"We approach the needs of the financial services space as a legacy problem that can be solved through technology." Peter Hans, CEO Harvest Exchange
[The Institute for Innovation Development recently talked with Peter Hans, CEO and Director of Harvest Exchange, a digital distribution and behavioral data platform that uses machine learning technology to enable financial firms to compliantly reach a targeted, investment-focused audience at scale. Harvest seems to go beyond traditional media spend outlets because it is a FinTech company at its core and recently won an award from Alt Credit Intelligence for Best Distribution platform.]
Hortz: What distinguishes your crowd sourced investment research platform Harvest Exchange from competing sites?
Hans: Harvest is the world’s fastest growing investor network. We focus tirelessly on delivering a service that best aligns incentives across asset managers, institutional investors, financial planners and retail investors. This is our key differentiator and the reason behind the success we’ve achieved.
We don’t have a single editor or media person on staff, and we don’t care what type of content is contributed. Our algorithms prioritize who the insight comes from, and our machine learning engine filters out the noise and curates the most relevant investment content to the most relevant investor audience. We’re in the business of using our software to compliantly help investors discover and engage.
Hortz: How are you specifically using technology to add value and solve problems and goals for your clients?
Hans: We are a technology company, so everything we do and every value we provide is a result of our proprietary software and data analytics. Our software allows the most highly regulated firms to distribute their expertise to the audience most relevant to them. It allows that audience to access everything from high-value publicly available content to secure, individual communications and investor presentations. Our machine learning engine warehouses millions of investor interactions every week to exponentially provide more value to asset managers, investors and anyone else who simply wants to access smarter investment content without the garbage.
Hortz: Tell us about your second engagement platform Vosterra. How did you design the technology behind that platform differently? Who was this built for?
Hans: Vosterra, Latin for ‘your land’, is a Harvest product that was spawned from consistent feedback and demand. We built Harvest Exchange to optimize investor content marketing and discovery, but the problem of consistent, transparent and effective ongoing engagement with existing contacts remained. With Vosterra we built in a number of security and privacy configurations allowing our clients to fully customize a private portal most suited for their needs. It offers secure cutting edge client/prospect communication tools, which are white labeled, to streamline communications, supported by powerful engagement analytics.
Vosterra is built for any financial organization that wants to develop and strengthen their relationships with their clients and prospects, be it retail customers or other advisors, while also effectively addressing workflow, compliance and security.
Hortz: As a FinTech company, how do you see the marketing and distribution needs of financial services differently?
Hans: We approach the needs of the financial services space as a legacy problem that can be solved through technology. This differs from the digital version of traditional media advertising. Historically we’ve seen asset managers and financial services firms pour millions of dollars into archaic forms of digital advertising - such as banner ads - simply because that’s what was offered. The metrics used to measure ROI have been manufactured to measure something that isn’t measurable, or how like a correlation between a Super Bowl commercial and sales could simply be coincidental.
We approach marketing in financial services as something that requires ROI and something that exists to solve a problem. Today that problem is better engaging and understanding the needs and interests of clients. Yes, we execute on this through distribution and scale, but we focus on delivering value by measuring metrics that can prove engagement. Ultimately, if the content is valuable to our client’s end customer then the engagement metrics will improve - further informing our clients of what works and what doesn’t - further enhancing the engagement opportunities with the target customer.
Hortz: What trends do you see developing in digital and content marketing that may not be readily apparent?
Hans: We live in a digital world, and the first thing that meant was an increase in the velocity of information. Anything and everything was available instantly and along with that came an overwhelming amount of spam. However, with digital we have the ability to measure and learn. As we learn, we can iterate, and today you see companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google drastically increasing the relevance of content while also increasing the velocity of information. They do this through A.I. and machine learning. They collect more valuable proprietary data on real people’s real interests and their value as digital infrastructure exponentially increases. This is what Harvest is doing for investors and for financial services and this is the biggest trend, by far, in digital content and content marketing.
Hortz: What trends do you see that financial firms most care about with regards to marketing and client engagement and what is your response to those efforts?
Hans: Financial firms haven’t changed - they want to meaningfully engage with the right investor audience and understand what they care about. Historically this was done over the phone, in meetings and at conferences. The problem is that these efforts have never been terribly scalable or efficient for the investor. In an increasingly digital world they are even less so. Our response to those efforts is to focus on the problem, from both sides. Asset manager and investor engagement needs to be more scalable, efficient, cost effective, and frankly, it needs to be smarter.
Hortz: What are your plans to further develop your technology and platforms? Where is your R&D focused?
Hans: We improve our technology constantly. We deploy features and improvements daily, sometimes multiple times per day. Every technology decision we make is based on data and client demand. We focus on maximizing user experience and delivering a product that promotes the most efficient workflow possible.
Hortz: What are your recommendations for advisors on how to best develop a content strategy and differentiate themselves with their content?
Hans: It is important to remember that, at the end of the day, financial services is a purchasing decision, and regardless of how scientific we try to represent allocating assets, it is still a subjective human decision driven by emotion. That means brand matters. Managers are starting to realize that brands are carefully built through awareness (scale) and equity (differentiation). The correlation between brand and fund raising, and the differentiation between marketing, sales and client service are major trends that are long overdue.
Our recommendations in content strategy are then to be genuine and offer something that will educate your target audience. The most effective content marketing offers value to the reader and accrues that value back to the author.
The other important thing to consider is that every communication is a form of content marketing. Treat every email and distribution as an opportunity to educate your potential client on the expertise you offer.
This article was originally posted on Financial Advisor Magazine Online.
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