online adults 50 – 64 years old, now regularly access social networking sites.

Advisors are starting to meet that challenge: according to a recent survey, over 75% of advisors report using at least one social media account for business purposes. More importantly, they are starting to see real value from social media use.

Clara further noted that social media is an ideal, complementary channel for wealth management for three primary reasons:

  1. Clients are sharing and posting relevant, personal life events, which are key moments of truth for financial advisors to serve their clients’ needs.
  2. Millennials and Boomers go to social networks and other sites online for recommendations and content.
  3. The cost of staying in touch scales through social media, which provides wide reach while still feeling personalized thanks to photos and other forms of multimedia content supported on social media.

Clara closed by offering the audience members a few actions they can take to help their private client services succeed in the digital age. First, in order to stay relevant with end clients and advisors, leaders must help shift the organizational mindset from defense to offense for use of social, mobile and digital technologies. Second, they must help advisors seamlessly incorporate social, mobile, and digital into their practices by offering the right tools, training, and program. Finally, Clara submitted that, to be a champion for social media, the leaders in the audience need to lead by example and learn about how to use social media for business and be on social media themselves.
Hearsay Social will continue to explore these topics at its upcoming Social Business Innovation Summit next week in San Francisco. Top C-level, sales, and marketing leaders from financial services firms along with leaders from Silicon Valley companies such as LinkedIn and Klout will explore the topic of how social, mobile, and digital technologies can help transform the landscape of the financial services industry, enable advisors, and put the clients first.