What comes next for relationships in financial services

What comes next for relationships in financial services

Thrive and grow with better customer relationships.

Your ability to create and manage vital customer relationships is critical in keeping your business profitable and healthy

Your loyal customers are looking for more from you. They welcome your experience and perspective, because they appreciate their value. They look for sound advice and guidance that help them make the right financial decisions. Most likely, they are also hoping that you could be so good at what you do that you can remain a valuable resource throughout their lives. If you handle these customer relationships wisely, everybody wins.

In this ebook, we discuss financial-industry challenges Sikich has observed and how modern CRM technology built for financial services companies can help you overcome them. We have worked with wealth managers and registered investment advisors; insurance carriers and brokers; banks and credit unions; private equity firms; investment banks; hedge funds; and lenders. Collectively, we refer to these businesses as financial-services companies


The financial services industry revolves around conditions, events, services, and products that, for most people, are intangible and complex. Consumers may be aware of changes in the value of stocks and bonds, or how fluctuating demand causes the prices of certain materials to increase or manufacturers to add production lines. But it takes specialized expertise to help untrained customers understand how industry and market trends impact the value of their investment accounts or other assets. Thus, investment advisors, bankers, wealth managers, and other experienced professionals are at the forefront of translating complex, global events into recommendations and strategies that benefit their clients’ financial well-being and help them manage their lives.

Because of the abstract, complicated nature of the world of finance and the need for sophisticated experts to navigate it, the relationships between clients and their financial consultants and service providers are a business-critical element for the industry. Their quality depends to a high degree on the level of trust clients experience. Outside of personal chemistry, certain conditions need to be in place for trust to grow. Clients need to receive credible, actionable information and guidance that help them prosper and make the right decisions. It is also important for them to feel that their financial advisors understand their situation and are fully informed regarding their objectives and their histories with the financial institution or service provider they chose.


Financial-services businesses are aware of the unique, important role they play for their clients and the strategic importance of client relationships. They hire and train the best people they can find to take care of customers. They have also made inroads in adopting modern technologies to help them manage the informational and operational areas of their business as well as their client relationships.

Because financial-services providers are highly dependent on reliable, current data from multiple sources, their business roles and activities are typically a great fit for modern digital tools. To serve clients well and manage their business effectively, many financial services firms have implemented customer relationship management (CRM) software tools. Some of these are specifically designed for the industry, such as Salesforce Financial Services Cloud (FSC). Adopting CRM with the help of an implementation partner that has a mature financial practice can give a financial services firm an edge in superior client management and competitive differentiation.

Coinciding with this, industrywide many consumers and other financialservices clients have in recent years learned how to use digital tools and resources to their benefit. Many of them also realized that digital tools and data can reduce the role of human error in making decisions and recommendations. In banking and other areas of financial services, personal and business clients are embracing automated, efficient interactions and next-step recommendations generated by artificial intelligence (AI)—as long as they fit their specific situations and make their finance management easier.


Several other financial-services industry trends and conditions continue to have a bearing on customer relationships. Companies need to consider these when they design their technology strategies and think about CRM software tools:

Organizational change

Successful firms often accelerate growth by means of acquisitions. When customers of an acquired company transition to a different corporate umbrella, the firm has an opportunity to reduce churn by demonstrating improvements in service levels and financial products and ensure their loyalty. An extensible, versatile, cloud-based CRM solution can help ensure smooth change management that also benefits clients.

Barriers to data insight

Even successful and highly regarded financial services companies may be challenged to gain insight from the wealth of customer and market data in their systems. In some firms, analytical tools may be difficult to use, or they don’t include all relevant information sources. Often, client account management software and finance-business systems run disjointedly, and users may need assistance from IT to glean data intelligence. However, that is not the best use of IT professionals’ time and does not make for a productive user experience.

Unconventional alliances

Some well-established companies partner with start-ups or new industry entrants instead of wasting goodwill and resources in mutually destructive competition. They need to give each other the right level of secure access to information sources, applications—and client relationships. It takes the right relationship management and infrastructures to make this work effectively without disruption or unproductive complications.

Outgrowing technologies

More generally, some financial services companies may have grown so quickly during years of economic boom that their systems and infrastructures have not kept up. Companies still run on software applications they may have adopted at a much earlier stage of their business. Maintaining legacy systems and supporting users absorb a large share of IT time and energy, and also eat into technology budgets. In consequence, client relationships may suffer and IT is unable to help the business transform and innovate.

Mitigating cybersecurity risks

Digital fraud and cybercrime harm financial-services firms and their clients. When clients are concerned about their security or have suffered a theft or data breach, financialservices providers need to respond immediately and as specifically for individual clients as they can. The better customer-facing advisors and service professionals are informed about their clients’ specific situations and equipped with tools to assist them, the easier it will be to mitigate damaging events.

