Exploring the Crossroads of Healthcare and Financial Management with Christine Simone

Christine Simone
CEO and Founder of Caribou
September 6, 2023

In this episode, we sit down with Christine Simone, CEO and Founder of Caribou, a software solution for the financial industry, to discuss how to slash the hidden incentives in the healthcare industry to support smarter financial decision-making.

Healthcare and finance are two essential pillars of our society that are inextricably linked, often in ways we may not fully understand. Today, we explore the intersection of these two vital sectors.  

It’s not news that healthcare ranks high among individuals’ financial worries. After all, the saying “If I don’t have my health, I don’t have my wealth” holds a lot of truth. The costs associated with medical treatments and wellness can significantly impact our financial well-being.  

In this episode, we sit down with Christine Simone, CEO and Founder of Caribou, a software solution for the financial industry, to discuss how to slash the hidden incentives in the healthcare industry to support smarter financial decision-making.  

Understanding your health benefits is a crucial step in managing your finances wisely. By grasping the ins and outs of your healthcare coverage, you become less susceptible to overspending. But here’s the real question: How are financial professionals actively preparing for the curveballs that healthcare costs throw at us? How are they guiding their clients towards not only financial stability but also healthier lifestyles?  

In this episode, you’ll learn key concepts on:  

  • Equipping yourself with tools to initiate conversations about healthcare with clients
  • Maintaining 19 touchpoints per year to pave the way for fruitful referrals  
  • Understanding the interplay between healthcare and finance  
  • Shifting from reactive to proactive healthcare management
  • And more!

Connect with Lara Galloway

Connect with Christine Simone

About our Guest

Although she's years away from her own retirement, Christine Simone is obsessed with helping current and future retirees plan for and optimize their healthcare costs. She's held notable leadership positions within the healthcare industry working with key stakeholders from payers to providers to the Veterans Affairs. Now, Christine is the CEO & founder of Caribou, a software solution for the finance industry. She's driven by her passion to slash hidden incentives in healthcare to support smarter financial decision-making, and she is within the small fraction of women founders who have raised venture capital.

Podcast Transcript

Voiceover: [00:00:00] Welcome to the FAST Podcast. Financial Advisor Strategy Talks with Lara Galloway, SVP of Financial Education at White Glove. Lara provides advisors with an opportunity to hear from some of the best minds in the business, follow along to learn quick tips to help you grow your business. From gaining new leads, to keeping current clients engaged and everything in between. 

Now onto the show.  

[00:00:00] Aric Johnson: Hello and welcome to the FAST Podcast with your host Lara Galloway from White Glove. Lara, how are you?  

[00:00:05] Lara Galloway: I'm doing great, Aric. I'm so excited as I always am when we get in this room and work on this podcast together because I have another great guest for you today, and this is going to be a really cool topic, a little bit of a different take. As you know, I'm really passionate about like looking for ways to help advisors have some important conversations that they may not already be having with some of the guests that they have in their office with those new prospects or even existing clients, and so my work out in the world, I ran into our new guest today, talked to her, heard some great stuff and thought, yeah, you need to come talk to our people. So, please let me introduce you to our guest today, Christine Simone. And I'm going to tell you a little bit about Christine real quick. So, although she's years away from her own retirement, Christine Simone is obsessed with helping current and future retirees plan for and optimize their healthcare costs. She's held notable leadership positions within the healthcare industry, working with key stakeholders, from payers to providers, to the Veterans Affairs. Now, Christine is the CEO and founder of Caribou, a software solution for the finance industry. She's driven by her passion to slash hidden incentives in the healthcare industry to support smaller financial decision making, smarter, not smaller, smarter decision making. And she is within the small fraction of women founders who have raised venture capital. So very cool stuff, Christine. Welcome to the FAST podcast.

[00:01:37] Christine Simone: Thank you so much, and that was an important correction because as we'll get into healthcare costs are by no means a small portion of your expenses. So I'm glad that you caught that because I was surprised when you said that, thinking, oh, I need to edit my bio if that's in there.

