Salesforce debuts adviser-focused client relationship management platform

Called Salesforce Financial Services Cloud, the platform is the company's entry into the wealth management industry

Mar 8, 2016 @ 7:00 am

By Alessandra Malito

Salesforce's financial adviser-specific client relationship management platform has rolled out of beta and is now available for the general public.

The CRM, called Salesforce Financial Services Cloud, is the company's entry into the wealth management industry, which is gearing up for a generational wealth transfer of some $30 trillion over the next few decades. It was one of the reasons the company set its sights on the financial services.

Previously, advisers could use Salesforce but had to incorporate overlays to make it industry-specific. The CRM starts at $150 per user each month.

"There is a big gap between client expectations and where the industry actually is," said Simon Mulcahy, a senior vice president and the general manager of financial services at Salesforce.

Mr. Mulcahy said the CRM will provide a unified experience to support an adviser's practice.

"There is nothing in the market … to reduce the amount of pain to make it easier for them to do what they are good at," he said. "They're good at giving advice."

Salesforce was ranked second in an InvestmentNews Popular Tech Products survey, with 12.8% of advisers saying they use it. In first place was Redtail CRM with 40.5% of users. Junxure CRM came in third at 11.2%, followed by Grendel Online at 6% and Microsoft Dynamics at 5.8%.

Its new design, called Lightning, is built on the cloud and allows users to access the CRM in a customizable way from any mobile device.

United Capital, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based advisory firm with $15 billion in assets under management according to a spokesman, uses Salesforce, and was a design partner for its newest platform, said Mike Capelle, chief strategy officer at United Capital.

"When [advisers] get Salesforce out of the box, it is pretty much a plain vanilla CRM — it has a lot of capabilities, but you have to put in the time and energy to make it match," Mr. Capelle said. "That's one of the things we made sure to address — an interface that better matches how advisers run their practice and interact with clients."

The CRM company also expanded its list of partners, Mr. Capelle said, including Yodlee and ASI for integrations.

Wealthbox, a newer CRM platform, has been making strides to be the "modern" CRM, integrating with Gmail last month and instant messaging service provider Slack last year.

John Rourke, chief executive of Starburst Labs, which makes Wealthbox CRM, said Salesforce has paved the way for the adoption of cloud-based CRMs.

"Do stay tuned for a CRM showdown comparison between Salesforce CRM (and their new Lightning Design) versus Wealthbox CRM related to the usability efficiency of our respective product interfaces for financial advisers," Mr. Rourke said in an email.

Brian McLaughlin, chief executive of Redtail, a financial adviser-specific CRM, said Salesforce is very successful in the CRM market, and that his company has been happy to be in the industry Salesforce is entering now.

"I can say that Redtail has taken great pride in serving this industry, exclusively, since inception," he said in an email.

There are also software providers that offer a wealth management overlay for Salesforce's original platform, which includes features specific to an adviser's business. AppCrown is one of them.

Ted Tsung, chief executive of AppCrown, said Salesforce's new wealth management CRM is not a threat to his service; he sees it as an opportunity on which he could build.

"We see it as a continued evolution," Mr. Tsung said. "It complements with what we do, and doesn't compete."

Mr. Tsung said AppCrown will focus on being a customer relationship platform but also a business management one, since there are so many components advisers should track. He said the Department of Labor's impending fiduciary standard is a perfect example of the need for advisers to organize their practices.

"The mindset is changing and there is a requirement of knowing your client, so you need a place to keep it," Mr. Tsung said, adding that data within a CRM is a snapshot of a client, not a place to track history. "For that reason, we see a bigger use of CRM," he added.

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