Big Picture Strategies for Financial Services Technology Managers
As we enter the Holiday Season, now is a common time of year for wealth management firms (investment advisors and broker dealers), insurance companies, banks, and credit unions to evaluate what’s working and what’s not in their businesses.
Q4 is a great time for financial services professionals to ask questions like:
Did we keep our clients satisfied?
Did we make the best decisions for ourselves?
Where could we have saved resources?
What can we do better next year?
During this time of introspection, it’s important to consider the big picture. Sure, 2020 has been anything but a normal year. It’d be easy to dismiss it as an outlier and ignore some of the answers to these questions as atypical.
Don’t fall for it. Resist the urge to simply move on. Invest time into understanding the things you did (or didn’t do) in past years that led to success or failure in 2020, and consider which of those concerns will continue to matter in 2021.
Inevitably, one of the topics that will come up during this self-evaluation is technology.
End-of-year retrospective questions about technology systems may include:
What technologies are we using that actually help?
Which of them play well together?
Which don’t work together at all?
What’s falling through the cracks because of that?
What are we missing?
As you’re evaluating your company’s technology strategy and improvements for the coming year, use the following strategies to focus on the big picture and make high-impact changes that provide benefits for years to come.
Evaluating Financial Services Technology Enhancements
Fintech, which refers to financial services technology, has been a buzzword for decades now. But, the hype has always been larger than the concept is in reality.
You’ve probably heard messaging about how technology is going to make your life better, allow you to spend more time with clients, let your staff operate more efficiently and effectively, give your clients new and better ways to connect with their accounts, and give you better insights into your business.
Almost all larger organizations have embraced technology as the path toward those benefits only to encounter issues down the road — no matter how enthusiastically they take that first step. Even most mid-sized and smaller firms have spent a decent chunk of change on fintech, and yet many struggle to calculate their return on that investment.
What do you do now if you’ve determined you’ve made a misstep? Obviously, you can’t abandon technology, but you may need to do something differently. Almost certainly, that something will cost time and money.
Here are considerations for preparing to make changes and how to best allocate resources when switching to a different financial services technology system.
Choosing Financial Services Technology Consultants
First things first, technology is not a cost. It is an investment in the future of your business. Just like you would say to your clients about investing their money, it’s important for you to work with an expert who understands the industry and the landscape before making important investment decisions. You need to choose the right partners.
When choosing a technology consulting partner, you can sift through the crowd easily to reveal the best ones by looking for a few key indicators.
The right partner will:
Sit on the same side of the table as you to truly understand your business.
Guide you through how to implement the best technology for your business.
Implement technology in a way that will enhance the parts of your current business model that are working and remedy areas where you need help.
Help you focus on the big picture.
Develop a comprehensive project roadmap to ensure success.
Choosing Financial Services Technology Systems
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of vendors trying to find their niche in the fintech space. How do you comb through the mountain of names and logos to find the right technology systems in which to invest time and money?
The quick answer is — you don’t. Taking that on will end in one of two results:
Paralysis by analysis - Happens when you become so overwhelmed by the sheer number and scope of the FinTech offerings available that it becomes nearly impossible to decide.
Neglecting the big picture - You might find something that works for your firm by the end of the process, but all the time you’ve spent on research, demos, and walkthroughs impede your ability to work on your actual business, which are the things that drive your top-line growth.
Keep in mind, technology systems are only one piece of the puzzle — even if you do find something you really like. Embracing a long-term approach is the best way forward rather than throwing resources at a quick fix that doesn’t really solve anything. There is no single piece of fintech out there that is going to solve all of your needs. For example, you could find and implement something great but later find out it cannot integrate with apps that can benefit your company and create another technology silo with muted benefits.
The Secret Formula: Financial Services Technology Integrations
After 20+ years in the industry, I can tell you I’ve yet to find the silver bullet. There is no cure-all for what ails you from a technology perspective. However, there is an approach that has proven successful.
The path to success in financial services is with fintech integration. The key here is to identify technologies that work well together today, and better yet, are continuing to grow and scale with each other in mind; strengthening their ability to integrate while focusing on what they do well.
In my experience, the best place to start building up your own internal suite of integrated technologies, all working in harmony, is to start with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. There are a couple of reasons for this:
The best modern CRMs are platforms first, CRMs second. This is to say they don’t solely focus on the typical functions of a CRM in a vacuum, but rather they are specifically designed to be robust business systems with a great CRM built on top of that platform.
