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CRM in Financial Services: Vertical Markets Spotlight

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The global market for banking CRM software generated $9.5 billion in sales in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 15.7 percent through 2031, when it will reach $39.2 billion, according to Allied Market Research.

The drivers for growth include the need to improve customer service for an increasingly digital business, according to the analyst firm.

Financial services companies started their digital transformations before the COVID-19 pandemic, which only accelerated the process once customers were locked out of in-person service. Though branches have reopened, customers who had gone digital have not returned to the branches at the same level as before the pandemic, so digital customer service is still a primary concern for financial institutions.

The digital transformation is far from a completed process, says Sam Kilmer, managing director of Cornerstone Advisors, a banking consulting firm. “They’re still making a lot of changes. Only one in four will tell you that they are even half done. It’s still very much a work in progress.”

It’s a worthwhile endeavor, though, industry experts assert.

By “digitizing their book of business” with modern CRM technology and marketing automation software, financial advisers can organize client data and use historical interactions and automated communications to propel business relationships, says Steve Oriola, president and CEO of Act!, a CRM and marketing automation systems provider. “Data from Forrester reveals that 77 percent of customers are willing to stay longer with a financial institution if they feel valued. The key to retention–making every client feel like your only client–is personalized communications. CRM software enables financial services firms to more effectively communicate, exceed expectations, and delight clients by leveraging their data.”

That was a lesson learned by the Sherman Sheet, a financial services company that had been struggling to maintain a high level of personalized communications while managing numerous client campaigns. “With Act!, they are able to create, manage, and deploy highly targeted customized campaigns, running up to 12 campaigns simultaneously with a modicum of effort. Optimizing client-facing resources is the key to pleasing more clients, more often,” Oriola says.

But that is not the biggest challenge facing financial services companies today. “Every business faces challenges from inflation, economic instability, and the prospect of recession. Financial services firms face the dual threat of the inevitable impact of uncertainty on their own business, while advising clients as they seek to navigate these waters for themselves,” Oriola says.

Add to that the fact that the standard for exceptional customer service in financial services is rising.

Luckily, CRM systems play a key role in streamlining how financial services firms share insights about customers and take action to deliver great experiences at scale, says Daniel Brousseau, head of financial institutions strategy at Medallia.

“Many CRM systems at financial institutions are directly integrated with enterprise experience management platforms that capture, analyze, and orchestrate action on structured customer feedback (surveys) and unstructured data signals, such as natural language understanding (NLU) and digital behavior analytics,” Brousseau says.

Modern financial services solutions have prebuilt integrations with CRM systems, as well as real-time bidirectional data exchange between systems as standard features, Brousseau adds. “Through these integrations, financial services firms can operationalize how they drive more customer-centric action and increase loyalty and retention while providing a lower cost to serve.”

CRM systems can also increase sales while deepening customer relationships, Brousseau says. “For example, financial services teams can pursue new upsell opportunities based on insights from customer feedback, identify and manage at-risk accounts, and personalize interactions with their clients. They can also leverage feedback to create more personalized campaigns, promotions, and other materials to build upon existing customer relationships and even acquire new customers.”

Feedback from customers can also reveal rich insights about how customers perceive their experiences with the firm, which can enable them to identify ways to improve how they resolve customer issues and refine enhancements to products or services to foster a customer-centric business, Brosseau adds. “Firms can centralize and automate how insights are captured and analyzed through systems that leverage advanced AI-enabled natural language understanding.”

Like other industries, financial services relies on CRM systems for a 360-degree view of the customer. Such a view has become increasingly important for traditional financial services providers as more of their other industry-specific technologies adapt to capture new avenues of growth, such as PayPal for payments, Hometap for home equity financing, and SoFi for banking, investments, and loans, just to name a few.

To have a more complete view of their financial relationships with customers and portions of customers’ financial business that is going to emerging platforms and more traditional competitors, banks have implemented technologies such as Adobe, Salesforce, and Pega, says Frank Sanni, chief strategy officer of Harte Hanks, a marketing services provider.

