Salesforce officially launched their new CRM specifically tailored to financial advisors, touting it as the only all-in-one solution "that is a client-centric platform, not a product-centric one."

That's the crucial difference between the Salesforce Financial Services Cloud and similar, all-in-one platforms recently introduced by large custodians, says Simon Mulcahy, senior vice president and general manager, financial services at Salesforce.

"The many other tools -- while in spirit are pointing in our direction, are not designed as a system of engagement," Mulcahy says. "In our 17 years focused on CRM, the biggest thing we've learned is facilitating engagement."

For a monthly fee of $150 per user, advisors using the Salesforce platform will get access to a host of tools, from account aggregation (powered by Envestnet's Yodlee) to portfolio rebalancing and prospecting aids.

Salesforce notes it has 20 partners involved in developing its platform. Among them is national RIA United Capital.

"Salesforce at its center is a CRM-centric business, and they have an advantage from that perspective in how they are approaching this," says Mike Capelle, chief strategy officer at United Capital.

Mulcahy acknowledges questions were raised when Salesforce first announced plans for its own platform and how it would compete with offerings from its own development partners, namely Envestnet's Tamarac platform.

"We have a lot of respect for Envestnet," Mulcahy says. "It’s a very open-minded organization. We're very careful about how we think about our future. We've partnered with organizations that also think about the future very carefully."

How the platform will compete against the market's other CRM offerings, which also includes advisor-tailored products from Redtail and Junxture, is an open question, says Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Planning columnist and co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today conference.

"For independent RIAs or for IBDs, there are already multiple vendors of Salesforce with wealth management overlays," he says. "It could be that Salesforce did not get the market share they expected by going through custodians and third party providers, so they decided to create their own. It remains to be seen what, if any impact this will have upon their relationships with these third parties and custodians."

Mulcahy says the platform was designed for any advisor to use, and sees it carrying cross-appeal, from wirehouses to the smallest RIAs.

"It's for all advisors, irrespective of size," he says. "It works really well for small teams and the family office, and can exist within teams working under the umbrella of a massive organization."

Bruckenstein says there's still a need gap of CRM systems among many smaller advisory firms. Among respondents to the most recent Financial Planning technology survey, the largest group (19%) said Microsoft Outlook served as their CRM system.

"It will have little impact on that demographic," he says. "If they are currently using MS Outlook, they are unlikely to pay $150 per person a month on their initial foray into CRM. There are still a lot of advisors who don’t need the power of Salesforce or who don’t believe they can derive enough ROI to justify paying $150 per month per user."

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