[00:01:53] Lara Galloway: Yeah. Oh, no, wait. Yeah, that's not the pitch I wanted to give. Yeah, for sure. For sure. And you know, I think it's really just great if you can tell us a little bit about how you were drawn into this. Because at your age, being on that younger side and looking at the industry that is being served, this is such an important thing to think about, the end of life, the older we get, we need to really figure out healthcare costs. How did you get drawn into this area?  

[00:02:22] Christine Simone: Yeah, well surprisingly, or unsurprisingly maybe to some if they've already spoken to me, I actually never thought I would be working in financial services.

[00:02:32] Lara Galloway: Me either!  

[00:02:35] Christine Simone: That's good. We have that in common then. I don't know if you also had a deep passion for healthcare and wanted to be a doctor once upon a time.  

[00:02:43] Lara Galloway: No, no, no. We differ there, so. That's awesome though. Keep going.  

[00:02:47] Christine Simone: Well I ended up deciding that I wanted to be on the business and innovation side of the healthcare industry rather than just be an N-of-1, kind of practicing, you know, medicine within the system. And I got my first job at a startup and I absolutely fell in love with technology and the change that it can bring to the system and ultimately the impact it could have on day-to-day consumers. I transitioned multiple roles, multiple different companies and really just learned the financial burden that healthcare places on consumers. Knowing the ins and outs of the system myself and the rules that I held, I worked a lot with clinicians and with insurance companies trying to get services covered, and I knew all of the hurdles to jump over or the loops to go through in order to get to the right people to get, you know, ultimately, what was supposed to be rewarded to a consumer or to a patient when it comes to claims, and I just was always shocked to hear or understand that day-to-day individuals didn't know how to do that. And oftentimes, healthcare is very reactive, the way that we approach it rather than proactive. So I wanted to bring a more proactive approach to planning for healthcare costs and understanding. I think the education too is a really big piece of what we do, and it's important just like with financial literacy, if you understand your health benefits, you're less likely to overspend as well. So bringing all that to the table now, we thought that the unique lens is distributing a product through the financial services industry because no one in the healthcare system, unfortunately, is incentivized to help you as a consumer navigate that financial component of healthcare. Your doctor unfortunately doesn't have the resources. Your insurance company certainly does not necessarily care to help you do that, and so we thought, well, somebody who is, who has a fiduciary responsibility to protect your wealth is perfectly positioned to help you understand the health related financial decisions that you're making and optimize those costs year over year. So, here we are.  

[00:05:01] Lara Galloway: Here we are. I mean, it makes perfect sense and how someone else isn't, you know, how the space isn't super active with a lot of fintech or healthtech providers is kind of mind-boggling when you put it that way right? Because when you and I were talking before, I know you said, you know, there's one thing that is the biggest financial concern for individuals, and what is that thing?  

[00:05:28] Christine Simone: Well, it's healthcare, right? That's why I commented on your intro, because it's so big in terms of expense and then even more so in terms of concern and worry. You know, you hear a lot of people say, well, if I don't have my health, I have no wealth. We believe now let's take action. What are we doing to actually help proactively plan for some of those costs and help to encourage healthy living as well?

[00:05:52] Lara Galloway: Well, and it's not even so, and we say healthcare, it's like, how do I remain healthy? How do I deal with, you know, aging and sickness and whatever that's going to happen? How do I handle the financial burden of it, but also the logistics of it, right? And so to your point, I think this is such a perfect fit inside the financial industry. Advisors are already doing it. I mean, here at White Glove, we do workshops on Medicare, we do workshops on long-term care. They're not as popular as like our taxes in retirement or our estate planning or social security. But guess what? In those three topics, which are our main ones, all of them typically wind up touching on healthcare cost. So it's something that financial advisors are absolutely already talking to their clients about. They're having a conversation about that in one way or another, but I love how you're putting it in the forefront, and then actually giving them some tools to make talking about it and visualizing it and looking at the impacts of the decisions they make much more like easy to explain and see with their clients.  

