The Data Possible Podcast
Harnessing the Power of Data
Guests: Ned Dane, Chief Strategy Officer at Aidentified
Summary: In this episode of The Data Possible Podcast, Ned Dane, Chief Strategy Officer at Aidentified, talks about the power of data and how advisors and institutions are using behavioral analytics, dynamic insights, and real-time wealth events to cultivate relationships and turn cold calls into warm referrals.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Ned’s inspiration for starting Aidentified
- How advisors and institutions are using Aidentified to connect to hyper-targeted, qualified prospects
- Why having a unified household/professional profile on your prospects and clients is so valuable to sales and marketing
- How clients are using the Interest & Lifestyle dataset co-developed by Aidentified and Discovery Data to deliver a personalized experience and identify new market opportunities
The Data Possible Podcast is produced by our partner, Advisorpedia.
Doug: Welcome to The Data Possible Podcast presented by Discovery Data. This is your host, Doug Heikkinen. Today we welcome Ned Dane, who is the Chief Strategy Officer at Aidentified. Aidentified identifies prospects at the moment when they are most likely to buy. Isn't technology cool? We can't wait to get into this one. Welcome, Ned.
Ned: Hey, Doug, thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Doug: Prior to starting Aidentified, you had been in financial services industry for 30 years. What's your background? And what was the inspiration behind leaving the industry in such really interesting spots to start Aidentified?
Ned: Sure. So thank you. Yeah, I had an amazing, I would say traditional career in financial services. And maybe I'll just give you a little quick background on that. So I got my start back in the early 90s at Putnam Investments. Putnam was an incredible place to learn a lot about how to work with financial advisors, you know, learn about capital markets and all that I had a really terrific foundation there. I worked both in retail distribution and then later in the 401k business. And then I moved from the Boston area down to New York and took a job at AXA Equitable, and over time in my career at AXA Equitable I was actually the president of their broker-dealer. While I was there, I learned the insurance secret handshake and learned a lot about insurance distribution. But I also had the good fortune of being involved in some merger transactions as well, we purchased Mutual of New York along the way. And then I also had the privilege of working on a major outsourcing and partnership with LPL. So got a really, really good foundation in leading businesses there. I then went on to Merrill Lynch and had a great career at Merrill for a number of years, working in both product and then sales leadership for them. And the last thing that I did was got a lot of exposure to the private bank within what was then called PBIG, which is now the Private Bank Group at Merrill Lynch and worked a lot with wealthy families and learned a lot about the changing needs of the rising generation in wealthy families. And then my last traditional stop was at Oppenheimer Funds. And I built a business there, that was called the Private Client Group. And I led a team that served intermediaries that worked with ultra-high-net-worth families. So these were like family offices and private banks and trust companies. So a lot of great things along my career. But there was one thing that I've done from the very beginning. And that has been partner with very successful financial advisors, and help bring new ideas and solutions to them. So sorry for the long background. But that's 30 years of time in financial services. A couple years ago, in 2018, when Oppenheimer Funds was acquired by Invesco, that was an opportunity for me to kind of step back and reflect. And one of the things that I thought about at that time was the value of data. And we were starting to see an evolution in the mutual fund business around data, we're starting to see that we were able to get more insight from the wirehouses and whatnot, about where business is being conducted. We were bringing in data scientists and data analysts into asset management firms at that time, and really starting to really better understand what our distribution will look like. And so the thought of data was in my head, and life is always a funny thing. You know, along the way, I ran into an old friend Tom Aley, who's one of the cofounders of Aidentified and he and his twin brother, Darr and I all went to college together, way back in the 80s. Tom and Darr had successfully built a couple of amazing data companies, and along the way, and they were just starting up the concept of Aidentified and it was just one of those right place, right time, I was thinking really critically about where data was going to play in the future of financial services. And, you know, here they came right to me with an idea that was still an idea at that point. But we took that idea and we build something quite remarkable. So yeah, that's the long version of my background and what brings me here. There's one other element though, Doug, I'd like to talk about, you know, kind of along the way, in my career, one of the things that I've always thought a lot about is, you know, the power of building, you know, diverse teams and I've prided myself on that throughout my career. And when my role was moving on, part of the Oppenheimer and Invesco transition, you know, I sort of looked back and said, you know, I'm not the kind of person that, you know, right now is what we need in this industry. And there's other opportunities for other people. And so I felt like it was sort of my time to step aside, I had the good fortune of a little bit of liquidity to make that an easier decision. But I was, on the one hand, magnetically attracted to Aidentified. And on the other hand, I was really trying to, you know, give leadership roles to other people.
