Salesforce continues vertical tilt with new Financial Services Cloud

Ron Miller

The Salesforce product line has always been distinctly horizontal, meaning it's a general set of tools that can be used across any industry. The company has left it to customers, partners and developers to build industry-specific tools on top of the platform. This began to shift ever so slightly last year when Salesforce took a turn toward the vertical with a set of tools devoted specifically to wealth management. That venture led directly to today's announcement -- the Financial Services Cloud for Retail Banking.

In spite of the name, the new service is not really a single cloud. Instead it's a combination of products including Sales Cloud CRM and Service Cloud customer service, combined with some third-party tools aimed specifically at helping retail bankers service their customers.

For Salesforce, it's a chance to aim its solutions at a specific set of tasks. For banks, which are under tremendous pressure to provide better service, it's an opportunity to use an integrated set of tools from a single vendor. The bank itself, once the center of the customer activity, has taken a back seat to digital tools. Meanwhile, banks are also under attack from non-traditional sources such as PayPal, Venmo and Cash.

Screenshot: Salesforce

Traditionally, banks have operated in departmental silos and information hasn't been shared across systems. The Salesforce approach is designed to unify the customer view. It doesn't matter whether they visit the bank website, open a banking app, use an ATM or deal with a teller or a customer service at the bank.

In theory at least, everyone should have a single view of that customer. Most banks don't work that way now. If you start an application online and get frustrated, chances are if you walk into the bank, the customer service person won't be able to access that application you started. Salesforce hopes to change that.

Banks aren't operating in a technology vacuum, of course. They usually have older legacy systems that were designed long before the cloud, but Salesforce says it can pull data from those systems when necessary to maintain the unified view. Those older systems could be the main obstacle and the biggest challenge to this approach.

These days, the banking industry needs all the help it can get, and Salesforce is trying to throw them a lifeline, while beginning to build out its vertical offerings. The Financial Services Cloud will be available this month.