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Much of Andrew Clark’s professional journey has centred on the fundamentals of life, from reproduction to bereavement. The former chief executive of Canada’s largest cemetery operator brings unique depth to ClearEstate’s leadership team and a trans-Atlantic perspective that will foster promising institutional partnerships worldwide.
The former head of Park Lawn Corp. began his career in banking with Toronto Dominion and then spent about a decade trading equities in real estate and hospitality. Rising from COO to CEO of Park Lawn, Clark concluded another productive near-decade in 2020, increasing the organization’s funeral business threefold. Scaling, and the client experience in high-empathy scenarios, Clark believes are key to meeting the evolving needs of essential services consumers, especially in post-pandemic times.
“What we find is how these key elements, in these times we live in, are the underpinnings of the customer journey,” said Clark, “and they are very similar in that these are highly emotional conversations. And in death, be it funeral services or estates, it involves sort of a ‘high touch’ approach to client interactions. And that's something where there's a lot of work to be done, especially in enhancing those customer experiences.”
Born and raised in Toronto, Clark attended Eastern Canada’s Mount Allison University in New Brunswick before jumping across the pond to earn a Master’s of Literature in Management, Economics and International Relations at the University of St. Andrews. He remembers feeling driven to be an entrepreneur, to think and succeed entrepreneurially, and trying to find the quickest path available.
“I decided that the best way to go about my journey was through the banking environment. In university, I focused my efforts and attention on studying macro-type themes, whether they were entrepreneurs and their success over an extended period of time or macroeconomics itself, which is what I did my graduate work in. That is what led me to TD and, ultimately, my own entrepreneurial journey.”
In Canadian business circles, the part of Clark’s journey with Park Lawn would establish him as a Bay St. sage. In 2020, he founded Triangle Capital Corp. to pursue his interests in certain essential sectors, including healthcare, and including one very prominent British institution.
In January 2021, Triangle, in partnership with Bulldog Capital Partners, acquired the United Kingdom’s most prominent network of fertility clinics, Bourne Hall Ltd. — in 1978, the founding clinic was responsible for a historic breakthrough with the birth of the world’s first “test tube baby” via in-vitro fertilization, Louise Brown.
While the differences between industries Clark is interested in may seem significant, the common ingredient is the need for systematizing the aid people receive at some of the most difficult moments of their lives; and expanding these activities across expansive, culturally diverse territories. Clark is a unique leader that can help guide similar activities for ClearEstate, with a digital emphasis.
In a word, it’s about listening.
“I believe that we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason,” he began. “Fundamentally, these conversations are more about listening, and extracting nuggets of information from your families as to what is most important. It’s about listening, not selling. And in that context, I think ClearEstate does a really top quality job in designing and offering a service rooted in human experience.”
Human compassion, and considering empathy throughout the design process, is part of what defines ClearEstate. Even as a complex SaaS product, compassion cannot take a backseat to efficiency and both must be considered at every click.
“Andrew brings a perspective on the bereavement space which helps on partnerships of course but more holistically on the tone and approach to customer care at ClearEstate,” said co-founder and CEO Davide Pisanu. “This is a sensitive area, and there's a way to approach partners and customers that relies heavily on the empathetic approach."
Though people are different and every client journey is different, Clark argues, certain processes can certainly be made universally empathetic.
“These are very sensitive conversations that don’t necessarily lend themselves to simple automation and programming. Ultimately, it's still that classic principle: listen to customers, and use those common threads to foster understanding.”
As the Will Talk blog has explored in some depth, the current state of estate settlement systems across North America is sorely lacking in empathy, and in even basic fairness. Executors are crushed under the weight of antiquated systems that could have been automated years ago, facilitating asset transfers, tax collection and all transactions.
The bereavement sector is modernizing rapidly and ClearEstate is leading that change.
“Most executors are pretty shocked at how disorganized the system is, and how complex it is,” said Clark. “ClearEstate helps dim the noise while demystifying the process for users. The measure of success, in large part, will be mass market acceptance and how a simpler alternative exists. And we're on track to achieving that.”
In recent periods when social distancing has been the prime directive, remote and virtual solutions, Clark added, have taught us just how unnecessary face-to-face interactions can be in many cases.
“It’s nothing revolutionary,” he continued. “Whether it is telehealth or pre-planning an estate, I think the move to virtual conversations is a huge advantage for ClearEstate. The key takeaway here is how ClearEstate, as a service, is very timely; it can be facilitated digitally, through virtual or remote conversations rather than the traditional going to sit down with the accountant or trust officer or lawyer... That was then, and this is now.”
Clark sees a clear path to grow the platform globally as a key part of the broader financial ecosystem while finally moving away from the outdated processes of the past.
“I think there is an opportunity for ClearEstate to become a sort of a clearinghouse for estate settlement across a number of different jurisdictions and away from the court system. TurboTax, for example, has been an extremely successful offering that helped demystify the tax filing process; if ClearEstate could have that same level of success on the estate settlement side.”
It’s a goal Clark shares with his co-founders, who are all dedicated to a common cause while being united by shared experience — specifically, the pain of loss, and the need to do better.
“Andrew and I really connected as operators of large and complex organizations,” added Pisanu. “Sometimes therapist, sometimes mentor, always helpful — he’s been key in helping to form our perspective in the early stages of building this company.”
“Professionally and personally,” said Clark of his colleagues, “we are all kindred spirits. Our approaches and styles are quite different, but complementary. And I think that commonality lends itself well to constructive conversations. How we get from point A to point B is a little different, but we share the same fundamental worldview. And that's been helpful to get ClearEstate where it's got to go at this stage.”