Doug: At the top, I said, Aidentified, identifies prospects at the moment when they're most likely to buy is that it in a nutshell, and tell me more about that.
Ned: Yeah, so thank you. We serve a lot of different clients; our most important clients are in financial services. You know, that's what we built this technology for. But we also do serve other industries, as well, we have a lot of colleges and universities that use our technology, to help keep close watch of their alumni base, and parents of their present students and those kinds of things. We work with luxury brands, we work with residential real estate, but what we do at Aidentified , is really quite interesting and unique. So the first thing that we are as a company is, we're a huge database. And so we purchase data from about 14 different data providers. And then we use some proprietary data science, to take all of those data elements, some of which are about people, as consumers, and some of which are about people, as business people. And we use data science to bring those all together to get kind of one version of the truth. So if you look me up on Aidentified, you'll see me as the Chief Strategy Officer at Aidentified who used to be head of the Private Client Group at Oppenheimer, and at Merrill Lynch, and Putnam and so on, and so on. But you'll also see that my wife's name is Heather, and that we have two kids in their 20s, and that I enjoy fishing and the outdoors, and wine and cars, and gardening, and charity, and those kinds of things. So you can see me as a person in the context of my career, and who I am, you know, in my household, and so those two things are really important, because they inform each other. And we'll talk more about that in a minute. So the first part of what we do at Aidentified is we have this really amazing database of the US, and we have basically the adult population of the US married with the US labor force, and that together, forms the basis of our technology. From there, though, we do some really interesting things, the first of which is, because we know where everybody works, we're able to attach wealth triggers to events going on inside companies. So as a company goes public, or a private company receives some investment financing, or an executive gets a new grant of equity or sell shares, we can see that very clearly. And then we pass that back to our clients, so that they can see, you know, where there's opportunities that resonate with the markets that they try to serve. The other really important thing that we do at Aidentified is leverage the database itself. And so in my example, where I work at Aidentified and used to be at Oppenheimer, and Merrill Lynch, and AXA and Putnam, all of those things, all those footprints in the sand of my career, also leave a trail of relationships. And so because we know where people work, and where they used to work, and the boards they serve on and where they went to school, and even where they live, we can use data science to infer relationship pathways. So to understand, you know, if I'm interested in a certain market segment, and there's people that make up that market segment, what's my brightest path to connect with them. And so our technology helps a client really understand that pathway to accompany two people, to a group of people or individuals. And so that's probably the most important thing we do, we wouldn't have had the ability to do that, until we did all the work before. So we had to build the database, we had to build the wealth triggers, we had to build all of those things to understand, to then give our clients the ability to leverage the full value of their relationship capital. So that's what we do.
Doug: That's fantastic stuff. The one thing that seems to have been consistent in your experience in the industry is relationships. How can advisors build a relationship with their prospects and clients virtually since many can't do it in person? And what does the new relationship process look like?
