Unlike traditional business models, financial services doesn’t involve a direct exchange of payment-for-product or payment-for-services. Instead, clients entrust their financial resources into the care of another—electing a particular bank, investment firm, or insurance agency to be the steward of their assets. As a result, financial advisors work according to different priorities than traditional customer advisors. Financial services CRM (customer relationship management) software is designed to address the following unique challenges of the financial sector:
Minimizing customer attrition and maximizing revenue
Managing compliance with stringent industry regulations and legal restrictions
Bringing disparate tools and visibility of customer portfolios into a centralized system
To help you choose the best financial CRM, this guide will compare common features and benefits, provide tips for creating executive buy-in, and present a case study of a market-leading solution.
The financial services sector is one of the largest and most valuable markets in the world. In the U.S., finance and insurance accounts for about eight percent ($1.24 trillion) of all gross domestic product. The massive size of the industry has resulted in stiff competition. Firms often vie for the upper hand by imitating and improving on a core set of similar products and distribution models. This over-saturation also encourages high customer expectations, which makes it difficult to retain business. In light of these challenges, it’s critical that financial institutions have the tools to succeed. Financial services technology should support excellent customer service, innovative sales strategies, and accurate market segmentation.
Combined with a good business model and a staff of well-trained advisors, the right software can make the difference between surviving and leading in the market. Financial CRM systems have direct applications for banking, insurance, lending, and investment firms. It can be used in contact centers, by branch representatives, advisors, consultants, and even mobile agents. This top-to-bottom utility means that firms can adopt CRM as a company-wide solution, not just a specialized tool for upper management. And yet, the ability to customize access permissions and data workflows also makes CRM distinctly valuable to users in different levels of business hierarchy.
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Defining Financial Services CRM
At its core, a CRM for financial institutions is similar to traditional, multipurpose CRM—a system for managing and building relationships through organizational tools, contact and account databases, and automated workflows. Financial services solutions differ, however, in their unique customizations for industry use. They focus on streamlining key financial workflows and generally provide closer integration with financial accounts (loans, lines of credit, investments, etc.).
Financial CRMs primarily take on two forms:
Industry-specific CRMs geared toward insurance, banking, investing, or other firms. These CRMs provide out-of-the-box functionality for their intended use, but may not have industry-leading features, such as business intelligence modules or social integration.
Multi-purpose CRMs that have been customized to serve financial workflows and link with other back-end systems. Sometimes this customization is done in-house through APIs, custom fields, branding, etc. Other times, a firm may choose to work with a financial services “partner” developer. For this reason, it’s helpful to choose a well-known CRM vendor with a large partner network, such as Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics.
Systems will inevitably vary from vendor to vendor according to pricing, scale, and deployment options (cloud-hosted, on-premise, hybrid), but most financial services organizations will want some or all of the following features:
- Contact databases
- Financial account management
- Lead and opportunity management
- Call list management
- Sales pipelines
- Customer price quoting
- Relationship modeling
- Workflow customization
- Know your customer (KYC) verification
- Integrated billing/invoicing
- Calendars and scheduling
- Automated alerts and notifications
- Internal collaboration tools
- Analytics, reports, and intelligence
- Document management (policies, claims, contracts, tax forms, etc.)
- Native mobile access or mobile web-interface
Common Uses and Strategies
A CRM system is much more than a digital contact list. Implemented properly, the tools and data in a financial services solution can facilitate complex business plans that increase revenue and competitive performance. After selecting a product, there are a number of strategies firms can employ to maximize return on investment:
Use CRM to streamline financial service processes: Workflow automation is one of the biggest value-adds of any business software, and CRM is no exception. In financial services, administrators can use custom fields and programmable workflows to streamline account onboarding, portfolio modeling, claims processing, and KYC verification. Many industry-specific CRMs even have pre-programmed workflows for out-of-the-box functionality. This allows team members to spend less time managing routine tasks and more time interacting with clients.
Capitalize on enhanced visibility: A centralized system gives leadership visibility into the sales pipeline, as well as individual agent/broker performance. Being able to see opportunities, bookings in progress, and past wins helps decision makers set accurate goals for the future and identify productivity bottlenecks. Visibility answers the questions: What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? and How can we do better?
Use analytics and reporting to maximize relationship value: Analytical tools such as custom reports and portfolio modeling help financial firms strengthen their existing relationships by identifying upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Agents can also use these tools to spot early flight risk signals (such as electronic transfers to other financial institutions) and address customer pain points.
