• December 1, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Bank Emerges from the Ashes with Salesforce CRM

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Huntington National Bank, a regional financial services provider with $52 billion in assets, serves 1.3 million consumers and 150,000 businesses in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia via a network of 600 branch offices and 1,400 ATMs. It, like many banks, suffered huge losses in 2008 and 2009 when the U.S. economy collapsed. But, with a clear strategy that emphasized customer relationships over customer acquisitions, Huntington engineered a quicker turnaround than most of its peers.

The company turned a profit of $40 million in the first quarter of 2010, after posting losses of $370 million in the previous quarter and $2.4 billion in the previous year. "We really focused on how we build and maintain the relationships with customers we already had," says Zahid Afzal, chief information officer at Huntington, which is based in Columbus, Ohio.

Afzal credits the quick turnaround to the implementation of the Sales and Service Clouds from Salesforce.com. Because of the technology, "we were one of the first banks to get out of the red," he proudly says.

Huntington selected Salesforce.com in January 2010 and rolled it out to a limited number of users in the commercial banking team in May of that year. The bank then extended the Salesforce.com solution to more than 8,000 users in business banking, retail banking, and wealth management during the 12 months that followed. The solution was fully installed across all business units and locations by June 2011.

The goal behind the Salesforce.com implementation was to consolidate customer data and build a unified view across all locations and business units. Huntington replaced its manual sales process, which relied on Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, with one that is automated in Salesforce.com. The hosted solution made it easy to transfer customers to employees from another business unit for cross-selling and upselling opportunities, enabled employees to better manage those selling opportunities, and created enhanced dashboards that unify information from multiple sources.

In the first 12 months of deploying Salesforce.com, Huntington users across 18 business segments generated nearly 500,000 new upsell and cross-sell referrals, yielding a half-million new revenue opportunities in one year. It also increased lead conversions by more than 40 percent. As a result, 76 percent of the households it serves have four or more products with Huntington Bank.

"The trick was tearing down the walls within our organization to enable true company-wide collaboration," Afzal says. "There was a reorganization within the company to break down the silos and realign our products and services to optimize our opportunities."

Afzal admits to being a little overwhelmed by the scope and magnitude of the transition to the new systems, a process that he called "very unconventional."

Before that process could begin, Huntington needed to secure the capital to re-engineer all of its systems, infrastructure, and business processes. "From a technology and operations standpoint, we were going to be making significant investments to make sure we had the right systems, architecture, and tools available to support what we wanted to do," Afzal explains. "We were making investments in technology when we were losing money."

Admittedly, it was a risky move, but it paid off in the end. "We've been working hard on this, and we're certainly pleased with the progress so far," Afzal says.

To help with the implementation, Huntington worked with Bluewolf, a cloud consultant and Salesforce.com partner, to establish a transformation road map with an iterative implementation process. Using the Bluewolf Agile Business Transformation framework, Huntington added the new processes and functionality rapidly—as often as business needs changed—without too much disruptive change all at once.

It also helped that the change was being driven from the top down. Stephen Steinour, Huntington's chairman, CEO, and president, led the project from the beginning. "He charged us with looking at the company in a different way and taking a long-term view toward growth," Afzal says.

"You have to get the right people engaged throughout the whole process," Afzal continues. "They have to be excited about it. Without their buy-in and involvement, it will not work."

And the investment continues. Huntington National Bank is currently integrating its Salesforce.com applications with BrokerCRM, an investment tool, with Sagitta, an insurance CRM tool, and with an automated dialer for use in outbound campaigns. Beyond that, the bank plans, within the next few months, to expand its capabilities in analytics, lead management, social media, and mobile banking.

The Payoff

Since deploying Salesforce.com, Huntington National Bank, across 18 segments, has

  • generated 427,925 referrals;
  • increased deposit sales through improved and consistent sales processes; and
  • increased lead conversions by more than 40 percent.

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