Ned: So it's really fascinating looking at this and again, I've spent my whole career serving top advisors and an understanding, you know what their process is around managing their client book and prospecting and all of those elements. And of course, over the past two years, with the pandemic, and with the work from home, and all of the changes that were obviously quite dramatic at the beginning, it's been really fascinating to see how the industry has evolved. And so I would say that, you know relationships are critically important. There's a few things that I always think about, you know, like your network, in many ways is your net worth, your network drives the value that you bring to an organization or your ability to capitalize on opportunities. And so, you know, that's still critically important and having that, but everybody had to pivot, they had to think differently about their relationships and networks. And it's been fascinating, just as I've been speaking to our clients and prospects of late, I usually ask people, you know, tell me a little bit about what the past two years has been like. And invariably, they start to talk about, you know, a series of large clients that they brought in over the past two years, whom they’ve never met. And so, you know, I think that in the old way of thinking about client cultivation, certainly referrals are critically important, you know, but I think that everybody sort of felt like it was required that we had to actually sit down physically with people and break bread, and do all those things that we all like to do as humans, but I think we've learned over the past couple of years, that a lot of that can be done remotely, and that, you know, leveraging technology, like, you know, video conferencing, and all of that can be equally as effective, and, in fact, creates tremendous operating leverage. And what I mean by that is, if you think a couple years ago about, you know, speaking to an advisor about his or her practice, and she might have said, you know, I serve the medical community, you know, in specifically people who focus on radiology or whatever the specialty is, and I do that in this kind of geography. Well, of course, today, with modern technology, as a leverage point, the geography is no longer a boundary. And so you can be the expert serving radiologists across the country or around the world. Because that's your area of expertise. And because you can communicate with people in this new way, you're able to be more relevant to that audience, you know, much more broadly. So I think that's been a really big change. I think the other thing, though, is that, you know, it's a whole new skill set, you know, if we've been accustomed over our business life to, you know, be engaging in person, it's actually really hard to learn how to be engaging over technology. And so I think a lot of folks, you know, work with that, and learned how to set up their Zoom rooms, or whatever it was, create the right lighting, create the right atmosphere, but then also learn how to kind of project themselves into that camera in a way that, you know, really helps show who you are as a person, as a professional, and to be engaging. So I think that's probably the biggest changes in the way that advisors are building relationships and using technology, I think, in a lot of ways, even now, as sort of some of the pandemic restrictions are coming down. We're finding that, you know, the technology interface isn't going away, people like this. Yes, we'd like to be in person and I had a great day, the other day meeting with clients in person, and it was wonderful. But you can't beat the operating leverage you get out of being able to be, you know, in Kansas, at 10, in California at 11. And then back in Boston at 12. It's just fundamentally changed our ability to be more effective and efficient.
Doug: Why is knowing personal aspects about people beneficial to doing business? And how might it change the way they do business? And do they have to be careful with it?
Ned: Yeah, so that's a big part of what we do. And so when you collect all that information, you know, the power of that is amazing when used properly. So let me give you an example. When you look at my profile, again, you're going to see where I went to school, you're going to see some hobbies and interests and those kinds of things. If I was working with a new advisor, you know, that person might have that information in front of them, but it doesn't change the importance around discovery, and having a dialogue and having communication. What having the data does though, is it really does help you in this new modern world to build relationships, you know, if we share an alma mater, and you know that, you know, somewhere along the line, you can drop some breadcrumbs about University of New Hampshire, and that's going to resonate with me. So those kinds of things are really important, you know, knowing the context of somebody, you know, their sort of life stage that they're in, do they have children or not? Are they married or not? Hobbies and interests, those are all, you know, sort of common connecting points that help to build relationships. And so having that insight available to you is incredibly powerful and important. But I think a lot of the best clients are using that in a way where they're approaching a discussion with some knowledge in their hand, but then also, you know, using it to foster meaningful dialogue. And in a way that's enabling the ability to form deeper relationships, connections, leveraging technology.
Doug: How has our society learned to harness the power of data?
