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The financial services industry is unique among others in that its core business model is not transactional—the direct exchange of payment for a product or service—but rather one of stewardship. Whether in banking, insurance, lending, or investing, financial service advisors are entrusted with the care of a given client’s assets and accounts; the client expects their relationship to yield high personal gain and minimal inconvenience. Although financial solutions are, in essence, commodities, they can be much harder to differentiate than tangible products, which means financial service companies are constantly struggling to distinguish their product portfolio from competitors’. Faced with such a high degree of competition, most firms are placing renewed focus on the client relationship itself.
In their recent Financial Services Industry Outlook, Deloitte suggested that financial firms “should redesign their technology architecture by embracing modernization, simplification, and automation.”1 The right financial services technology can help a financial service company generate new opportunities, maximize current relationships, and streamline day-to-day operations. This guide will serve as a roadmap for your buying journey. In it, you’ll find: three functional areas of financial services software; common software features; leading solutions by category; industry trends and special considerations; and a detailed case study.
The high competition in the financial services sector can be explained, in large part, by the size and saturation of the market. In the U.S. alone, finance and insurance is worth $1.2 trillion, which accounts for 7.9 percent of all gross domestic product (GDP).2 As larger firms with higher asset values expand their reach, smaller commercial institutions and private firms struggle to keep pace. Many brands are absorbed by larger entities, but some collapse. For example, between 1984-2011, more than 10,000 banks left the industry through mergers, consolidations, or failures, according to the FDIC.3
When it comes to IT, financial services needs are usually born of the following unique challenges:
- Maintaining compliance with industry and legal regulations
- Maximizing current relationship values to reduce customer attrition
- Reducing account cycle times and increasing agent productivity
Software that supports these functions can give firms a strong advantage over competitors that still rely on outdated infrastructure, such as home-made systems and spreadsheets, outdated legacy software, or paper-based work. Financial services solutions should help agents deliver superior customer service and build successful sales and marketing strategies while maintaining close integration to financial accounts and back-office systems.
Financial Services Software Categories
There are numerous different solutions any given firm can choose to implement. Most fall somewhere on the continuum between best-of-breed (software that excels or specializes in a specific function) and integrated product suite (designed to serve as an end-to-end solution across the entire business). Your needs will be largely determined by the types of proprietary systems you already have in place, the scale of implementation (single branch, regional network, global enterprise) and your specific vertical, whether it be banking, insurance, investing, stock brokerage, or even accountancy. Here are some of the most common types of software used by financial service companies:
Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps financial service companies build new relationships and increase the value of current clients through sales and marketing tools, data-driven contact management, and automation of workflows. Solutions built for the industry provide unique customizations for a given vertical and generally provide closer integration with financial accounts, such as investment funds, lines of credit, and deposit accounts.
Because of its top-to-bottom utility and focus on client relationships, CRM software is a staple product for many financial firms; about 50 percent of all financial service businesses use it. CRMs have direct applications for call centers, branches, mobile agents, and even virtual/online services.4 They can be tailored to a specific firm through custom fields and programmable workflows for onboarding accounts, modeling portfolios, processing claims, completing know-your-customer (KYC) verifications, and more. Many solutions also offer self-service portals, where customers can monitor and maintain their personal accounts, saving valuable time that might have been spent on the phone.
Some CRMs are industry-specific, with out-of-the-box usability geared toward a particular type of agency. But many firms still choose multi-purpose CRMs and adapt them in house or work with a partner developer to build a custom solution.
Common features of CRM software:
- Contact databases
- Financial account management
- Lead and opportunity management
- Sales pipelines
- Price quoting
- Programmable workflows
- KYC verification
- Calendars and scheduling
- Automated alerts and notifications
- Official document management
- Collaboration tools (internal messaging, newsfeeds, etc.)
