A Message from the CEO

Wave of Consumer Empowerment 

The consumer empowerment wave that has transformed travel, music, grocery shopping and so many other sectors is knocking at the door of retail finance. (Some might say it has already swept into the living room, but regulation and complexity are powerful entry barriers.) Sooner or later, consumers will have the power to make informed choices about their saving and investment products and services based on price and value proposition. History teaches that opportunities abound for leaders of change, while painful disruptions await companies who cannot, or will not, adapt. 

The coming changes are both exhilarating and terrifying. They are especially so to me personally, having devoted my adulthood to working in both consumer marketing and investing. Early on, I observed buyers and sellers interact—from black market trading in Soviet Leningrad, to negotiations in Jerusalem’s Arab Market, currency trading in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, the glorious mayhem of Kowloon in Hong Kong, and day-laborers buying shampoo sachets in La Vega open-air market in Chile. All these experiences reinforced the undeniable truth that the combination of empowered consumers and private sector competition are the best ways to solve problems. And information is the lubricant to functioning markets. 

Where are the opportunities to improve information today? Within finance, competitors and consumers have had fairly good information about mortgages, credit cards, insurance and bank accounts. To date, however, there has been little to no information about saving and investing, or the asset side of the balance sheet from the consumer’s perspective. A veil of complexity has insulated saving and investing—until now. 

Opportunities within Complexity

The intricacies of saving and investing make it difficult to apply a consumer marketing discipline. Keeping track of an investment account—with dozens of changing securities, trades and tax reporting—is much more complicated than calculating interest on a rotating credit card balance. Similarly, good personal finance advice is more than blindly socking away money in a 401(k). Consumers deserve personal financial “advice” that recognizes their diverse individual situations across a lifetime while keeping liabilities at bay. 

Three Problems to Solve

Our company has built an information platform that recognizes this complexity and answers the questions that my smart bosses and colleagues wanted to know in various operational roles in finance. 

At Hearts & Wallets we solve three problems:

  1. Bridging Disciplines: To get results, companies must bridge gaps between disciplines. Consumer marketing professionals often labor to appreciate complex details of go-to-market strategies for investment products and services. Investment professionals often fail to appreciate the power of strategic marketing techniques like segmentation or targeting. This gap forced a focus on “push” sales approaches, which once worked well to build revenue, but not necessarily to solve consumer problems. What consumers want matters a lot now, so this gap has to be bridged. 
  2. Creating Efficiencies to Stretch Beyond the Obvious: Inefficiencies are created when information is gathered repeatedly from scratch because of a lack of syndicated resources familiar with both consumer marketing and investment disciplines. Larger companies have the luxury of creating their own internal research, although going solo means resources are often devoted to basics rather than break-through concepts. Medium-sized companies often proceed with trial and error, diverting important resources from profit. Smaller company innovators have no choice but to go with their gut, and succeed or fail by guesswork. 
  3. Access: An agile world requires distributed data. Legacy models of single points-of-contact and silos need to evolve to experts who vet and then empower the entire organization with appropriate data and insights. Access is a board-level issue: distributing or restricting consumer and competitive data to empower innovation affects share price. 

The Way Forward

The Hearts & Wallets information platform is customizable to your business, thanks to our blend of saving and investing operating experience, consumer marketing expertise and engineering ingenuity. Our Report insights, interactive database software, and supportive advice feedback help you:

  • Develop truly differentiated products and services. The world needs another mid-cap value fund like it needs another $15 bottle of Merlot: it doesn’t. Effective solutions are created by understanding what specific consumers want, what existing offerings already achieve, and then creating differentiated offerings delivered with the most effective messaging through the right channels. 
  • Build solutions to the real, often neglected needs. To create solutions, you must understand the needs of specific consumer groups. How is retirement planning different for parents and child-free people? Where is the thought leadership on regional differences in real estate as an asset and an expense? Where are the fields for “second incomes,” often from women, in advice and guidance? 
  • Replace superstitions with facts.  Smart, analytical people should not fall prey to urban legends due to lack of accessible data. Examples abound. In 2008: “retirement income” will be the “biggest opportunity ever?” In 2017: Baby Boomers giving their money to Millennial will be the “biggest opportunity ever?” Today: $22T changing hands from men to women within five years will be the “biggest opportunity ever?” Ask us for facts behind popular urban legends on wealth transfer, retirement income, women and more!  

How We Do It

Bringing together the complexity of saving and investing, the power of consumer marketing, and the ingenuity of great technology engineering is hard work. Synthesis starts with understanding and going beyond one's "native" discipline, or language. In addition to Hearts & Wallets' wide range of expertise, almost all our team members speak at least two languages: in addition to English, we speak Russian, Norwegian, Japanese, Hebrew, Greek, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Italian. The humbling, bewildering experience of learning to communicate in another language—having to work really hard to listen and understand what the other person is saying—is exactly the same communication technique needed to bring together disparate disciplines.

Our Goal

Hearts & Wallets empowers firms to understand what consumers want in saving and investing to earn the right to manage more of their money. What started in 2010 with a simple idea—that intent of diverse consumer types to recommend a provider (the hearts part) and to invest more (the wallets part) mattered more to the health of the franchise than predictions of future rollover market size—has grown to a customizable platform of consumer quantitative data, consumer qualitative insights and benchmarks on marketplace execution. 

We encourage clients to use our resources to (1) inspire internal resources to start from a more informed place, (2) combine Hearts & Wallets with other third parties, and (3) give us input so we can continually improve. Building the solutions of tomorrow that will empower consumers to take charge of their money and become financially well—while creating profit for deserving innovators and their shareholders—is too important for anything less. 

Join us today. Let’s build the solutions of tomorrow together.

– Laura Heiss Varas, founder and CEO

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