For years building societies were able to position themselves as THE ethical alternative to traditional banks and lenders and play an important role in the economy. However, with the rise of challenger banks, online banks, and self-styled “ethical banks” - building societies face the dual challenge of retaining their market share and delivering a service experience in line with heightened customer expectations. Within a changing and highly competitive landscape, building societies are still uniquely positioned to appeal to today’s customers - provided they can deliver the personalised, digitised experience those same customers have come to expect.
First off, what is a building society?
A building society is a financial institution that provides financial services to individuals and businesses alike - just like a traditional bank. The products and services offered might include current accounts, savings accounts, mortgages, loans, and insurance.
So it’s a bank?
In a way, yes. However, A building society is unique in that it is owned by its members as a mutual organisation. Unlike a traditional bank, a building society does not have shareholders and therefore is not responsible for making a profit for shareholders.
What makes a building society unique?
Customers of the building society - for example, those who open a bank account with the building society - automatically become “members”. Members are able to vote on certain aspects of how the society operates - for example, how and where any profits are distributed.
While the primary aim of a building society is not to make a profit, any profits that are generated are used to fund community projects or can be donated to charities.
Building societies face two key challenges in today’s world.
Thanks to a new generation of self-styled “ethical banks” - building societies are no longer the only ethical alternative to a traditional financial institution.
At the same time, the traditional banking sector has been transformed by the rise of “challenger banks”. These 'challengers' have championed cloud-based, streamlined processes and highly personalised customer service - and are very popular with modern customers as a result.
How can a building society compete against banks?
The mutual member structure of a building society remains a powerful USP, even within an exceptionally competitive market. However, in order to retain and attract those ethically-minded customers, building societies must ensure that they continually communicate and demonstrate their commitments to member-benefits and their contribution to wider society.
Building societies must also transform their services to match or exceed the personalised, digital-first customer experience that challenger banks have spearheaded in the traditional banking sector.
How can the Salesforce CRM Platform transform a building society?
The Salesforce Customer 360 CRM platform is a collection of powerful, cloud-based CRM tools which can transform a building society's processes and services. It combines the capabilities of the Salesforce ‘Experience Cloud’, ‘Marketing Cloud’, and Salesforce ‘Financial Services Cloud’ to unite marketing, sales, service, and IT team's from anywhere. These are just three of a plethora of Salesforce products however can form the basis of a well-oiled digital society.
‘Financial Services Cloud’ (FSC), a combination of traditional Salesforce sales and service cloud with the added benefit of functionality bespoke to the financial services world is an industry-leading CRM that allows advisers to interact with back end banking platforms, view member’s accounts & policies, and build up a holistic picture of interests and life events which allows building societies to better serve their customers on any device through data-driven personalisation. Benefitting from a B2C data model, the society can build 1-1 relationships with its members and in fact, gain a better insight into their purchasing decisions, family, and future financial requirements.
I mentioned life events as this is really intuitive and one of my favourite functions within the platform. Taken from traditional wealth management processes, societies and their members can map out and align on the funds and savings deposits required to hit certain life milestones, i.e. save for a mortgage, university fund, family growth etc. This will give the society a call to action when reaching out to members, pivoting into an upsell of a product and suggestions on offer switches.
As FSC is a hybrid of Sales and Service Cloud, the society will be able to harness the standard functionality of this platform to manage member cases, customer information, policies, household information, member goals, mortgage statements, broker referrals, and dashboards, to showcase key information.
Bringing operations online will also mean a deeper reliance on fraud detection and customer identification. With open API’s, Salesforce can very easily connect and surface relevant information from KYC and AML providers such as Onfido, who have a ‘Salesforce App store’ plugin to securely perform these checks on behalf of the society, flagging any sanctions and providing a risk model on the incoming member.
‘Experience Cloud’, formally known as ‘Community Cloud’ is a Salesforce portal solution that can enable members and external brokers to log in to a fully bespoke and branded extension of your website to access savings, perform product switches, view the status of a loan and enable brokers to submit and manage new applications.
Removing the reliance on paper forms and email chains, brokers will be able to submit and manage their own referrals and new business applications which offers an improved user experience and accelerates the application process.
‘Marketing Cloud’ will enable the society to build 1-1 personalised journeys with its members, lifting the dependence on face-to-face interactions to build and nourish relationships. With members less keen or able to go to a branch, societies must continue to educate, inform and promote their ethical services and ensure they stay relevant in a highly competitive market.
Societies have always played a key role in educating people about finances. So, by bringing their operation and education online, the society can leverage Marketing Cloud to build upon their fundamental roots of being a bank for the people by promoting content to help people be better with money and gain access to some of the best financial education and rates in today's market.
We have Salesforce, so what’s next?
The above three solutions can form the basis of a fully integrated online presence for a building society, however, the conversations we are having with customers who have already taken the step to becoming an omni-channel, the digital building society is pivoting to include Mulesoft and Tableau CRM. Mulesoft, an integration platform that enables Salesforce to connect into the application network via API’s will enable the society to use the assets at its disposal and back-office banking software such as Sopra MSS or payment gateway’s and present the required information in Financial Services Cloud.
Then, making use of the inbound data is fundamental and can significantly drive business opportunities for the society. Salesforce Tableau CRM will allow the society to bring in and analyse millions of rows of data from any source and have pre-built automation that can action specific workflows.
Merkle, a leading Salesforce partner to the financial services industry, has also developed pre-built solutions, designed specifically for building societies. These range from a portal for brokers or customers to manage products, make a switch, or apply for new products - to an end-to-end digital mortgage application process.
Our engagement process de-risks each workstream by undertaking prototype-led workshops which streamline the implementation and bring fresh ideas to the table to drive innovation, creativity, as well as future-proof your business. Salesforce works directly with businesses to expedite change; providing expert advice for building societies that are modernising and digitising their processes.
Together, Salesforce’s platform and Merkle’s expertise enable building societies to compete in today’s marketplace by operating with exceptional efficiency, engaging with customers & brokers on all platforms, and providing a first-class customer experience. The end result is a self-sufficient, customer-centric experience that brings Building Societies into the digital world through personalisation, flexibility, and speed to market. This allows them to get back on track in becoming a force to be reckoned with in the lending and savings industry, and attract the millennial and gen-z customer base but also still service individuals in their society who may not be as technologically savvy and still want human interaction.