Salesforce seeks to disrupt adviser-facing CRM market with launch of wealth management portal

The provider currently offers only an overlay for the financial services sector, but soon will have a full spread of software for advisers

Aug 25, 2015 @ 8:00 am

By Alessandra Malito

Salesforce, the cloud-based customer relationship management system provider, is going all in on its desire to win more market share in the financial services industry with its first release of a wealth management-specific software platform Tuesday.

Previously, the technology provider only offered overlays to its existing system, which is used across various industries.

With the Salesforce Financial Services Cloud platform, advisers can see their client accounts, tasks and market information, along with personal financial information aggregated by Yodlee, the data-analytics firm recently acquired by Envestnet.

"Now you have the full weight of Salesforce behind wealth management," said Simon Mulcahy, a senior vice president and the general manager of financial services at Salesforce. "There are other tools out there on the smaller end of the market, but they won't offer the full power of Salesforce's platform."

Pricing details will be announced when the product is released, in February of next year. The software suite is still in development.

Salesforce is currently partnering with firms including AIG Advisor Group, Northern Trust and United Capital, a Salesforce spokeswoman said.

Advisers using the Salesforce platform will also be able to view specific investments within the accounts they manage, show clients' goals-based plans, as well as family relationships, both household and extended, for those that may see a generational wealth transfer in the future.

Mr. Mulcahy said the wealth transfer that will total trillions of dollars is one of the reasons Salesforce took the industry's CRM needs so seriously.

"Despite services being in its name, [the financial services industry] is one of the least customer-centric industries," Mr. Mulcahy said. "It is designed to sell products; there is a low level of trust, and yet it is central to our lives."

Only a couple of months ago, the company was at the center of a rumor that it was being bought out, leaving many advisers to wonder if they would have to switch CRM providers.

And yet, as of right now, industry-specific CRM providers are dominating the market. According to a 2015 InvestmentNews Adviser Technology Study, 27% of respondents said they use Redtail and another 26% use Junxure, compared to the 9% who use Salesforce.

Blane Warrene, co-founder of QuonWarrene, a financial-services technology consulting firm, said an industry-specific CRM system by Salesforce would add a competitive edge to the CRM market, especially since the product would be targeted at bigger advisory firms and custodians.

"I do think Salesforce would have to up their game and figure out how to support financial planning and portfolio construction as well," he said. "The single biggest advantage Redtail and Junxure have ... is a deep well of integrations."

Redtail chief executive Brian McLaughlin said it's too soon to tell what Salesforce's new product may do to the CRM market. He said it all comes down to the integrated features, which historically Salesforce had not provided to advisers.

"Providers like us excelled at that," Mr. McLaughlin said. "There are more options, more solutions for advisers and you don't have to build anything. It comes out of the box."

Greg Friedman, chief executive of Junxure, said he was not worried about the new competitive product.

"We still have an advantage," Mr. Friedman said. "We know our industry, we are focused on adoption and continue to raise the bar as far as helping advisers use the products. They don't have to buy thousands of add-ons to make it do what they need to it do."

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