Workforce development

Especially for younger professionals who may be affiliated, independent advisors or company employees—technology is a key factor when they make decisions about their careers or alignments with financial services firms. They don’t want to compromise their ability to serve clients in an environment that does not include powerful, intuitive business software, or which does not provide comprehensive mobile capabilities. Firms that overlook the importance of technology in empowering talent may find themselves struggling to recruit and retain financial consultants and advisors.


When financial-services companies call on Sikich, we often recognize the gaps in their understanding of customers or their ability to serve them, because they are not uncommon in the industry.

Most frequently, we find that some banks and other financial-services companies do not know their customers well. This is a source of dissatisfaction for customers, who may feel that they are not understood or appreciated and that advice they receive may be poorly considered. It’s also a sore point for financial-services firms which stake their reputation and success on their ability to serve customers.

Outside of the senior service experts and advisors who work individually with clients, some organizations may have only a rudimentary understanding of customers. In consequence, they present them with blanket marketing messages that will make sense only to a subset of their clients. They may invest in financial services and products without being confident that these are what customers and prospects are looking for. They also may approach their clients and prospects in channels: websites, social media, email, digital kiosks, online events—where they do not primarily engage, while overlooking others which they may prefer.


In addition to misspent budgets and operational waste, lacking customer closeness comes with opportunity costs for financial-services companies. When financial firms are unable to identify and approach customers who may be at a crossroads that requires them to make investment and financial decisions, they may even lose more than a one-time opportunity to provide valuable services and grow their business. Customers’ connections to financial services companies may erode until they are ready to consider the competition. Most clients do not change their financial-services providers lightly or frequently, and it may be challenging to regain their loyalty and trust once they are at that point.

When multiple applications provide data and management capabilities inconsistently across a company, various groups may experience differing degrees of awareness when it comes to customers, marketing, or business development. As happens in some financial-services firms, a call-center team or a sales organization may be fully informed regarding customers’ histories, use of financial solutions, upcoming decisions, and known preferences. However, without the right tools it may be more difficult for them to assess market and industry trends and relate them to with customers’ interests.

Other business groups—executives, for instance—may entirely lack first-hand customer insight, but have a good sense of the company’s performance toward its goals, or its overall return on marketing spending. The disjointed systems used in many firms make it almost impossible for individuals on different teams to exchange information and align their approach to serving clients without spending time on redundant data entry or navigating specialty applications with poor usability.


Financial-services companies can turn these less than advantageous conditions around in a low-risk, predictable, goal-driven manner. Using readily available consulting expertise and modern software applications, they can achieve potentially transformative changes by implementing comparatively simple, proven measures:


Deploy a CRM solution that fits the industry and the way a business works.


Transition business systems that do not have to reside on-premises to the cloud, where computing and storage capabilities are practically endless and where key aspects of security are handled by the cloud infrastructure provider.

Employee Access

Give employees and affiliates secure, anytime, anywhere access to the CRM environment.


If necessary, refresh laptops, tablets, and desktop computers to help people work effectively with the CRM solution.

System Integration

Connect CRM with other business systems, data sources, or analytical tools.


The experience of customers is likely to improve when their financial-services provider implements CRM and uses it effectively. For instance, they can:


Get next-best action recommendations from informed service representatives and advisors, and rely on them for their financial wellbeing.


Receive automated, well-scripted emails, text messages, or calls, for example, when they have certain amounts in their checking and savings, when new investment tools or tactics become available, or when a new regulation might require them to think and act


Find consistent, relevant information and resources for managing their financial planning and investments no matter where and how they engage with a company.


Use self-service tools to update their accounts instead of calling or emailing their financial consultants when their goals and interests change. By doing so, they also prompt their account managers and consultants to adjust their support and communications.


While clients stand to benefit when their financial-services providers deploy a modern CRM solution and connect their systems, the companies themselves can also experience advantages:

Improve customer loyalty

and increase lifetime customer value with proactive, timely recommendations and communications that don’t let valuable opportunities slide by.

Gain a competitive edge

and boost their reputations as companies that understand, care about, and respond to their customers.

Align sales

marketing, and other customer-facing teams behind a shared strategy with measurable goals, and track and manage individual and team performance in close to real time.

Attract, empower, and reward the talent

that shares the company’s vision for its future and a customer-focused culture, giving employees extensive, role-specific, yet secure access to information and account management capabilities on their preferred devices.

Target marketing campaigns and business development

more effectively and specifically, with better accountability and visibility, tracking results and making adjustments as events unfold. Take advantage of predictive AI to minimize the unproductive pursuit of new prospects.

Improved visibility

and account mapping capabilities, companies can develop more business in the same household, neighborhood, or community—at a low cost per lead and with minimal effort.

Innovate and reposition financial products and services

based on customer insight, with minimal risk and great flexibility for course corrections.

Provide employees and affiliates with powerful, easy-to-use tools

that enable them to do their best work on behalf of the company and its customers, and use individualized metrics to assist them in advancing their skills or increasing their contribution to the business.