- Mobile applications or mobile compatibility
CRM and marketing automation are closely related. In fact, some might say that one is incomplete without the other, at least from a strategic standpoint. Marketing automation platforms are designed to automate relationships and communications across a variety of digital media, including email, social networks, landing pages, display ads, and even mobile applications. These marketing campaigns generate qualified leads which can be added to a CRM sales pipeline and (hopefully) converted into customers. Think of it this way: marketing automation helps financial service firms attract and capture interest in their products, then passes the torch to CRM for account onboarding and relationship management.
According to Gartner, companies that automate their lead management programs see at least a 10 percent increase in revenue in as little as six months.5 In an industry where competition is steep and product portfolios are strikingly similar, meaningful engagement through marketing campaigns could be the variable that sets your firm ahead of the pack.
Common features of financial services marketing automation software:
- Lead management
- Email campaigns
- Drip marketing
- Social marketing
- Landing pages and web forms
- SEO tools
- A/B testing
- Engagement tracking
- Reporting and analytics
Worldwide, the business intelligence software market was recently valued at over $14 billion, up eight percent from the previous year.6 BI is proliferating quickly because a growing number of businesses are realizing the untapped potential of “big data”–the gigabytes, hexabytes, petabytes of information they store about account activity, customer trends, web traffic, sales figures, and so on. The growing complexity of the customer journey is only adding to the diversification of this data, and competitive financial service firms know they’ll need more than a database and a keen eye to get from volume to value.
Business intelligence software typically hooks into an existing system—such as a CRM, marketing automation system, or even an ERP—and uses analytical tools to transform raw data into actionable insights affecting a number of key business areas, including sales strategies, customer retention, employee performance, and campaign analysis. BI tools excel at identifying larger trends in your client base or workforce, but they can also work on a more granular level. For instance, you can monitor financial accounts to find upsell and cross-sell opportunities, or to spot signals of flight risk (like a funds transfer to another institution).
Common features of business intelligence software:
- Data mining
- Relationship modeling
- Predictive analytics
- Real-time reporting and auto-notifications
- KPI tracking/performance management
- “What-if” analyses
- Data visualization tools
- Data governance (deduplication, cleansing, etc.)
Enterprise Financial Services Solutions
Depending on the vendor you choose, the software we’ve looked at so far can provide fairly comprehensive functionality and enough integrations to handle most aspects of financial services management. But some firms (especially those with large networks of offices, even global reach) may prefer a _truly _all-in-one solution—something that can handle every aspect of the business from tedious back-office tasks to enterprise planning tools.
Some of these firms may decide to shop for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which usually covers CRM, human resources, financial management, procurement, business intelligence, global business management, and other functions, depending on the provider. Another approach is to work with an industry mega vendor (like Oracle or IBM) to create a custom financial services system from the ground up. These larger vendors often have access to networks of partner developers that can build software on an existing platform to meet the specific needs of your brand, operations, and business model. The obvious advantage of this approach is that you get exactly what you need, but custom solutions are very cost intensive and can take several months or longer to roll-out, for which reason many businesses decide to work with pre-built solutions.
Possible features/advantages of custom enterprise financial services software:
- Closest integration with financial accounts
- Creates a single, unified ecosystem of business management modules and back-office programs
- Customized to match the scale and unique requirements of your firm (customer demands, industry regulations, product portfolio structures)
- “White-labeling” financial services software gives company vicarious, but exclusive ownership of software
Software Trends and Special Considerations
Factoring current software trends into your buying decision will help you choose products with the highest value promise. In addition, there are a few of special considerations financial service companies should consider during their selection process.
All financial services firms are entrusted with the care and management of clients’ financial assets. In order to standardize expectations and build accountability into the market, the government (as well as the financial industry itself) has imposed a number of regulations to which firms must abide. Examples include the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act (GLBA), the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and many more. As a software buyer, you should make sure any solutions you consider are compliant with the standards these regulations impose on your firm, especially those that function as client safeguards.
SaaS vs On-Premise:
Financial service buyers will also have to make a choice between software with a traditional, upfront license or “software-as-a-service” (SaaS), which is usually cloud-hosted and priced on a monthly subscription basis. Cloud software has many distinct advantages, including greater flexibility, lower upfront cost, and less IT maintenance, for which reason it’s grown in popularity in recent years. According to Gartner, cloud-computing will comprise the bulk of IT spending as soon as next year, and nearly half of large enterprises will at least deploy a cloud-hybrid system before 2018.7 That said, organizations with hardware integration needs or that prefer to “own” their software upfront may prefer an on-premise solution.
