Implementing Salesforce in a Bank: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

November 19, 2018 Jim Young

Implementing a CRM system, like Salesforce, in a bank can have tremendous value, but it is also incredibly hard to get it right. Charlie Johnson, fresh of his time at Dreamforce 2015, and Andy Max share some of their first hand experience in what worked and what didn’t, and more importantly, what they wish they had known when they started.

This was a wide-ranging conversation that saw two smart and technically adept bankers hit on dozens of points every bank should think about. We didn’t want to overwhelm anyone with a 90 minute podcast so we’re editing it down into multiple parts. The following 22 minutes is part 1.



Podcast Transcript

Taylor Magargal

Hi, and welcome to Lender Performance, your guide to becoming a better lender. I’m your host, Taylor Magargal, Communications Specialist at PrecisionLender. Thank you for joining me.

One of the recurring themes, so far, on this podcast has been the importance of CRM systems in banks. Banking is a relationship business and we see an industry-wide movement to finally start investing in some tools to help nurture and build those relationships. However, buying the CRM is easy. Integrating it with your other systems and getting everyone to use it consistently is not so easy. We continue to run across banks that are struggling and frustrated. Joining us today, though, are a couple of bankers that have been down that road and have been able to make Salesforce a huge success in their shops. I’m super excited about this, as they have agreed to share their story including all of the ups and downs of rolling out a system like this in a large organization. We have Andy Max, who is the Director of Pricing Strategy and Performance at First National Bank of Omaha, and we have Charlie Johnson, who is the VP of Wholesale Lending, Cloud Technologies Administration Manager at Flagstar Bank.

Welcome to both of you and we really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

Charlie Johnson

Thank you.

Andy Max

No problem.

Taylor Magargal

Let’s start with a little bit of background. Charlie, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Flagstar Bank?

Charlie Johnson

The truth of the matter is I’m just fortunate enough to be able to stand out front of the real brain trust behind our Salesforce implementation on our wholesale lending side of Flagstar. I’ve been with the bank about seventeen years and we’ve had Salesforce integrated for almost a decade now. The truth of the matter is I just get to steer the ship, but I’ve got some talented folks that really make it do what it does. I work more on the strategy and the guidance side, but together, we’ve realized a lot of successes and learned a number of lessons along the way.

Taylor Magargal

I know that you helped roll out Salesforce across the whole bank. Can you tell us a little bit about that situation and when that happened?

Charlie Johnson

Absolutely. My team is primarily on our wholesale lending, our B2B relationship side. The majority of Flagstar’s margin is from third-party origination or wholesale mortgage lending, but we also do have retail banking in the Michigan footprint. The wholesale lending org, again, has been nearly a decade … It was 2005, the late 2005, when we stood it up, and about two and a half years ago a second org was stood up that we call our PSF, or personal financial services org, that handles more of the banking side. Its primary initiative or drive for standing that up was to improve account opening processes in-branch and to broaden some of the B2C data that was available across the org.

Today, we actually stand right at the very beginning of rolling out of the service cloud across our organizations. All of our service centers, both on the B2B and B2C side, will soon be on Salesforce, replacing a very aged PeopleSoft ticket management platform. In the beginning, the decision to move to CRM, back in 2004, we actually were made aware of Salesforce through one of our lead sales associates out in the Northern California market, in the San Francisco market. He had been hearing a lot and certainly learning a lot about the platform that was in its infancy, but gaining a lot of ground very quickly.

At that time, to be honest, our sales team, we barely had contact management through our Lotus Notes email platform. We didn’t have ACT!, we didn’t have Goldmine, we didn’t have any of the original pseudo-CRMs of the time, so going to Salesforce was truly a quantum leap in functionality for our user base. The original demand or interest came from our sales side of wanting to improve the tools that we had that were used by our internal staff. Flagstar, at that time, had built a very strong reputation for technology in the industry. In the late 90s, we’d won the Smithsonian Award for Technology Integration for our work and were really pushing that bleeding edge of technology adoption within mortgage lending.

We had spent a whole lot of time and a lot of energy building very robust and user-friendly tools for consumers, but resources are, of course, allocated as they’re allocated. We realized that, “Hey, we need to spend some time improving our internal tools that are used by our staff to make sure that we’re being as effective as we can on the sales side.” That’s where the original desire to implement Salesforce came from.