Empower agents with mobility and versatility: Employees in every industry are increasingly moving towards an in-office/mobile hybrid approach. The world’s mobile worker population is expected to reach 1.3 billion some time this year, according to advisory firm IDC. In the financial sector, mobile agents are often responsible for meeting with high-priority clients and business partners, or traveling to professional events. But productivity shouldn’t suffer just because they’re away from the office. Modern CRM software can give these agents remote access to sales tools, customer databases, and back-end systems through a native mobile app or a mobile web-interface.
Creating Executive Buy-In
To ensure successful adoption and long-term ROI, it’s important to “sell” a financial services CRM to its future stakeholders in the company, especially leadership. They should agree with the need for a CRM solution and understand the value it will add. Here are some selling points for specific executives:
Your chief information officer’s job is to support business goals with relevant, modern technology. For this reason and because of their trade knowledge, your CIO is an excellent resource when building a shortlist of vendors. They understand the nuances of your IT infrastructure and the technical implications of implementing a new system.
If your firm already uses some kind of software for managing relationships (a home-baked system, for example), you’ll need to demonstrate areas where the system is underperforming and the advantages of adopting a modern, financial services CRM. Cloud-based systems, especially, can help reduce IT costs and service needs. According to Gartner, about 41 percent of all CRMs purchased in 2013 were cloud-based, or “software-as-a-service” (SaaS). Modern CRMs also help businesses centralize multiple work processes into one unified system through API integrations and native add-ons. That means teams can work efficiently without using IT resources or suffering from interoperability issues.
Your chief financial officer will want to know how a CRM solution can reduce costs and grow revenue, how much it will cost on the front end and long-term, and how soon your business can expect to see measurable returns. To help convince them, point to the fact that companies that implement CRMs are better equipped to identify and acquire new revenue sources. They also reduce labor hours and administrative costs with productivity tools such as task management, email integration, and internal collaboration channels. A recent study by Nucleus Research revealed that CRM investments return an average of $5.60 for every dollar spent. Furthermore, CRMs with mobile access can improve productivity by 15 percent, which means more relationship-building and less downtime.
Your CEO will want to know how a CRM system can improve your core business model and better position your firm in the market. According to Computer Economics, about 50 percent of financial services businesses use CRM systems, which is slightly lower than other service industries. Your company has an opportunity to make a structural improvement that could set you ahead of at least half of your competition. Not only that, but a CRM system addresses the three biggest challenges of the financial services industry, which we mentioned in the beginning of the guide: reducing customer churn, managing regulatory compliance, and consolidating disparate workflows.
Case Study: Puente and SugarCRM Professional
Puente is a financial and capital markets service provider headquartered in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They provide investment banking, wealth management, and trading and execution services to 30,000 corporate and individual customers. In 2009, a new phase of company growth drew attention to the need for better internal systems. Puente needed a solution to manage customer information, track leads, coordinate cross-sell activities, and manage email campaigns. At the time, Puente was using several different back-end programs. Puente’s IT manager, Sebastian Blaustein, said “As we scaled operations, we needed to improve our ability to organize and share customer information across business units, in a secure and confidential way.”
After surveying the market, Puente decided to work with GrowIT, a SugarCRM partner, for implementation and deployment. GrowIT assessed Puente’s business needs and delivered a customized solution based on SugarCRM Professional. They created an online segmentation tool for building email lists and targeted communications, as well as a document storage solution designed to meet financial industry compliance standards.
“Now that we’re using SugarCRM, Puente’s email marketing is more effective, our lead-to-customer conversion time is [shorter], and we can deliver business proposals quickly and efficiently to our customers,” Blaustein said. In addition to these accolades, Puente reported a number of strategic benefits after implementing their financial services CRM:
Increased volume of email marketing by 100 percent
Reduced lead-to-customer record conversion from two days to mere seconds
Reduced the time required to produce targeted outreach lists by 80 percent
Accelerated customer service response time by 30 percent
Better visibility into sales activity and customer segments
Increased the value, depth, accuracy, and immediacy of customer information
Support for mobile access through Sugar Mobile Plus
Other Market-Leading Solutions
SugarCRM is one of the top CRM solutions on the market and can be customized to meet the needs of financial services organizations, but there are other CRMs that offer larger partner networks or industry-specific features for banks, insurance agencies, and investment firms. Check out more options by using our Financial Services CRM Product Selection Tool.