[00:07:02] Christine Simone: Yeah, I think the level of depth that we're bringing to the conversation is certainly novel. I think, you know, something that I hear a lot from advisors in the area of healthcare is they'll say, I know enough to be dangerous. Sometimes that can be more dangerous than admitting that you are not the expert in that area and to seek other counsel or other advice for that type of subject matter. So there is a level of depth I think now that clients are expecting across all areas of their financial lives. As well where you can really help clients make decisions, not just get education, but actually support them through the financial decisions of selecting a Medicare plan, for example, or what to do for your benefits when you are retiring. I mean, these are major life events that as an advisor, you should want your clients to be coming to you about them, and you should hopefully want to also help to support any related decisions related to those life events.  

[00:07:58] Lara Galloway: Yeah, because it's not just about stock performance anymore, we all know that, that the industry is moving much more towards holistic planning, and that word gets overused, and I kind of hate it, but it's true. We're looking for help with legacy planning, tax planning, retirement planning. Healthcare planning. Right? So this fits right in that and makes that advisor able to, you know, to have a deeper relationship and have a better relationship with a client, but also to probably distinguish themselves a bit. I mean, what do you find in the advisors that you guys are working with and bringing on? Is this common? Are they feeling comfortable having these conversations or is it just an area that's been kind of just a little too complex for them to take on.

[00:08:47] Christine Simone: Yeah. You know, whenever I talk to an advisor and they tell me I only know a little bit, or I know nothing in this area, or here's what I know, I always start with empathy because by no means was this an area that they probably thought that they would need to learn and deliver advice to their clients on. And so it is a completely different industry in and of itself, and so, acknowledging that I think is really important. We don't expect advisors to become healthcare experts. Neither do their clients, candidly. I think what their clients are expecting though, is to be able to have some type of expertise connected to the overall experience that the advisor is offering. And having that connection be as seamless as possible, and also for it to feed back into the financial plan. That's, I think, the component that's missing right now. A lot of advisors are approaching this sort of in a unidirectional way. In the sense that they might be connecting clients with somebody externally to help them with making a Medicare plan selection, for example, and purchasing that policy at that 65th birthday. But how is that then feeding back into the financial plan and how are you optimizing those costs year over year? Are you just talking about it once and then letting it set and never talking about it again? If you did that with an investment strategy or a financial plan, it would probably go stale very, very quickly. And so that's what we're trying to encourage. And that brings me back to your question, which is, you know, what's really the impact here, aside from differentiation today, because not many advisors are doing this, a more accurate financial plan and increased client touchpoints. Because healthcare is such a big financial concern for clients, why not talk about it with them every year or twice a year, at least during open enrollment. Have a conversation with them related to their benefits and show them that you are being proactive about addressing their financial concerns and that you have solutions to implement and helping them make smarter decisions related to possibly modifying their drug plan or their overall health plan. And so those are other really key areas in addition to the differentiation, it's client touchpoints, the accuracy of the financial plan, and then actual cost savings too. Because you can incur a lot of cost savings. Or sorry, you can incur a lot of additional costs if you're letting a plan that no longer fits you the best kind of sit there.  

[00:11:19] Lara Galloway: Yeah. You know, and that that's such a good point. One of the things that I like to do here on the podcast, you know, at White Glove we do, you know, workshops and seminars and client touchpoints and marketing automation and lead generation and all that kind of good stuff, but we also do a lot of coaching and education for our advisors, teaching them some practice management skills because, once, you know, we we're going to deliver the leads to you, but once you get those leads, how do you convert them to clients and how do you keep those clients? And I want to just like dial in on the idea of what you were just saying, those touch points that are so important for advisors to do. If you're looking at, you know, if you think we have a partnership with Luke Acree and ReminderMedia. And ReminderMedia talks about, you know, a client that has over 200 touch points regularly with his clients every year and people are like, oh my God, how can you possibly do that? And a lot of it, there's some automation, there's some different channels on social, there's of course, ReminderMedia has a magazine and such. So they have a lot of different things. But what I think is so critical too is the point you're making that there are natural occurrences and cadences, like open enrollment for instance, that you mentioned, where there are things on your client's mind. And it's impacting their financial landscape. And if you as an advisor are proactive and you tap into that, you're probably going to get a little less resistance and a little more like, appreciation because that was already in the back of their mind, even without them articulating, maybe they weren't even thinking about talking to you about any healthcare issues. But as an advisor, that is a great conversation opening to have. It's a great touch point to have and it's also a really smart opportunity for you to talk to them about other things that might be going on in their family and thereby building those bridges and relationships possibly to other family members. Because a lot of time, healthcare, if we're talking about long-term care and such, it can involve the need of a caregiver and other family members to be involved too. So that might be another opening there for you as an advisor to be building that bridge to another potential client for you. Right?