Taylor Magargal

Andy, now, can you tell us a little bit about you and your story and your experience with Salesforce at your bank?

Andy Max

No problem and Charlie, I wish we’d been on here for a decade this far and able to grow in that amount of time. We’ve only been on Salesforce at First National Bank here for about four years. It’s been a good four years and we’ve rolled that out to multiple lines, not just our commercial bankers here. We have wealth managers on the platform and we have a credit card division here that also uses it as well. We have multiple lines that are in here and the goal, obviously, is to have a common place to collaborate with our clients, so we know who’s talking to who and how we work with each other, instead of stepping on each others’ toes.

The CRM, at its core, is what we’re really getting the benefit of now. We haven’t had a significant amount of time to evolve from that, although, if you talk to Salesforce, we should be able to do it all within a year. We’re a small, nimble team out here and we do as much as we can with the resources we have.

Four years ago, we decided to buy Salesforce and, at that point in time, I was actually not part of the team. I was in our finance group and was a finance loan pricing nerd who loved Excel and loved Access and over time had developed a model that we had used here at First National Bank to price in. Once we stumbled upon PrecisionLender, I realized the value of that tool at the first demo that we saw. We knew that we wanted to go down that path and create that relationship with their team, which actually brought me to the Salesforce team here at the bank. That was about eighteen months ago and we integrated with Salesforce, the PrecisionLender and the Salesforce platforms worked with each other and that’s when I became part of this team, because now my goal was to help adoption in the Salesforce tool, as well as help to strategic price throughout our corporate bank, then, to take my knowledge of that and, hopefully, share it with other areas of the bank, as well.

Eighteen months after that, we have a strong integration with Precision and Salesforce and we have a strong partnership with each of those. We currently have a team of three, here, that continues to work on and improve that experience here and we have big plans for the future.

Taylor Magargal

I know lots of banks have struggled to get their staff, especially lenders, to use Salesforce on a daily basis. How have you tried to solve that issue and really gotten the ultimate value out of your investment in the Salesforce platform?

Andy Max

I’ll start with that since I, kind of, ended there. When we originally started with Salesforce, I think it’s a normal adoption cycle to not expect everyone to immediately log right in, log all their calls, log all their activities. You’ve got to see the value in the tool before you can actually get in there and see the benefit of it for getting in there, instead of being forced to go in there and make sure that we’re getting everything logged the correct way. When we had the integration with PrecisionLender, that’s when we actually saw our log-ins spike, because that’s how they get to their strategic pricing tool.

When we rolled that out, we got a lot of positive feedback from our lending staff about how it was nice not to have another place to go log into. The fact that they could get there, not update their pipeline, because, now, it’s all being done out of PrecisionLender, they started to see more benefits of getting in the tool. Being able to track your customers as a CRM wasn’t the only benefit of it. That was a big piece for us and as we continue to evolve our Salesforce vision here at First National Bank, we always keep that in mind as, “What is the benefit to our lenders to make their experience helpful, easy, and allow them to make a personal experience for our customers?”

Charlie Johnson

Fantastic. I’ll pick up from there. On our side, we use fear, threats … No, I’m teasing. A lot of it depends on where you’re implementing and who your initial implementation is for. It varies by those different user groups as Andy alluded. When it’s a production system that’s used for a very specific task, adoption is… I guess you could say it’s somewhat somewhat forced. It’s like accounting. If I’m going to replace our accounting system, our accounting users have to use the new system. What choice do they have, right? It’s the new platform.

In our case, our initial implementation was all sales. It was all frontline sales. It’s very tricky, because it’s a new system. The only people who like change are wet babies. You have to be able to motivate those folks and entice them and incent them, in order to use those platforms. It’s a tricky balance, because you’ve got… The people that you want to use it the most, that you want to understand their experience and how effective it is and what you can improve, are those who are the most successful salespeople. Those are the most resistant individuals at using something new, especially in a commissioned sales organization. They’re like, “What do I need this tool for? I’m doing great. I’m kicking butt. I’m top dog and I know it. What is my motivation to use this new tool?” You have to be able to evidence to them to prove to them how much more effective or how much more profitable they and the organization could be if they use this tool.