Platform-first CRMs are infinitely configurable. Sure, that can be a scary thought, but the available choices don’t stay infinite for long. Your available choices will start to shrink very quickly with each succeeding integration you choose to implement. You don’t want to paint yourself into a corner with restrictive choices early on.
Implementing Salesforce Financial Services Cloud (FSC)
There is a best-of-breed technology when it comes to FinTech Integration, and that is Salesforce Financial Services Cloud (FSC). I’m going to assume you’re at least somewhat familiar with Salesforce, and you may already have an opinion about what it is and what it can do. But, what do you really know about Salesforce FSC?
FSC is not your traditional Salesforce cloud. When people think of Salesforce, they usually think of the ubiquitous Sales Cloud, which sales professionals in every industry have been using for decades. Or, they might think first of Service Cloud, which has been powering operations departments and call centers for almost as long. FSC is neither of those.
FSC was launched in August of 2015. The industry reaction to the launch was a collective yawn – and rightfully so. Like the first version of any product, the first iteration was ho-hum. However, Salesforce is great at engaging thousands of passionate people and using those combined efforts to keep making products better and better with every new release. FSC today is a quite different and much more mature offering than that initial effort. Better yet, FSC tomorrow will likely be much better than it is today because the improvement process is ongoing.
The Platform-First CRM for Financial Services
Implementing traditional Salesforce Sales Cloud or Service Cloud in the financial services industry is tricky because both clouds will require a significant amount of customization. Not only does this customization create an initial heavy lift in getting the system off the ground, but it also adds to the ongoing IT burden to keep up and running.
With FSC, you get an industry-specific suite of tools that extend the functionality of Salesforce to better meet the needs of wealth managers, insurance agents, and bankers, by allowing them to have a holistic view of their clients/accounts. With these features built-in, you’re able spend less time customizing, implementing more quickly, and yet still have the full power of the Salesforce platform working for you.
Salesforce Financial Services Cloud Key Features
These are the five key features that differentiate Salesforce FSC:
1. Financial Accounts
FSC supports different types of financial accounts right out-of-the-box including investment accounts, insurance policies, and bank accounts. These predefined account record types roll up to the client record and household, which allows you to easily see the big picture from the client’s perspective and then dive into specifics with a click.
Speaking of households, FSC supports various connections so you can map the true nature of your client’s relationships as they really are. You can relate clients to their households, of course, but you can also relate households to their businesses or trusts, and you can connect clients with important contacts, such as POA, accountant, or lawyer.
Traditional models track Leads and Opportunities in the sales process, but FSC adds another concept — referrals. This interim step enhances your ability to define the path you want these important sources of future business to experience as you engage them.
4. Financial Goals & Action Plans
Financial Goals track your clients’ goals and build a successful strategy. Action Plans are used to automate repetitive tasks to ensure that strategy is being implemented. Action Plans can auto-assign tasks to your teams and ensure compliance. Uses for Action Plans include everything from client onboarding to scheduling client meetings or completing periodic account reviews. Define work you want done with templates, and then monitor the progress with the robust reporting tools.
Salesforce is second to none when it comes to powerful reporting and analytics tools. With FSC, you get several reports specifically designed for Financial Services firms. These starter reports are useful on day one and can easily be edited to meet the needs of various users and departments so your whole team can get the data they need from a single source of truth.
Comparing Salesforce Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Financial Services Cloud Features
The following is not an exhaustive list, but it shows the key differences between Salesforce Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Financial Services Cloud. Implementing FSC makes sense for financial services institutions that would need extensive customizations to achieve features that do not come out-of-the-box with other Salesforce clouds.
Contact CRM Science Salesforce Consultants
Sounds easy right? Just call Salesforce and sign up? Maybe not.
Let’s harken back to the beginning of this post and remember the advantages of having a partner on the same side of the table as you. Salesforce FSC is a powerful suite of tools sitting on top of a robust platform, and yes, the industry-specific focus will save time and money when compared to a generic CRM. But, every financial services firm is different.
To realize the fullest benefit of your investments, you’d be wise to heed the same advice you give to your own clients — work with an expert! Contact CRM Science Salesforce consultants to get started.