Even then, product managers at Salesforce were already talking about extending into the retail banking arena. That it has taken so long to reach general availability this month gives an idea of how much work has gone into getting it ready.
The newly launched Financial Services Cloud for Retail Banking certainly sets some ambitious goals. It aims to cut across the operational, data and technology silos that have previously separated tellers, personal bankers, mortgage officers and other customer-facing staff, to provide every employee a holistic view of the customer's dealings with the bank. This is a big change from how most established banks currently operate, says Rohit Mahna, SVP and GM of Financial Services at Salesforce:
Many banks have been set up in a silo mentality which has been very product-centric. It doesn't give that unified experience customers are looking for.
Today's customers, of course, expect a much more joined-up experience, he says:
You're looking for a much better experience from the bank — an Uber experience, an Amazon experience, more centered on you and helping you achieve what your needs are.
Challenger banks and fintech startups are coming along and offering those more connected, digital experiences, leaving the more established incumbents with no choice but to reform their operations if they want to stay competitive, he argues:
You differentiate by focusing on the customer journey and connecting the entire bank around the customer.
There are three main ways in which the new Salesforce platform has been built to help retail banks achieve this goal, he explains.
Most important has been the creation of a data model that allows the Salesforce cloud to provide a single view across multiple data sources in a bank's systems. This has been one of the most significant areas of investment in the product's development, Mahna tells me. It means that all customer data held by various functions within the bank — whether financial holdings, bank accounts, loans or personal identification documents — can all be accessed and displayed within a single, role-based console. The console also draws on intelligence within the system to prioritize and show alerts and tasks.
The second element draws on the data science and machine learning capabilities of Salesforce Einstein to intelligently score and prioritize referrals based on customer preferences and activity. If, for example, a customer has previously expressed an interest in financial planning and their monthly deposits rise, the system could alert their personal banker and suggest a referral to a financial advisor. This built-in intelligence empowers people interacting with customers to give more personalized advice because of the context the system automatically provides them, says Mahna.
The final element is the ecosystem of partner applications and services that can easily plug into the system using Salesforce APIs and partner-built integrations. In addition to partners that have come on board as part of the original wealth management product, there's a new wave of partners offering retail banking add-ons, many of them targeting smartphone users. Mahna cites the example of a chatbot that can interact with customers via messaging. Other smartphone-friendly features in the platform include an online signup tool that includes image capture of identity documents, or the ability to jump to a video chat with an agent from within a mobile app.
Although this is a product for customer-facing staff and doesn't replace a bank's internal systems, the work that Salesforce has put in to ensure it can integrate data from many of those systems goes a long way towards overcoming some of the internal barriers that have been holding banks back from providing a modern customer service experience.
Mahna quotes research that shows a third of bank customers go elsewhere for products and services that their own bank could provide. Often, a bank could pre-empt that defection if only it were able to act on customer information that it already holds — and many customers would no doubt welcome such proactive service.