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How The Cloud Can Help Banks Get Closer to Their Customers

Salesforce.com unveils lead and referral engine for retail banking as the first in a series of capabilities designed to help financial services companies build "one-to-one" relationships with customers.

A tipping point of sorts appears to have been reached regarding adoption of the cloud-based solutions in financial services. Banks and other financial services companies rapidly are overcoming concerns about security, and also are moving beyond strictly cost-saving considerations, to embrace the cloud platform as a means to achieve agility, speed and responsiveness. Further evidence of this trend was enterprise cloud computing company Salesforce.com's introduction last week of Salesforce1 for Financial Services, a platform intended to improve the ways retail banks, wealth management companies and insurers attract, connect with and retain customers.

[Banking in the Cloud: Four Hot Initiatives]

Vivek Kundra, Salesforce.com
Vivek Kundra, Salesforce.com
With Salesforce1 for Financial Services, the company says, Salesforce is delivering systems to address specific industry problems, developing an ecosystem of partners and creating systems that leverage its Salesforce1 Platform. The first solution for the platform includes a new lead and referral engine for retail banking to automate the process of identifying and nurturing customers across every interaction. These are designed to automate the process of identifying and nurturing prospective clients across interactions with customer service reps, lenders, bank officers and sales and marketing teams. Leads across any channel (including social, mobile and web) are captured automatically and tracked, which gives retail banks a single view of all prospective customers, says the vendor.

According to Vivek Kundra, executive vice president of industries, Salesforce.com, Salesforce1 for Financial Services can help banks and insurers "build one-to-one relationships [with customers] anytime, anywhere, on any device." With the platform's vendor ecosystem, which currently includes Deloitte (which introduced BankApp for Salesforce1, a banking CRM accelerator)and nCino (which is delivering an end-to-end cloud-based ERP system for banks with its Bank Operating System for Salesforce1), "We are putting together a solution for the biggest problem banks face: how to connect to customers and manage leads." He describes this as "a connected customer experience, on a single customer platform [with] connected advisors, tellers, agents [and] optimized lead and referral management." These capabilities can enable financial services firms "to convert every lead in real-time," Kundra says.

He points to what he calls the "convergence of cloud, social and mobile" as an exciting opportunity for financial services companies to become more closely connected to their customers -- but also a potential threat as disruptive competitors race to offer alternatives. "Demanding customers want to be able to connect" with their financial institutions, Kundra says. "How do we connect to customers and fundamentally create different experiences than in the past?"

James Slocum, OneUnited Bank
James Slocum, OneUnited Bank
The idea, Kundra says, is for banks and other financial services providers "to move away from a system of record to a system of engagement. It lets customers deal with systems on their own terms." This could also get banks closer to what he calls the "holy grail" of cross selling, something they've been pursuing for years with mixed results. "What's different now is the convergence of social, mobile and cloud. [Cross selling] was structurally impossible in the past."

One of the first financial institutions to be using Salesforce1 for Financial Services is Boston-based OneUnited Bank, which has been a Salesforce.com customer since 2005. The bank built its new Unity Visa secured credit card program, which was launched in November 2013, on the Salesforce1 platform, with a goal of "tying the experience of our online channel into our products and services" in a way that would enable direct interactions with customers and also tie into the bank's branches, reports James Slocum, CIO.

"We built out a direct-to-consumer app on the Salesforce.com platform, then we integrated that into our service cloud solution," Slocum says. "We're managing the application process and customer interactions within salesforce, doing all our customer messaging there. Our management team is able to do real-time dashboarding to track the performance of the program. It runs on desktops and browsers, but also from the mobile phone and iPad."

The real-time capabilities provide OneUnited Bank's management with valuable visibility into the performance of the Unity Visa program. "We have real-time access to the analytics [regarding] how the program was doing, the responses, how many applications come into branches versus online," Slocum says. "It's been a powerful experience for the management team to have real-time access to the data. We can analyze the performance and modify our back-office workflow. Historically, these were never in real-time -- the visibility into what was happening wasn't the focus, the focus was delivering the functionality."

Among the benefits the bank already has gained form the platform include the ability to analyze in a more granular way different aspects of the application process, "because we're able to tie lot of things together in ways we couldn't before, especially over the Internet," he says. This includes "all the analytics around marketing effectiveness; [we can] correlate that to the success or failure of an application or closing."

Additionally, Slocum adds, "We have been able to use those data points to improve our overall efficiency. In the last 30 to 60 days, we have improved the rate of approvals of applications by 50%, and have identified the marketing programs that are working or are not working. There are very clear recommendations for how to improve our business -- it has been dramatic."

OneUnited Bank is now in the process of training its staff to use the Salesforce1 mobile app in its branches, Slocum relates. "Starting this month, we will have our customer service reps greeting customers when they come into the branch, with an iPad, to do direct interactions with customers, whether demonstrations of online banking services, or having visibility into other interactions our customers have had with us." The bank also will use the platform as a means of enrolling customers in financial literacy workshops it will hold this summer. "We're looking to improve the lives of our customers," he says. "We will enroll people in workshops right from the Salesforce1 application."

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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