Sanni pointed to some of the notable improvements some banks have achieved with CRM and related systems:

  • U.S. Bank experienced a 2.35 times lift in lead conversion by implementing a single, unified database of client information, enabling a better customer experience as well as more strategic marketing execution.
  • Wells Fargo implemented a real-time modeling and adaptive machine learning solution to drive greater personalization, resulting in increased conversation rates across channels and significant increases in customer engagement rates.

While traditional CRM providers are capturing much of the financial services market, there are newer entrants as well.

Two such solutions were unveiled in March. FYG Planners launched WealthEye CRM, an application to help financial advisers better manage client relationships. WealthEye CRM, which is built on Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 platform, helps financial advisers streamline the advice, marketing, and client service functions. WealthEye CRM also provides analytics and reporting.

“We know technology is the way forward for advice because it automates and takes the focus off tasks that have been overwhelming advice businesses in recent years. We really wanted to build our advisers a CRM that helps them succeed,” FYG general manager Andrew Wootton said in a statement. “Financial advice is always going to be about relationships, so WealthEye helps advisers turn their focus more toward building those long-lasting relationships with clients.”

And Qualtrics launched its Retail Banking Accelerator to help financial services organizations adopt the Qualtrics Foundational Customer Experience solution. The new solution enables retail banks and credit unions to set up CX improvement projects by leveraging deep insights combined with automated workflows. Continually updated benchmarks will allow financial institutions to compare themselves to their peers and measure their success on customer satisfaction, trust, and other factors that drive customer experience.


Regardless of which CRM systems they employ, financial services firms cannot realize the full benefits of CRM solutions without good, clean data.

“The financial industry in recent years has increasingly started depending on data and information for operational decisions and to help optimize processes and grow the bottom line,” says Mayukha Perera, assistant director of CRM data solutions and investment research at Acuity Knowledge Partners. “Most of the business intelligence of the industry is derived out of CRM data. This data is primarily comprised of in-depth data on clients, analysts they liaise with, client interactions such as meeting notes, road show and conference details, etc.”

The financial services industry faces a growing number of data security and consumer privacy standards and government regulations, which makes the need to maintain qualitative CRM data that much more critical, according to Perera. “Prior to industry growth and regulations, companies opted to maintain this data in a non-structured manner, and at times even in the form of Excel spreadsheets. However, with growth resulting in increased client interactions by finance analysts, the collation of this data at a firm-level in a structured manner can be streamlined with a comprehensive CRM platform. Technology vendors such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, DealCloud, IPREO, Singletrack, etc., have come forward and introduced CRM platforms that finance firms can procure to capture data.”

Though most financial services firms have adapted to the changes and have procured CRM platforms to capture data stored and managed by various stakeholders, ensuring the integrity and credibility of this data has remained a challenge, Perera points out. The biggest challenges are data duplication and gaps in structured and unstructured data.

This has become even more challenging as financial firms often lack the bandwidth, personnel, and infrastructure to ensure CRM data quality. Financial services companies are increasingly offloading their data and knowledge management, CRM implementation and integration, data cleansing, and monitoring services to outsourcers, Perera says. These firms take complete ownership of data quality.

Acuity recently partnered with a U.K. investment bank to migrate 1 million CRM data points from spreadsheets to Salesforce. The team worked to gather data and collated it onto a master database, which was cleansed, de-duplicated, and updated prior to migration.

“The team currently works with the bank in continuing to maintain their CRM database on Salesforce, from day-to-day maintenance and regular cleansing to ensure data quality and collation and visualization of business intelligence through [Microsoft] Power BI,” Perera says.

With 2023 continuing to be a challenging year for all industries globally, financial services firms will need business intelligence and information to stay ahead of competitors, Perera states. “This in turn would increase the demand for CRM platforms to assist financial firms with their customer data management.”

Phillip Britt is a freelance writer based in the Chicago area. He can be reached at


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