Financial Services and Salesforce – What You Should Know

By Brian Shea

A few years ago, Salesforce decided to pivot their product offering towards becoming industry-specific. Financial Services was one vertical Salesforce had their eye on.

Fast forward a few years to today, has Salesforce become a good choice for Financial Services? What should Financial Services know about Salesforce in 2021, especially the opportunities it offers?

Show notes:

  • Financial Service firms are not restricted to using Financial Services Cloud (the Salesforce product) but can use multiple of Salesforce’s “clouds”.
  • Financial Services Cloud is geared towards more retail, B2C organizations, for example insurance brokers, retail banks, mortgage brokers.
  • Top ways Financial Services firms can benefit from Salesforce include superior user experience to other offerings in the space, opportunities to integrate other platforms in your technology infrastructure.
  • Competitive advantages for Financial Services Using Salesforce in 2021 are primarily around improving front and middle office operations, and customer experience.
  • The things you can do to best prepare for a Salesforce project are to understand how your technology is integrated, customer experience, and consider the ongoing ownership of the system from the outset.

When someone says ‘Financial Services’ in relation to the Salesforce landscape, you may think of Financial Services Cloud, the Salesforce product.

However, if we take a step back, there are different sub-sectors of that industry, different types of businesses under that label that can use Salesforce outside of just Financial Services Cloud.

What do we mean by Financial Services?

How can we define the typical organizations we’re referring to here, and how they differ?

On the one side, we have large institutions that generally speaking, are considered B2B:

  • Mutual funds, Institutional Investment Managers: the big firms that come to mind when you think of “Wall Street” firms, mutual fund companies, money managers, asset managers, the Fidelitys of the world.
  • Sell-side firms/Investment banks (eg. Goldman Sach, JP Morgan).
  • Custody banks
  • Insurance companies

On the other side, we have a set of financial institutions that you, as an individual or small business, are used to interacting with:

  • Mortgage brokers
  • Insurance brokers
  • Banks: community banks, retail banks.

This could be considered an oversimplification, however, I think for the purposes of Salesforce and Financial Services, it’s a good way to look at it.

Where does Financial Services Cloud fit in?

Salesforce is expanding its offerings all the time. They have a roadmap for what they’re going to do with Financial Services Cloud.

Financial Services Cloud is geared towards that second group – more retail, B2C.
Types of use cases where Financial Services Cloud shines are insurance brokers, retail banks, mortgage brokers. For example, I’m getting a mortgage, and the mortgage broker has a record for me in their Financial Services Cloud instance.

How Financial Services Benefit from Salesforce

Based on your experience working in the space, what top benefits do you think Salesforce offers Financial Services?

Let’s first talk about the benefits of CRM, in general. Many of these institutions are doing ‘CRM-type’ activities in their back-office record-keeping system, which of course, is designed for something else.

Say we’re a retail bank, and we have a system like Jack Henry, a long-standing system in the retail banking space. It’s a back-office system used for tracking the number of assets that they hold among other functions. However, many companies are using a back-office tool like that for CRM purposes. To phrase it another way, it’s a system that’s great for tracking transactions or loan processing, but not great for tracking interactions or marketing activities. Just having a CRM is a step forward for these organizations.

In terms of Salesforce, there are a few call-out benefits:

1. User Experience:

We in the Salesforce ecosystem sometimes take this for granted, but the tech is fantastic. When you compare it to other CRM tools that Financial Services institutions are using there, the user experience is very good, especially now with Lightning.

2. Integration

The number of integrations both within the Salesforce ecosystem and outside is very strong.

What I mean by ‘inside the Salesforce ecosystem’, are the Salesforce products beyond the core Salesforce CRM, for example, marketing automation tools like Pardot or Marketing Cloud. There’s also Community Cloud (now Experience Cloud), which many of our clients use which allows you to create web portals where your customers can log in and their Salesforce data directly.

When you’re dealing with a best-in-class platform like Salesforce, there are many integrations to industry tools out there, either managed by Salesforce or not. There are a number of I mentioned Jack Henry before as one – Sage Works which does loan management and loan processing is another. We have a client that recently implemented the Sage Works Salesforce managed package to integrate the two.

3. The Salesforce Community

The talent, knowledge sharing, and resources that are available either online or in-person. As you know, when you own a big CRM system knowing that you can reach out and get help either for your internal staff, or hire external resources, it’s a very strong advantage that comes with being a Salesforce customer.

Competitive Advantages for Financial Services Using Salesforce

What opportunities do you think Salesforce as a platform will offer Financial Services firms in 2021?

Front and Middle Office Operations

In the United States, the federal payroll protection program (PPP) gave loans/grants to small businesses to help them stay afloat during COVID. It was a huge opportunity for retail banks, community banks, and credit unions – yet a huge operational challenge to process all these loans.

Banks that had well defined loan origination processes and tools were positioned to service the inflow of applications in 2020/21. This included having a loan origination system (like nCino or Abrigo/Sageworks) along with the Salesforce platform for CRM/Customer 360, digital experience (Experience Cloud), marketing automation (Marketing Cloud) and analytics (Tableau, Tableau CRM).