[00:13:34] Christine Simone: I couldn't have said it better myself. We call them life events. So there are so many life events that happen across your client's lives, or anyone's life, from having a baby to getting a divorce to talking about engaging prospect clients. How about the next generation? When your client's kids turning 26 and aging off your policy, or they're at school for the summer in college and they go to school in a different state, and they're evaluating the student health plan versus mom and dad's plan, aren't those great opportunities to show that next generation the type of value that you can offer. Open enrollment you mentioned, getting a new diagnosis, new medications. You definitely want to talk to those clients during open enrollment. Moving, when you retire often, maybe you're moving closer to your grandkids, your family, or you're retiring in Florida or Arizona, somewhere nice and warm hopefully. Those are all life events where we're encouraging advisors to get in front of your client, offer proactive planning advice, tell them that you're thinking about them and not just sending them an automated marketing email and you truly have their best interests at heart. I don't know about 200 touchpoints, I read recently, I can't remember the resource off the top of my head, but 19 touchpoints a year is what will get you to a point where you'll finally start to pull out referrals from that client. So if you are looking to grow and you're looking to get them to start to open up about family members, friends, and talk to those other potential clients of yours about you, it's at least 19 touch points a year, so that's every other week.  

[00:15:16] Lara Galloway: Yeah. It, is, and it, even that seems like a lot, especially if you got a pretty sizable book of business, right? So you have to be systematic about it. And I think one of the smartest things you can do, you know, and this comes from me being in a background in sales and marketing, is you plan out like an editorial calendar. You look at every month and look at what's naturally happening in that month that would give you a good reason to have a conversation with a client. Like we said, open enrollment or you know, moving or school starting or yeah, spring, whatever it is. There's so many different things, holidays. There's so many different things that give us those opportunities, but I think that the healthcare piece and being able to tie into it like you're doing with this plan, I think is so smart. So I did want to ask too, like, this is one of the things we talked about asking you about was what strategies can advisors employ to balance maintaining strong client relationships while simultaneously expanding their network? So we're talking a little bit about the bridges here, but I'd just love for you to expand on that more because I think this is a really tough point for people to get their head around.  

[00:16:22] Christine Simone: Yeah, the implementation. I think that most advisors acknowledge that this is a really important area. Now the implementation is a completely different story because not only do you have to gain the confidence to start to discuss healthcare with your clients, you also need some baseline education. So when it comes to implementation and strategy, That's probably, step one, is just ensuring that you maybe take a CE course or two in the areas of Medicare or retirement planning, have some good resources. We always recommend government resources instead of insurance company resources when it comes to areas like this. Work with a company like ours or others that exist to ensure that you could have a good foundation of knowledge and then start to embed it into your service calendar in a way that can be cyclical, as you've described times of the year. Tax planning season, are you going to ask your clients about medical expenses? Is that an area that you might want to try diving into this year? Because it's likely that especially your elder clients are spending a lot of money in this area, and it's probably unlikely that you've asked them if they've itemized their expenses in that area or how much they're even spending. So that's one way to kind of dip your toes into it. Then you can get into the summer months. Maybe you're having a lot of clients with June retirements or July retirements. We see a lot of that at this time of the year, it's probably the most activity that we're getting. So really point out those clients, but don't do it in the month they're retiring, right? We're recommending that advisors are building in custom fields into their CRM for expected retirement dates and birth dates already exist in the CRM, but creating those custom lists and ensuring that they're tracking at least 6-12 months in advance when these life events are happening. So that's a good time of year, for example, is the summer months to really focus on those retiree clients. And then again, at the end of the year too, a lot of December retirements happen as well. And then in the fall months open enrollment happens. So that's usually where we're seeing, again, a lot of activity. Clients and advisors encouraging rerunning analyses to see whether or not there's optimization and cost saving opportunities available. So you can build it in cyclically in that fashion, but then you'll have life events that happen all throughout the years, like divorce or moving, or 65th birthdays, right? That initial Medicare enrollment. So that's how you have to really involve the CRM, ensure that all advisors at the firm are on top of all of those life events, or you have dedicated personnel. We see financial planners usually being the key champions, or we see client relationship managers being key champions of ours. So ensuring that you at least have a point person to really drive these engagements forward. Otherwise, the intention can only take you so far. Like you mentioned, you said, you know, clients might not know their advisor has these resources and might not go to them. But really, if you want to create a valuable touchpoint, you want to be as the advisor, the one approaching the client and offering that proactive touchpoint and that proactive advice. So the more you could structure your workflow through CRM alerts, or if you use any other work flow tools or financial planning products that help you trigger these reminders, the easier it'll be for you in the long run.  

