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Episode 56: “Using Personalized Video to Improve Experiences” with Steve Taylor, CEO of BlueRush, and Kevin Darlington, General Manager of Broadridge Advisor Solutions

Discussing communications trends and market shifts, Steve Taylor, CEO of BlueRush, and Kevin Darlington, General Manager of Broadridge Advisor Solutions, join Matt Swain to explore the role personalized videos play in improving customer engagement in the financial advisor space.

Matt: I'm Matt Swain, and you're listening to the "Reimagining Communications Podcast," where we discuss the challenges and opportunities facing companies on the road to optimizing their communications for the future. Today, I'm joined by Steve Taylor, CEO of BlueRush, as well as Kevin Darlington, general manager of Broadridge Advisor Solutions. Steve, Kevin, thanks so much for joining today.

Steve: Yeah, thanks, Matt. Great to be invited. Appreciate it.

Kevin: Yeah, ditto. Thanks, Matt. Thanks for having us.

Matt: Certainly. So, Steve, let me start with you. Give me a little bit of your background and a background on BlueRush.

Steve: Okay. So, you hear the term serial entrepreneur, I am actually one of those. So, I've been helping start and grow businesses since the early '90s, starting literally some early e-commerce projects in the early '90s or mid-90s. And started another company in 2002 in the compliance and risk management space, which I figured it'd be about a five-year run. Thirteen years later, I sold that company. A big part of my career was actually in the governance and compliance space. Moved back into digital media after that... Now, actually, this month is I think, my four-year anniversary as the CEO of BlueRush. And we've been busy in those four years really productizing around the IndiVideo platform. And we've been really, I think, fortunate with our timing. And I think we'll get into this a bit in the conversation today but, we've had tremendous success with this platform, and I couldn't be happier with kind of where we're at after four years.

Matt: Very good. So, Kevin, you have a really strong product background, as well as user experience. Talk a little bit about that background, as well as an introduction to Broadridge Advisor Solutions.

Kevin: Yeah, sure. I started actually at an advertising agency. So, I started my career in Manhattan in advertising and, you know, I mean, that was always sort of pretty well-known to be a pretty intensive, you know, you're working all sorts of hours.

So, did a lot of that advertising for a lot of large financial services brands, for several years, which was really a good grounding and kind of, like, how does marketing work in the real world, what actually moves the needle, etc. But kind of like a moth to a flame, I guess, you know, just kept gravitating more and more closely to marketing technology. And so, back when I started, there wasn't a whole heck of a lot of real marketing technology out there but really started to get involved on a product level in successive parts of my career, how technology could be used to help marketers connect with their audience and engage them. So, did that for really most of my career.

A lot of that has been around user experience, from both sides of any conversation, the marketer, and the consumer. How do you better connect them through technology? And that's kind of led me to where I've been for the last few years, which is here in a position of general manager here at Broadridge Advisor Solutions, where I look after our SaaS platforms that really help mostly wealth management firms, financial advisors, insurance agents, help them grow their businesses through a variety of touchpoints to help them, attract, and convert, and nurture more relationships with more of the right clients.

Matt: Kevin, I think about the things that wealth managers are thinking about today increased level of personalization and communications, shifting communications preferences, wealth transfer, and how to engage that next investor, the next in line. I'd just be curious, you know, with some of those things, what are you seeing as key market trends for the financial advisor space?

Kevin: We work with firms of a pretty wide variety of sizes. So, we work with some of the really big-name firms that have 10,000 plus advisors and we work all the way down the other end of the spectrum, smaller, independent firms. As you might guess, they take a different sort of view of how far out they're planning and thinking. For a small, independent adviser, they're trying to figure out how to get to the end of the day or the end of the week. So, sort of figuring out how they're going to approach some of those longer-term trends. I mean, that can be awfully challenging. But no less important for them to be thinking through that.

And then some of the bigger firms, obviously are thinking about how the business is going to evolve over the next several years. I would say more than any other trend, I think it's what you said, Matt, is around consumer expectations, around how they want to engage or be engaged with any firm or business that they have a relationship with.

But then I think the other big one, though, that we look at is these micro-investing platforms, like the Acorns and the Robin Hoods that have emerged. And they're doing arguably a better job than a lot of the other channels that are a little more traditional at engaging that next generation that you talked about, Matt, by giving them an experience that's more in line with the way they experience other brands or other platforms. And so, I think that they're escalating the increase of expectations for investors across the board in terms of, like, what's a modern, elegant user experience look like? How do I want to be approached by the firms that I work with? So, that generational wealth transfer that we used to talk about as, oh, it's coming. It's coming. I mean, it's here, I mean, it's happening right before our eyes. And it seems very clear that the way that the benefactors of that transfer want to engage, in a lot of ways, it's very different. And I think the industry, in general, is trying to as best they can react to how different those expectations are.

