June 29, 2001

As banks begin shifting their customer relationship management strategies honed on the retail side to their corporate customers, they need to recognize the importance of companywide customer management and develop integrated business-to-business, front-office selling solutions, according to a recent Meridien Research report.

Convergence, which has increased the range of commercial banking, investment, brokerage and insurance products, has made integrated CRM even more crucial for commercial banks, which tend to be the buyers in multi-industry mergers, said Meridien.

"Financial institutions are beginning to recognize the correlation between revenue generation and quality of service, and need integrated sales and service solutions that will give them an enterprisewide view of customers in real time," said Stephen Ross, an analyst at Meridien.

Fortunately, trends point toward increased integration of marketing, sales and call-center functions that provide a single customer view throughout the bank, as well as continuous access through multiple channel connectivity, such as wireless.

Few major financial institutions, though, have brought together all their products and business units, such as banking, investments and insurance, according to Meridien.

Meridien projects, however, that through 2004 most large and medium-size financial institutions will adopt strategies and technology solutions to address enterprise customer management and e-business, even though the current down market has made them somewhat cautious. External IT spending on business-to-business selling solutions will grow fastest in Europe and North America, with mobile client/server-based solutions with mobile platform support in the forefront, Meridien said.

"The biggest challenge banks face as they shift to a customer-centric strategy is the accompanying shift in their organizational culture," said Ross. "Employees throughout the organization must be trained as sales agents who can anticipate and answer customers' needs. This is an inevitable and required change that must occur at all financial institutions if they expect to remain sustainable, especially when customers and prospects have so many options to choose from today."