[00:19:48] Lara Galloway: You know, I think it would be beneficial at this point. Clearly you've got a ton of expertise on this, and I know from your background, but also from the platform, right? So can you just share a little bit about how Caribou works and just let these advisors know how they could find out more information about it?  

[00:20:04] Christine Simone: Yeah, yeah, of course. So Caribou is what we call a back office healthcare planning solution that spans the entire client demographic from a client turning 26 and aging off the policy all the way through to Medicare eligibility, what really sets us apart is we've taken a proactive planning approach. We don't actually sell the policy. So any guidance that you're getting, any plan recommendations that you're getting through caribou are truly objective, unbiased, and not tied to any commission. We provide enrollment steps on how to go fulfill that policy on your own as a client, but we're not actually selling the health plan, and that's a really different approach as to what has existed in the industry. But we find that it aligns much more nicely with the way that the industry is trending towards more planning oriented services and more fee-only services. A lot of advisors are no longer selling any products or many products for that matter.

[00:21:01] Lara Galloway: But to your point, they don't have to, they don't have to be that expert. They don't have to go, oh my God, if I take this on, it's another product I've got to get it certified on and make sure that I have all the answers to. Right? So I think that's an amazing approach.  

[00:21:14] Christine Simone: Exactly. So we're conducting the entire analysis, evaluating the health plan options, narrowing it down based on data that's provided by the client. So another key point is that the advisor's not the one who is asking their client for what medications do you take or who your doctors is. That's all client driven. I know advisors don't want to be in that business either of really having those conversations. We conduct the analysis and they can rely on us through either our messaging system or via phone call to answer client questions and really ensure that they have the confidence and the clarity to proceed with a smart financial healthcare decision.

[00:21:51] Lara Galloway: That's awesome. How can we find out more?

[00:21:54] Christine Simone: Oh right. caribouwealth.com is our website. You can book a call directly on that website. We've got plenty of really great resources from case studies to white papers and all sorts of blogs as well that are there. So feel free to peruse through that first before booking a call. But always happy to walk advisors through a full demo so they can see it in action.  

[00:22:14] Lara Galloway: Sweet. So I really appreciate this. I think you're sharing something that we're seeing, as you mentioned, a trend in the industry where we are needing to become more holistic experts. We are needing to build a bigger network that all of the pieces that touch the wealth, the financial future of the clients that we serve, right. But we cannot be experts in all of those things. We can be that curator, we can be that network connector, that person that keeps all of it in one big place for our clients, but we have all of the support coming in to help us be able to serve them in the highest way that we can. Right? So I think this fits really beautifully. We're talking about some things like, you know, tax planning, stuff that we help our clients do. We're talking about estate planning that we're helping our clients do without having to become an accountant, a CPA an estate planning attorney. And now without having to become a Medicaid specialist or Medicare specialist, like, all of this is so helpful, and I want our advisors to get the benefit of this education of how they can uplevel their service. Their service level can increase without their workload increasing because of the technology and platforms like this that are available.  

[00:23:37] Christine Simone: Exactly. Exactly. And that's been the angle that we've taken. I think it's what has led to the success that we've had so far, and so I appreciate the opportunity of shining more light on this really important subject area. So thank you for having me.  