Banks that had an effective loan organization stack were able to not just process the huge inflow of loan applications but also build long term relationships with customers.

Customer Experience:

If CRM, traditionally, has been about back-office operations and helping sales/service teams individually work with clients, then customer experience is about giving your customers (and prospects) better digital experiences.

Pardot, Marketing Cloud, and Experience Cloud – I consider these on the ‘customer experience’ side of the house. Creating online engagements with Experience Cloud, marketing campaigns using Pardot or Marketing Cloud. That’s where the leading firms are going.

What are other Financial Services institutions asking for?

When potential or existing clients approach your team of experts, are there any trends in what Salesforce project requirements they are bringing to you?

I’d break it down like I did previously into back-office versus client-facing.

For many firms, once they see an influx of activity, for example PPP loans applications, they ask: “How do we get our internal business processes sorted in-house, so we can process these successfully, in a way that reduces and/or manages risk?”

Then once the data and processes are in shape on the back-office side, then they begin to think: “maybe where there used to be someone working with customers to fill out applications, now we can transition some of this to Experience Cloud, in a self-service model”
This is exciting because in Financial Services automating processes so your people don’t have to intervene or give customers direct access so they can do it themselves has been considered the Holy grail for a long time. Delivered in a way that’s user-friendly, that’s on-brand, and that manages risk to ensure the information is safe and sound; these are the success stories that we heard a lot about this year.

We’ve heard the word ‘risk’ mentioned. Of course, lowering risk is a big factor when talking about Financial Services. How has the definition of ‘risk’ changed, and how has that translated into CRM requirements.

I worked during the financial panic of ‘08-’09 for a large Investment Management firm. Our definition of risk changed as the crisis happened, and again as the government response evolved. The things you need to do as a firm change – and they change very quickly in response to regulations and guidance from the government, as well as the needs of the customer.

During COVID, a similar dynamic happened with PPP loans, where banks needed to be nimble in responding to rules/guidance from the government about how the PPP program would work, and in terms of how to process loan applications for customers in a remote world.

Salesforce provided tools to help banks deliver services and interact with customers, and also provided thought leadership in this space. And as always the Salesforce ecosystem was a hub for financial services professionals and technologists to develop and share best practices.

How to Best Prepare for Salesforce Projects

Having worked on Salesforce projects for Financial Services firms for a decade, what should every firm have top of mind before taking on a Salesforce project?

1. Understand how your technology is integrated

Your CRM platform is sitting within a larger context of applications in your tech stack. Which means:

  • The role of CRM versus your back-office systems.
  • How people will interact with those tools and the data – not just from a technology integration perspective, but also how will people access this data?

2. Customer Experience

See where there are opportunities to improve the back-office, and middle-office processes by providing rich digital experiences direct to customers. This can improve data quality, among other things that are as important for the future.

3. Staffing

Finally (although the most important piece), think about ongoing ownership of the system from the outset.

Let’s say you hire a Salesforce Consultancy to implement Salesforce. Once you’re done with that initial project, who will make up your internal team tasked with maintaining the system? This question even applies if you already have Salesforce, built by your existing in-house team/s.
Within the Salesforce ecosystem there are specific roles: ‘Salesforce Admin’, ‘Salesforce Architect’, ‘Salesforce Developer’, which you can hire internally, or seek a Salesforce Consultancy. Salesforce Consultancies provide ‘managed services’, such as Salesforce administration; however this will be on a contract basis, as opposed to hiring full-time employees.

What happens sometimes when we work with companies is that they may have someone on their team who was great at Apex development (Salesforce’s proprietary coding language); however, we (as consultants, architects etc.) look at their Salesforce org and wonder what happened. Rather than using standard out-of-the-box features, they’ve used Apex code (now legacy) to achieve those things. This doesn’t scale well, and it doesn’t accommodate new Salesforce features well either.

Therefore, it’s important to understand the different roles in the Salesforce ecosystem can serve very different purposes. Understanding what your organization needs is the first step, then comes deciding what the right support model is for you, from there.

Download the free “Staffing Your Salesforce Org” PDF to start your needs assessment.

Never leave Salesforce unmanaged, untamed! Are organizations surprised at what mix of skills you need to run an org?

Clients will reach out knowing what they want: “we have this Salesforce org. Do you have any developers that you recommend because we need to hire somebody?” The first question we ask is “what are you trying to do?” There have been plenty of times where having a Salesforce Admin is better or a managed services agreement is better suited because they need to configure relatively basic out-of-the-box features rather than hiring a different skill set (like a Salesforce Architect).

The takeaway here is to get a second opinion, rather than picking up a random job description that sounds about right!

The Author

Brian Shea

Brian is a Fractional Salesforce Architect and Principal Consultant at Shea Consulting. He is 13x Salesforce Certified.


    July 21, 2021 8:03 am
    APEX is legacy? In your dreams.
    Christine Marshall
    July 21, 2021 10:08 am
    Hi Mariano, I think the point Brian is making is that some companies have legacy code that is not needed as they could have used out of the box features. Not that Apex itself is legacy.
    Imrana Zaman
    January 09, 2023 10:30 am
    Does FSC cover non-mortgage loans, like personal loans? What would be the best way to leverage the FSC data model to do this?

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