Matt: Excellent. Well, Steve, I'd also like to get your thoughts, you have a chance to work across a lot of different industries with various clients on the IndiVideo platform. What are some of the trends that you're seeing that might coordinate or align with some of what Kevin just covered as well?

Steve: Yeah, and listen, I mean, I think it's a fascinating topic if you've never broadened it. And as Kevin was talking, I was thinking, I've got a 19-year-old son here, who's sort of a user group and a case study all in one, who's started on his investment. He saved a little bit of money. And I don't know how he's saving money while I'm paying for him to go to university but anyways, he saved some money. He's investing. So, okay, let's invest some money. And, you know, the whole thing was done on his phone. The whole thing was done with an alternative investment entity. And it still took a couple of days for everything to kind of clear but literally, he's off to the races. There is no concept of a wealth advisor in the picture. Right? And I think that, that's exactly what we're trying to figure out, okay, well, where did these relationships exist going forward?

So just to answer your question, and obviously, like, we're pretty focused on video as a mechanism to engage customers, existing, or potential customers and contextual dynamic video is sort of where we live. But outside of that, obviously, we look at the broader trends. And what is kind of interesting, we're seeing is, at the younger ages, these, let's say, modern approaches, like using video are compelling, almost, honestly, necessary to have. And then, again, when you go up a little bit to a little bit older demographic, you get a new use case evolving, where you're really trying to simplify things and take the burden away from reading huge tomes of documents, kind of get to the point, you know, here's your investment summary for the month or for the quarter, here are the highlights, and then, hey, let's have a meeting to talk about this. And there's even undertones of accessibility driving the business. So, we see more use cases that are being driven by things like language barriers. Honestly, even literacy barriers, other types of accessibility barriers around, you know, visual and auditory, those kinds of things.

Matt: We have our annual CX and communications trends research, actually publishing next month. I was just looking at the data and one of the things that popped out at me was that 75% of Gen Z and Millennial respondents to the survey said that they would be interested in receiving short, relevant, informational, personalized videos from the companies they do business with. And that number is pretty significant. It dropped off for Gen X and for the boomer generation but there was still interest. And I think about this as yet another communication channel. Kevin, you were just talking about that, you know, shift in communications preferences. And for a wealth manager managing all of those various communications needs from your octogenarians to your 22-year-old and trying to figure out how to best optimize for that recipient. So, I'd love to hear your thoughts on, one, does the stat surprise you? But two, you mentioned use cases and I'd be really interested to hear about the return that you've seen clients get in from implementing video. Any metrics around that would be really interesting.

Steve: So, first of all, that's my favorite stat I've heard in a long time, Matt.

Matt: I thought you'd like it.

Steve: It's not surprising. It's also not surprising, it almost sort of goes with what I was saying. It maybe drops a little bit when you get to the boomers.  What we're seeing, and if I was going to keep it more specifically in the wealth domain, onboarding is a really important area that we can support. And by that, I mean people often sign up for products. They open accounts. They do various things partway and then they don't really know how to get going with the relationship.

We have one example of a pension fund client. And it was one of our early clients and they're based in Chile. And every month, an email goes out, would you like to see a personalized video explaining your pension statement. And this has been going for years now. It's two and a half million people. We got a couple of hundred thousand people every month engage with the video consistently, which is pretty good as well. We didn't know originally whether that would be a sort of a big spike," Hey, what's this," and it would dwindle. It actually still grows a little. And people that view the video are four times more likely to increase their contribution to their pension.

Matt: Wow.

Steve: And I really believe that there's an inability in the digital channels to create any kind of meaningful dialogue. And most of the effort is, how do I get people's attention in the digital channels? Maybe if I wave my arms a little faster or get up a little higher when I'm waving them, I'll get somebody's attention. But what if you get their intention? Right? Once you get it, then you got to kind of deliver.

And people want clarity. They want a little bit of an understanding. And what we have done with this has proven it even in 70, 80, 90 seconds and that's typically how long we can engage people, which if you think about is a long time, right? Like, hey, I can get you a 90 second dialogue, that's worth a lot to a lot of companies just by itself. But my point really is, it's long enough to educate around, let's say, a financial product. What's the difference between this one and this one? Maybe it could be two mortgages. Maybe it could be two investment products. And that education becomes the foundation of building some trust. And once you have that trust, then people are going to take an action. And that seems to be the kind of magic formula here is that we can get them engaged.  We can educate them. That education becomes a foundation of trust. That trust becomes the foundation of an action.

Matt: Well, Kevin, I think this is where the stories come together, right, where you've made the decision to bring the BlueRush IndiVideo solution into our platform within Broadridge Advisor Solutions. Can you talk a little bit about that decision and what you're hearing from financial advisors relative to personalized video now?

Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. I can kind of go back and tell you a little bit about all the ways that we looked at metrics, and how the business plan was formed, and maybe I'll touch on that a little bit but you don't need a lot of surveys and a lot of data to tell you what you already see every day with consumers, which is just that the attention spans for all of us and I would say every age, they're just getting shorter and shorter because there's more very engaging, more relevant information competing for our attention. Consumers want to engage less with long-form type of heavy, dense text copy. We saw a lot of data that told us advisors were already investing more in video than every other channel.

