Salesforce and the banking industry align as both bet on mobility

For bankers, mobility has become key. Customer-facing mobile banking applications are increasing the flow of traffic through digital channels, which is eroding traffic in bank branches. But it does not stop there: the mobile-enablement of services to increase the productivity of banking employees and drive sales effectiveness in remote locations is also on the rise.

The digital channel revolution is having a significant impact on banking via physical channels, and mobile apps for banking employees will play a pivotal role in this. More and more, branch-based employees move around with their tablets and smartphones to assist customers, while mortgage brokers, financial advisors, and corporate bankers increasingly conduct duties and work with clients outside branches.

In cases like these, remote access to corporate systems is essential. Salesforce has now launched Salesforce1, a “CRM+ platform” (or, as Salesforce calls it, a “Customer Platform”) for developers and software vendors focused on mobile app development. This platform provides a “glue” that combines services via an open-API app approach and AppExchange access for custom development. It enables faster and custom mobile app development by developers and business users, allowing bankers to create tools more quickly for faster sales and service execution on the platform.

The digital revolution impacts the way bankers work with clients

A significant number of customer interactions now occur over the Internet instead of in bank branches or through the contact center. For example, Citi in Asia recently noted that around 95% of all of its transactions now occur outside of its branches. The bank has signed up 1.1 million active mobile banking users and continues to add between 60,000 and 70,000 per month.

Still, even though a number of banks have cited the growth of digital channels as the reason for branch closure, digital channel usage is not always at the expense of traditional banking channels. According to recent comments made by the CEO of National Australia Bank (NAB), customers still want to talk to a real person, from time to time, for everything from simple servicing requests to more complex help, guidance, and advice. Rather than a replacement of physical channels by digital ones, the bank sees more merging of channels as they complement one another.

Indeed, the digital revolution is transforming branch and face-to-face banking. Banking branches are becoming sales outlets rather than servicing outlets, with teller roles being replaced with financial advisors, including changes in compensation schemes (with base plus variable compensation rates). Increasingly, banking customers will see branch employees moving around branches using smartphones and tablets as sales tools that improve sales effectiveness, with features that offer prompts relating to “knowing the customer” and understanding the customer’s needs, conversation starters, and next best offers.

The mobile-enablement of services also gives financial services professionals that work with clients –­ including financial advisors, mortgage brokers, auto-loan originators, and commercial bankers – more options to go to their clients directly rather than see them in branches. Having the proper tools to hand can shorten sales/origination cycles and improve up- and cross-sales effectiveness, consequently increasing top-line revenue growth for banks and other financial services organizations.

Salesforce1 enables services via a mobile app development platform

Newly launched Salesforce1 is a “CRM+ platform” focused on a mobile-first approach to enabling services on devices. With the shift toward mobility intensifying, and Salesforce betting on the projected increase of mobile devices, the firm has launched a platform that allows an easier and more integrated approach to the development mobile apps.

Salesforce has targeted mobility for a while, with Salesforce Touch and its HTML5-backed platform for mobile devices, but what is new about Salesforce1 is its focus on app development and the “glue” provided within the platform with an open-API app-first approach to business software. Developing an app that integrates with other services is now easier, requiring fewer resources and less technical skill. More business users can take advantage of these new technological developments, focusing on developing apps that are better aligned with business needs while the infrastructure component is delivered as a service by Salesforce.

Salesforce’s move may fuel growth of the app ecosystem and innovation by business users, increasing the level of functionality that can be achieved using mobile devices. In the banking context, this means more sales and servicing functions are possible on mobile devices: bankers can work more closely with clients by using a mobile device that provides everything they need to serve them, such as originations, service changes, and reporting.

The mobile strategies of banks and Salesforce are now converging, as banks can enable the sales and servicing tools from Salesforce on mobile devices and custom develop them to fit their specific needs. Salesforce’s vision is to enable a wide range of functions on mobile devices and minimize the need for laptops, which, despite sounding revolutionary, aligns with the trend toward mobility that is visible across industries. Its platform can be particularly useful for banks that use Salesforce or are considering doing so and are on the path to enabling sales via mobile devices, particularly tablets.

The road to realizing its vision will be long, with many ups and downs, but launching the Salesforce1 platform is definitely a step in the right direction that aligns well with the market. Bankers stand to benefit by building their own custom apps that drive better sales and service effectiveness and developing tools that allow both personalization of services and differentiation in a very competitive market.

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