Ned: That’s a big question, Doug. So I mean, I think, let me go away from what I do in my little corner of the world, but just think about how harnessing the power of data helped, in basically expedite the process of developing the vaccines that, you know, sort of got us out of this pandemic mess, in the ability to leverage machine learning, artificial intelligence, and modern data techniques, to look at massively wide data sets, to then glean out patterns and commonalities that are far beyond what any one human being or group of human beings can do is literally a transformation moment in our society, whether that's data that is coming from a jet engine that lands on every single flight in the world, and then transmits that back so that people understand the performance of the engine, mechanics understand that those kind of things, or whether it's understanding relationships, or you know, developing new drugs and all that. So I think,, you know, data is incredibly powerful , data has transformed the modern world and will continue to. And I think that was really the thing that brought me to this company in the first place, was that power. I didn't say this before. But we had one of the last things that we did at Oppenheimer Funds, after we knew that the leadership team, you know, we were all moving on. We were orderly, transferring the business over to Invesco. And one of the last things that we did was we had this really incredible off site, with the leadership team, where we asked a question, which was an interesting one posed by our CEO, you know, after I think 67 years of being an asset manager, where we built a great platform, we had, you know, a quarter of a trillion dollars of assets under management. And the question was, how different would this company be, if the data that we happen to collect along the way in servicing clients and advisors, and understanding companies to invest in and all that, how different would this place be if the data was actually more valuable than the assets that we manage? And that was a big question for us to ponder. And in fact, in many ways, really understanding the power of data that people have in their operating businesses, and how to harness that and how to use it to better understand client needs and all that. It was a really interesting sort of final chapter at an amazing firm to contemplate that and to think how different you know, we'd allocate resources and those kinds of things, if that, in fact, was the thing that we're in business for, instead of managing money.
Doug: It seems like data science adds another dimension to relationships and provides additional insights to what you know, and what you don't know.
Ned: Yeah, I would say that is very true. I think that, again, the thing that's really important is how you leverage it. So, you know, it's all fine and good to, for example, to look at a company and say, okay, I'm really interested in this company, Rivian, it's an electric truck company that went public last year, and it's, you know, among the whole cohort of the transformation to electric vehicles and all that, you know, to be able to sort of look at that company and say Okay, well, on the one hand, you can look and see factually, like, who are the people that run that business? And who are the people that serve on the board? And who are the people that run HR or whatever your sort of entry point is to that firm. It's an entirely different thing, though, to look at Rivian and say, Well, who are those people? And how do I relate to them? So to look at a board member, and say, Oh, that's interesting, that person is actually connected to this person who's on my board, because the two of them serve together on a third board. And that's a real life example that we looked at when I was checking out Rivian. So to be able to be relevant to that company, on the one hand, sort of knocking on doors, knowing people's names and addresses, and that sort of thing is one thing, coming in another way to say to this board member, hey, I'm getting a warm introduction from this person that you serve on another board with, entirely different story. And then also knowing a little bit about that person, and, you know, what their care abouts are, and you know, where they live, and do they have children and those sort of things, that's all really important information to build relationships. So it adds a whole other dimension. You know, if we're doing our job well, we're helping our clients essentially take the whole sort of cold calling, and search work out of their prospecting process and make it really easy to almost approach every situation from the start of a warm referral, which we all know is really the best way to engage with somebody else.
Doug: Aidentified partnered with Discovery Data to produce their Interests and Lifestyle specialized dataset, what are some of the uses you're seeing from clients on how and why they're accessing this type of data?