Equip executives and business planners with the data and analytical instruments

to make evidence-based decisions and steer the company in the most profitable and sustainable direction.

Automate routine tasks and workflows

to ensure timely approvals of financial documents by the right parties and to make people’s lives easier, so they can focus on their customers and their needs, less on administrative chores.


The sales organizations in financial-services companies comprise customer representatives and call-center teams, which are part of the company, and networks of independent affiliates, which are independent businesses that provide financial consulting to their clients. All financialservices firms that use independent affiliates or advisors have to share information with them regarding their products, services, payment structures, and incentives. Sometimes, they will also provide them with tools or guidance for managing key aspects of their business, such as leads, opportunities, or goals. Some finance companies provide their affiliates with complete management platforms, which they can adopt entirely or partially. Others engage in collaborative lead generation or sales campaigns, or share proprietary research and reporting with their affiliates.

Numerous handoffs need to happen when call centers, internal sales teams, customer-facing employees in branch offices, and affiliates need to exchange customer or opportunity information. When these transition points are not facilitated by business applications and infrastructures that are dependably available to users inside and outside of the organization, it’s easy for errors or delays to creep in, degrading the customer experience and the productivity of advisors and employees. Outside of customers, independent affiliates are probably the ones who suffer most from this because of their remoteness from corporate offices and data centers.


Engineered for the cloud and tailored to the financial-services industry, a mature, robust CRM solution like Salesforce FSC allows companies to close gaps in business enablement, communications, and information sharing. IT managers or trained users can ensure that contributors have access to just the data and functionality they require. At the same time, a cloud solution is practically endlessly scalable. Financial-services firms can onboard as many advisors as they wish and offer them professional development and reporting tools. Advisors and financial consultants can manage their customer relationships and communications in the cloud and on their preferred devices. That also will make it easier for companies to add a channel of independent advisors or affiliates to their existing avenues for customer engagement, or change their sales model if they choose.

From onboarding throughout their history with a financial-services provider, customers’ service experience can be consistently excellent when the people helping them are aligned on the same CRM platform. They don’t need to be concerned about possible differences in the relevance or validity of investment strategies and financial advice they may hear from a company employee or an independent advisor. Financial-service organizations can set up their CRM environment in such a way that workflows and communications involving customers and their independent or in-house consultants are transparent for managers and consistent with company policies and regulatory mandates.


For some financial-services companies it can be difficult to establish the exact outcomes of their investments in onboarding and supporting independent advisors. In addition, for both companies and affiliated advisors it may be challenging to assess their performance and their returns on marketing and sales campaigns accurately and in real time.

In a modern CRM environment, financial-services companies or their technology partners can create dashboards and use reporting tools that come with the solution to gain the visibility they need. Company executives can review the business outcomes of hiring or contracting with talented resources. Sales and marketing managers, as well as individual, independent affiliates running their own business, can track and improve the impact of their campaigns and the performance of their engagements with prospects and customers.


Sikich is a relationship-driven consultancy that delivers a unique portfolio of software solutions from leading vendors together with strategic consulting and IT managed services. From helping you define your technology strategy by collaborating with dedicated Sikich virtual CIO (vCIO), to supporting users that need to be proficient with their software tools, Sikich team members working with and for you share an unwavering commitment to your success. We also understand that CRM is not a project you complete and let go. Especially for financial services and other professional-services organizations, it’s a key practice that you can evolve as individuals and teams become ever more effective at understanding and serving customers.


On the Sikich financial-services team, you meet professionals who have spent their careers in the industry. They were consultants and business managers in successful organizations before they joined us. We have assisted many financial-services clients in achieving smooth, low-risk, nondisruptive CRM deployments. We are proud of all our clients and their successes, and particularly enjoy helping mid-market and smaller organizations benefit from enterprise-level technology and strategies within their budgets and in sync with business cultures that may have taken decades to create.


Many of Sikich’s financial-services clients have done well in adopting Salesforce Financial Services Cloud with our assistance. For many reasons, Salesforce FSC is an industry favorite. It’s easy to implement, configure, and provision in the cloud, securely and targeted to the business roles that need functionality and data. The solution’s architecture and interfaces allow less-technical, but business-savvy users to configure and adjust a wealth of powerful capabilities to fit their company’s people and clients.

Compared to other software products that are designed for the financial services industry, Salesforce FSC is more robust, scalable, and secure, and it is more flexible in supporting growing, changing companies. In their range and power, many Salesforce FSC features, such as household mapping, financial account consolidation, reciprocal roles, opportunity management, workflow automation, service levels, or chatter, are of great practical value and make both customers’ and consultants’ lives easier and more productive.

Take Salesforce to the Next Level

This publication contains general information only and Sikich is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or any other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should you use it as a basis for any decision, action or omission that may affect you or your business. Before making any decision, taking any action or omitting an action that may affect you or your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. In addition, this publication may contain certain content generated by an artificial intelligence (AI) language model. You acknowledge that Sikich shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by you or any person who relies on this publication.

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