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Salesforce's Drew Seelig, Attune Solutions founder Chris Sommers and BridgeFT CEO Joe Stensland
Salesforce's Drew Seelig, Attune Solutions founder Chris Sommers and BridgeFT CEO Joe Stensland

Salesforce, BridgeFT Integration May Finally Make The CRM Affordable

Our technology columnist had to open up his mind to the notion given years of hype.

The time might finally be right for small- to midsize-registered investment advisory firms to include Salesforce—specifically Financial Services Cloud for Financial Advisors—when they are looking for a new CRM.

What might make FSC for Advisors more compelling is the news out today that Attune WealthData powered by BridgeFT is now available on the Salesforce AppExchange.

Bear with me and think about this, perhaps like you would think of something built with LEGO.

Attune WealthData is a Salesforce AppExchange application. This means it is a turnkey product that plugs directly into Salesforce CRM and works right out of the box.

What does it do?

In terms of the bigger picture, it means that small-to-midsize advisors can now contemplate the use of Salesforce and get turnkey access to multi-custodian data feeds right out of the box without having to go step-by-step working with a CRM provider and then other account aggregation providers to do the same thing.

The application was a collaboration with BridgeFT, another third-party technology provider whose specialties include providing multi-custodial account aggregation of end-client data, which can now be pumped, using Attune WealthData, directly into Salesforce.

Advisors have been interested in using Salesforce for the 17 years I’ve covered advisor technology.

Early on, this included small and midsize advisory shops for a variety of reasons, ranging from buzz and hype outside the insular third-party advisor technology ecosystem to the thriving third-party developer ecosystem around Salesforce, and because even back then, it was thought of as a platform that could grow and scale with an advisory shop.

Unfortunately, Salesforce remained uninterested in that small-to-midsize segment and it even took a few years for the mega-company to realize that large advisory firms needed and were increasingly demanding their own version of Salesforce.

That may have all changed.

Keep in mind that today’s news is not mainly about FSC for Advisors; it is a “new” product, according to Drew Seelig, a senior director of Global Wealth & Asset Management Solutions & Strategy at Salesforce, one that has been available for some months (more on what makes it different in a bit).

“We [Salesforce] are looked at as an enterprise solution, [with Salesforce FSC for Advisors] we are bringing the same chassis that big shops are using,” Seelig said.

He said with FSC for Advisors, smaller firms have an intentionally more limited set of key capabilities turned on by default allowing the businesses to “get immediate value.”

And along with Attune, there is an ecosystem of over 280 financial services partner integrations available on the Salesforce AppExchange.

Asked how the newer FSC for Advisors program differs from traditional third-party Salesforce overlay companies, such as XLR8 and others, which purported to do the same thing, his response was simple.

“There is a point where those turnkey solutions are too limited and they [advisors] need to [further] customize,” said Seelig.

Chris Sommers, a serial entrepreneur, and early employee at Salesforce (he joined the company in 2003 and stayed for six years), is the founder of Attune Solutions and said he sympathized with advisors at smaller shops.

He had been with Salesforce for its 10,000-user rollout for Merrill Lynch prior to the 2008 financial crisis and said he understood the gulf that exists between firms of that size and the needs of businesses in the small-to-midsize independent segment.

“When Salesforce came to me to ask me to build what became Attune I was thinking about going to all the custodians myself and saw what a Herculean task it was going to be and was later introduced to BridgeFT,” Sommers said.

“What this [Attune and Salesforce FSC] is doing is paring it down,” just to what features and component pieces a smaller firm needs, he said.

BridgeFT CEO Joe Stensland said that cost, for those advisors, was also top of mind.

“One of the big questions for us was how do they/we make sure for a very low cost that the custodial data feeds are baked into it?” he said.

“And we didn’t start to create a Salesforce app, Salesforce went to Chris to build one,” Stensland was quick to point out.

He added the current collaboration is the first step and said BridgeFT and Attune planned to roll out other features, including fully integrated household and account-level performance calculations, as well as practice management analytics across multiple custodians. Also on the roadmap are client reporting and fee billing applications embedded directly into an advisory firm’s FSC Advisor iteration.

While the pricing for Attune WealthData powered by BridgeFT is published on the AppExchange website as $30 per month per user, there is no similar transparency for Salesforce FSC for Financial Advisors.

The company declined to provide specific pricing, but Salesforce hinted that restricted-use licenses for small-to-midsize firms would come in at substantially less than the $300 to $500 per user per month that larger advisory firms pay.

“In the rapidly evolving financial landscape, our FSC for Advisors program stands out by offering a competitively priced solution that harnesses the power of Salesforce technology, specifically tailored for the RIA market,” the company released in a statement.

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