Ned: It's really interesting, and, we were thrilled to start working with Discovery Data around this project. So Discovery Data has incredible insight on, you know, financial advisors and their practice and being able to really understand, you know, what the makeup of their business looks like in terms of, advisory business versus transactional business, and, you know, sort of all the different things that make up the complexion of what they do. What we brought to the table with the Interests and Lifestyle data, though, was a little bit more information about who those advisors are as people, you know, are they married? Do they have kids? What are their hobbies and interests? Where did they go to school, those kinds of things, which again, can foster relationships. So as I talked to leaders, and asset management, folks that, you know, lead sales organizations, you know, wholesalers or consultants or however that particular firm chooses to call that, you know, their team that goes out and covers advisors, having that information is incredibly powerful. So again, I've been doing this for a long time, in my early days, at Putnam, you know, I could come into an office of a wirehouse, see the two or three people that I knew at that office, and then maybe get an introduction to a couple more people as I was doing walk arounds. And then at some point, maybe the branch manager might have said, Okay, time for you to move along, let my people do their job. And so, anyway, that's how I used to do it, I used to just come in, and, you know, and sit down. And, you know, you walk in someone's office, and you see pictures of their family, and you see the you know, the degree on the wall and where they went to school, and you can easily make those connections. Well, over the past two years, there were no meetings in offices. People were not going to take live meetings. And while it was probably still fairly easy to see or communicate or engage with the advisors that you already knew, it was nearly impossible to get in touch with people that you didn't. And so technology, and specifically, the Interests and Lifestyle dataset from Discovery Data has been really helpful for that. Because if I'm a wholesaler for an asset manager here in Connecticut, and I can look at my whole market, and I can say, okay, well, let's start with who here went to University of New Hampshire. You know, there's a subset of advisors that we share an alma mater, that's a discussion and that's an entry point I can have with those people in my outreach. Who are the people that like hiking and the outdoors or gardening? Or who are the people that give money to education because that's really important to our family. Those kinds of things, you know, they're shared experiences that you can really leverage to meaningfully engage with somebody, and I think that is, you know, it's sort of like the sales, 3.0 way of thinking about this. With the power of insight, with the power of understanding, you know, Interests and Lifestyle data, you're much better able to engage and target and build relationships where they didn't exist before, even without having to come walk in the office and knock on doors.
Doug: I imagine the feedback you're getting has been fantastic. What are clients saying about the product?
Ned: Yeah, so clients are really happy about both products. So our partnership with Discovery Data, we're hearing great insights from the folks that are using it again, I think it's helping with understanding, you know, we have some of the clients are using that from the perspective of arming their sales organization with insights about the advisors that they're focused on, there are other firms that are using this information to better understand the makeup of a team to understand, you know, where those commonalities are. I'm fairly certain that there's also some of the wealth management firms themselves are using it, to think about, you know, where there are teams that they could possibly recruit into their organization and understanding a bit more about, you know, sort of the hobbies and interests and lifestyles of the people that make up that team. So on the Discovery Data side, we're seeing, you know, great feedback from clients, and how they're leveraging that. On the Aidentified side. You know, we're having so much fun partnering with wealth teams, and I think they're getting so much benefit out of working with us. And, you know, the ability to just sit down with a team or with a firm or a group of advisors and say, you know, tell me, what's your unique story, and what is the market that you serve. And as they start talking, it's very easy in the Aidentified technology to basically build the, you know, basically the prospect persona, reflective of everything that they said, industry, location, wealth level, whatever it is. And then to show them with very clear eyes, this is the universe you just described, here's how many people you could potentially serve in that market. And oh, by the way, here are the ones that you have a connection pathway to, which is a really good place to start. So, I think advisors are really inspired by this insight, I think that they're also finding the opportunity to engage with people precisely at the moment where they need their help the most. So, if you're thinking about private companies, for example, you know, working with people in a private firm, as they start demonstrating some success as they start to, you know, raise some investment capital to fund that success. You know, you're able to really deeply engage with people and help them understand the wealth event that's coming around the corner, and be there by their side as that happens. I mean, it's so incredibly powerful. And, again, it's such an honor to work with these teams and get to know them. But it's also really amazing for the teams when they see the power of how to leverage it.
Doug: Ned, this has been fantastic. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Ned: Thank you so much for having me, Doug. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Doug: For everybody at Discovery Data, The Data Possible Podcast team, we thank you for joining us. Goodbye.