Salesforce.com Makes a Vertical Splash
Salesforce.com is cozying up to the coveted financial services space with its first-ever release specifically targeting a vertical market. At a Tuesday event in New York, the on-demand specialist unveiled Salesforce Wealth Management Edition, a desktop for financial advisors built on Salesforce.com's CRM functionality and its Apex on-demand platform, and developed with the help of Cisco Systems, Dell, Dow Jones, and Thomson Financial. The company also used the event as a platform to highlight that it secured a significant Salesforce Wealth Management Edition customer win: a 25,000-seat deal with Merrill Lynch, now its biggest customer.
The offering is intended to provide financial advisors with a complete view of their clients and enable them to manage client data and information in one place. One of its core features, Client 360, provides client and prospect profiles, recognizes the next and last interactions, and pulls together all client information into one view. Know Your Client will help financial advisors record mandated regulatory data in client records, while providing workflow and approval management to assign ownership for activities to team members, establish reviews, and manage approvals, according to the company.
Another element, Client Team Calendaring, is expected to help streamline the process of scheduling the internal advisor team and the client and other parties including a spouse, attorney, and accountant. Client Action Plans will arm customers with the ability to define templates for creating and assigning tasks to teams based on certain events, whereas Household Management provides information on household members in one view.
According to a survey of 128 respondents conducted by on-demand consultancy THINKstrategies last fall, 36 percent said they were looking for a vertical application, 34 percent revealed they wanted a horizontal application, and 30 percent said they were looking for both. "Statistically there's not much difference between 36 percent and 34 percent, but the point is we are moving from a stage where it's not just about the horizontal applications; it's about the specific industry and vertical business value," says Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of THINKstrategies.
Salesforce Wealth Management Edition, which is scheduled to cost $500 per user month, won't be available until Q3 of this year, but the AppExchange partner ecosystem offers wealth management and financial services mashups with more than two dozen preintegrated partner apps that are available today, according to the company. Other financial-services specific apps slated to be rolled out include Salesforce Banking Edition, Salesforce Capital Markets Edition, Salesforce Insurance Edition, and Salesforce Mortgage Edition; however, actual release dates have not been publicly announced.
The company's wealth management app is indicative of a strategy Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com's chairman and CEO, classified as the Circle of Success. The concept starts with applications, including Salesforce's core SFA, marketing, PRM, and service and support applications, along with custom apps built on the Apex platform. The circle allows customers, partners, and other members of the Salesforce.com community to share ideas; with AppStore, also part of the circle, developers and partners can market, sell, invoice, and deliver apps directly to customers through the AppExchange.
"Customers want innovation, not infrastructure today," Benioff said at the New York announcement. "They do not see differentiation in buying another commodity PC or another commodity operating system or another commodity database. They want to get their intellectual property into the system so that they can create their business processes to automate their business."
Salesforce Wealth Management Edition also indicates Salesforce.com's clear interest in targeting financial information entity Bloomberg; Bloomberg Terminals help financial advisors monitor the market. Salesforce.com "loves to go after established players," Kaplan says. "It does represent a threat, aimed at that segment of the market which Bloomberg has historically not served--the small to midsize firms that couldn't afford Bloomberg services in the past."
As a potential weakness, however, if Salesforce.com "tries to attack too many major competitors, it could find itself in the same boat as Novell," Kaplan says. Overall, though, the release "does raise the bar for other on-demand companies that are hoping to keep pace with Salesforce.com."
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