So, it became pretty obvious to us that we needed to give advisors a way to help them engage in this medium, to really optimize every part of their buyer journey. How do they use video when they're trying to attract new prospects? How do they use video when they're trying to nurture clients? And I'd say, I mean, to state the obvious, right, COVID just poured gas all over that fire. Certain advisors and I'm sure all of us have probably talked to that advisor that says, "Well, my clients are not digitally savvy. My clients, you know, they're not looking for all this fancy digital stuff." I think that even those advisors are recognizing that for every age group, every single age group, they've just gotten much more comfortable with much more digital, much more virtual experience. So, it's not just the younger investors.

Kevin: When it became pretty evident that Broadridge wouldn't and shouldn't try to go it alone, BlueRush became a really obvious complement to what we were really trying to do. So, their technology coupled with what our technology and our content does becomes pretty special. And I think it really enables us to be, more right in line with how consumer expectations are evolving than we could be on our own.

Steve: Awesome. Well, I mean, thank you. And I will say since we're saying nice things about each other, Kevin's vision here is ahead of the market. And I think it's important as well to understand we're integrated here to the extent that the user interface, a lot of that's being driven by Kevin's team. We're sometimes just sitting back going, "Wow, look what these guys are doing. This is awesome." And it's been really impressive to watch the execution of this. There's a category killer on its way with all the capabilities that we're going to introduce, no question about it.

Matt: Steve, I've been tracking this market for several years. My previous role as an analyst, we actually did a report on the various players in the market, consumer interest, that kind of thing. What I often ran into was a business skepticism around why do I need another channel but also, in my list of priorities, adding video doesn't really make sense. Like, how do you overcome some of those hurdles that probably get knocked over or stood up in front of you rather, as you're trying to implement? And Kevin, probably the same question from a financial adviser standpoint, any thoughts on some of the challenges and how you'll overcome them?

Steve: I mean, it's a great question. And I mentioned that I've been at this a while and, I seem to have just put myself in this little position of suffering at the beginning of these businesses where there is some evangelical work that has to happen. And in this case, with video, I feel like there was already a wave of that before I even showed up. And now, we are really in the window where it's getting honestly easier every week, right now. And I think that's a function of, hey, we've kept out there telling the message, there's been some work done, but then you've got these massive kind of tailwind events. Like, even something like Cameo to me is a tailwind for this. TikTok is a tailwind, Instagram, all these things.

People are starting to see that video isn't just something you just sit back and watch. It can be a tool to build whole new business models around. It can be a tool to help build your business more quickly. And I don't think it was really seen as something with utility before. And I think that's sort of what part of the crossover thinking is because I have to say literally, even in the last three or four months we've seen a complete kind of change. And we do work with a lot of the largest banks and insurance companies in the world. You've got companies coming in with briefs they did themselves. We want to embrace video. We're not sure how we are. This is how we'd like to do it. I've seen this pattern repeated very precisely before. We're in a beautiful window here. Kevin's really got Broadridge out in front of the pack here with what he's put together. And the way he has it envisioned. No question about it.

Kevin: I would definitely agree. And I think that what's Steve saying about, you know, kind of some of this is things we've seen in the past, but just playing up at a faster pace. I still think that the general rules of thumb about adoption curves are in play. You do have those firms and those individuals who will be the early adopters. But I think that the benefits that the early adopters get and the risks to that laggard community that really are kicking and screaming and don't want to transition are coming into play faster in situations like this.

I don't think that even the advisors who are sitting back, they're not doing so because they just have a resistance to change. They're doing so as we talked about before, because they got a million things to do every day. And it's, if you make the transition hard for them, then they're going to have no choice but to put it at the bottom of their list. So I think that the firms and we see this all the time, the best firms out there that are attracting the best advisors are making things like this easier for their advisor. They're making it easier for the advisor to meet the consumer and the client on the consumer and the clients' terms. And so, those are the firms that we're already working with, that are leaning in on all this because they're saying like, "That's our business." Our business is to enable our advisors to meet our consumers the way they want to be met, to meet our clients on their terms.

Steve: That's very well said.

Matt: Agreed. And, Kevin, everything you said there can apply to other markets as well, other markets that Broadridge serves as well. So, really great conversation. Thank you both for taking the time to participate today.

Kevin: Pleasure. Yeah, it was awesome.

Steve: Yeah, thanks so much, Matt, and Kevin, couldn't be more excited about this partnership and where it's going and great conversation today for sure.

Matt: Excellent. Well, I'm Matt Swain and you've been listening to the "Reimagining Communications Podcast." If you liked this episode and think someone else would too, please share it, leave a review, and don't forget to subscribe. To learn more about Broadridge, our insights and our innovations, visit broadridge.com or find us on Twitter and LinkedIn.