[00:23:50] Lara Galloway: Well, our final question for you, as always, I like to just talk about success and I like to talk about however you define success. I would love for you to share it with us because I always am impressed and surprised sometimes by how people define it, so I would love for you to share with us what is your definition of success.  

[00:24:09] Christine Simone: Such a good question. It's something I thought a little bit about, and of course I'm going to relate it back to what I'm doing today because I wake up every day and never feel like I have a job because I love what I do, truly. And that is one of my definitions of success. And I learned that luckily very, very early in my career. My first job was as a Disney princess. I was 14 years old and I used to run birthday parties.  

[00:24:33] Lara Galloway: Nice.  

[00:24:33] Christine Simone: I've embraced that ever since. I've learned that, you know, truly having a successful life is just loving what you do every moment of it. And I think the next level of that, which I've really learned through Caribou, is that if you can bring that same clarity and confidence to other people who might not have that same clarity and confidence in the area that you're passionate about, then that just amplifies it even more. So I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to care so deeply about a subject area, and then also get to empower others and educate others in the in the same area.  

[00:25:09] Lara Galloway: Well, that's amazing and congratulations on your funding. Congratulations on the work you're doing in the industry, and it's so exciting to hear that you're able to channel your inner princess and your love for what you do into making such an impact in the industry. So we really appreciate you being a member and a featured speaker here on the podcast.  

[00:25:31] Christine Simone: Thank you so much again for the opportunity to share what I'm working on.

[00:25:36] Aric Johnson: This has been fantastic. Lara. I think one of the themes today, and on many of your podcasts, is expectations. Clients have certain expectations, and I don't want to speak for you, but 20, 25 years ago, I think a lot of advisors, the badge of honor was, I'm an advisor. This is what I do, this is what I focus on. That's my entire job. Expectations have changed. The advisors that you work with and that I've worked with over the last 20, 25 years, the ones that, that have succeeded have brought in those other team members to say, this is what I work on, however, I've got some answers for you when you have questions about taxes, when you have questions about trusts. I'm not an attorney, but I've got one that I can recommend. And this, that's right in there, right? The advisors that are successful see the needs and they fill the needs of their clients. I think you'd agree with that at least. Right?

[00:26:26] Lara Galloway: Absolutely. That's a great way to put it.  

[00:26:29] Aric Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. So, this has been fantastic. Christine, I think you're the first Disney princess we've had on the podcast!

[00:26:34] Christine Simone: Hopefully not the last.

[00:26:37] Aric Johnson: Okay, well we'll seek some out. I'm definitely not a Disney princess.

[00:26:42] Lara Galloway: Tell your friends. Send them over.  

[00:26:45] Aric Johnson: Just gather them all up. We'll have one podcast all about that. Lara, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for your time and what you do at White Glove. If folks want to reach out and say, hey, you know what I'm interested in all the things that you guys do there, why don't you give them some contact info as well.

[00:26:59] Lara Galloway: Yeah. So we'll put all of our information about Christine and Caribou in our show notes as well, and you can reach out to us always at info@whiteglove.com.  

[00:27:09] Aric Johnson: Perfect. Thank you both again, and of course our last thank you goes to the listening audience. Thank you so much for tuning in and listening to the FAST Podcast with Lara Galloway. If you have not subscribed to the podcast yet, please click the Subscribe Now button below. This way when Lara comes out with a new podcast, it'll show up directly on your listening device. And we humbly ask you share this podcast, rate it and leave a review, as this actually does help others find the show. Again, thank you so much for listening today. For everyone at White Glove, this is Aric Johnson reminding you to live your best day every day, and we'll see you next time.

Voiceover: Thank you for listening to the FAST Podcast, Financial Advisor Strategy Talks with Lara Galloway, your go-to source designed to help you grow your business. 

Have questions about the topics covered during the show? Visit our website at www.whiteglove.com or email us at info@whiteglove.com. Don't forget to click the follow button to be notified when new episodes become available. The information covered and posted represents the views and opinions of the guests and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of White Glove. 

The content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional investing advice. Always seek the advice of your financial advisor or other qualified financial services provider with any questions you may have regarding your investment planning. 

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