Most solutions developed within the past several years (especially cloud-based solutions) now offer anytime access to customer data and business functions through native mobile applications and mobile web interfaces. Forrester recently state that 29 percent of the global workforce are “anytime, anywhere information workers,” meaning they use multiple mobile devices, work remotely, and use a large applications to stay productive.8 Financial services is no exception: your agent likely meet with high-priority clients and business partners outside of the office, work from home, and scout for new opportunities at professional networking events. Whether CRM, business intelligence, or marketing automation, software with mobile access gives your team the tool to stay productive and drive growth no matter where they are.
Financial Services Software Case Study
Company: Freedom Technology9
Solution: Oracle CRM On Demand
Freedom Technology is a small UK-based financial services company that uses leasing partnerships to provide technology to range of organizations, schools, employees, and students. They provide financing solutions that give schools access to laptops through the Donate to Educate program and allow employees to lease personal-use devices as part of their benefit packages. During their software search , FT was looking for a centralized system to capture customer information, manage orders and payments, and driving revenue and better customer service. They chose Oracle CRM On Demand for its flexible platform and ability to scale with their future growth. FT also worked with Oracle Partner, BPI OnDemand to aid in deployment and configure the system specifically for the leasing business.
“Oracle CRM On Demand enables us to closely manage our customers, potential leads, and sales,” said Director James Grunson. “It’s critical to our business, and we couldn’t manage without it.”
With Oracle’s CRM solution and help from BPI OnDemand, Freedom Technology was able to:
- Configure and implement the system in one week
- Drive new business by effectively identifying hundreds of schools and organizations as potential leads
- Double turnover in the 12 months after implementation, thanks to better customer information and sales tracking
- Link online ordering system to direct employee and parent access and auto-payment system, capturing information and contract terms in one step and eliminating data entry redundancies
Making Your Decision
At TechnologyAdvice, we help businesses connect with the best technology for their needs. We’ve compiled product information, reviews, case studies, features lists, video walkthroughs, and research articles on hundreds of leading IT solutions, all to make the buying process more straightforward for decision makers like you.
If you’re curious about any of the financial services systems listed in this guide, we’d love to talk to you. Call one of our in-house specialists for a free consultation, or use the Product Selection Tool on our site to get a personalized recommendation in seconds.
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- “2015 Capital Markets Industry Outlook.” Deloitte. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/financial-services/articles/2015-capital-markets-outlook.html
- “The Financial Services Industry in the United States.” Select USA. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://selectusa.commerce.gov/industry-snapshots/financial-services-industry-united-states
- Tracy, Ryan. “Tally of U.S. Banks Sinks to Record Low.” Wall Street Journal. Last modified December 3, 2013. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304579404579232343313671258
- Schaeffer, Chuck. “Sizing Up the CRM Market.” CRM Search. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://www.crmsearch.com/crm-market.php
- Eridon, Corey. “25 Jaw-Dropping Marketing Automation Stats.” HubSpot. Accessed April 27, 2015.
- “Gartner Says Worldwide Business Intelligence and Analytics Software Market Grew 8 Percent in 2013.” Gartner. Last modified April 29, 2014. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2723717
- “Gartner Says Cloud Computing Will Become the Bulk of New IT Spend by 2016.” Gartner. Last modified October 24, 2013. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2613015
- “2013 Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends.” Forrester. Last modified February 4, 2013. http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/Forrester_2013_Mobile_Workforce_Adoption_Trends_Feb2013.pdf
- “Freedom Technology Keeps Pace with Fast Growth, Advances Towards Goal of Doubling Revenue in 12 Months with Improved Customer Information.” Oracle. Accessed April 28, 2015. http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/customers/customersearch/freedom-tech-1-crm-on-demand-ss-2407958.html