We used a guiding principle of a three to one. For every one piece of effort that we asked our users to give to the system, we needed to give back three pieces of benefit. Otherwise, they just weren’t going to use it. We started out identifying some of the simplest to use, but greatest impact functions that we could roll out, from contact tracking and single-click logging of calls and things. We were one of the first enterprise-wide users of mobile, of Salesforce mobile, when it first rolled out back in 2006. Being able to give them one-click functions to be able to log the call. There was actually a tool that’s no longer existing now, but it was called Logger, that was put out by Salesforce Labs back then, to where we could give them those one-click capabilities to log a call or log a visit or log their activities.

Asking a salesperson who previously hasn’t been required to use call sheets, which is a swear word in the sales world, “I don’t want this Big Brother looking over my shoulder keeping tabs on me and what I’m doing. I’m a commissioned salesperson.” Many operate as their own little island, so you have to show them the benefits of using this digitally and electronically to where I can send them reminders of people that they haven’t talked to in sixty days, organizations that they haven’t visited in thirty days; the automation that comes from moving from that three-ring binder, that the next time they’re visiting a customer, they’re flipping back through those thirty or forty pages of notes to find who they talked to and what they talked about last and what they followed up on, when I can put that in their hands as their sitting in the parking lot, ready to walk in to visit with that customer. That is the benefit. That’s the real sexy and the sizzle that I was able to deliver.

Coupled with that, integrations would not have needed marketing and digital marketing campaigns to where I could give them automated programs to touch those customers, things like “Thank you for your business” campaigns, where once a month, we would automatically send out an email to those clients thanking them for the loans that they’ve registered and closed that month, or communicating directly down to the loan officer level with those different organizations.

We had to use those guiding principles of value, value, value. If they don’t see the value, if they don’t see the benefit, they just aren’t going to use it and what are you going to do? Your top salesperson doesn’t use this new tool. Are you going to fire him? They’re the primary lead income stream for that area or for that region within the organizations. You don’t have a whole lot of leverage of forced adherence, but piece-by-piece, we started identifying other processes that were very manual, that were filling out a piece of paper and scanning it and emailing it into sponsor a new customer for approval.

We turned little bits and pieces of those operational mandates, all the only method that you can complete them or achieve them was through the platform. We found that the early adopters that we could win over with the, “Look at the ease of use. Look at how functional this is. Look at the benefit.” They came along for the ride and then, there were some old-schoolers that may not be… They may be working at Good Ol’ Boy market and handshakes and pressing palms and going to lunch and they’re doing well, but they’re not the most technologically-acute, we slowly brought them along. As we added these required functions operationally, it forced them to get into the system. The experience overall with Salesforce is, “Man, once I get you in, it’s like crack.”

Once you take a taste of Salesforce and what it can do and you start discovering the more and more that it’s capable of. It’s experiential learning. It’s like that favorite website that you go to once, because you heard about it and you do one neat thing. While you’re in there, you see a button and you go, “Oh, I wonder what that does?” You click on it and, “Oh, I didn’t know I could do that.” The more that you’re in it, the more that you discover, and the more value that you actually discover yourself and reinforcing that with videos and training and support documentation and reinforcement and celebration, especially through Chatter, celebrating and rewarding those highest influencers, those who are utilizing the system the most, some of the metrics that we’re tracking, who’s converting customers from broker relationships to correspondent relationships.

Those wins and being celebratory in the use of the platform, it takes time. You’ve got to be very targeted with those user groups, even all the way down to the personalities that exist within those user groups, to discover what is that hook that I’m going to have to use to get them in there. I tell you, once you get one solid win, especially if it impacts their income or their commission, boy, that’s how you get them over. Things like Chatter integration, and usability and adoption and getting people involved in that… Our biggest key there was our Chatter usage rates went up significantly after our CEO sent his first Chatter post and responded to the first posts that were coming in from the frontline sales individuals. Our CEO was answering them in real time on Chatter. Man, that gets attention.

Andy Max

I’m sorry to interrupt you. Just to that point, it all comes down to making sure you have executive support. That’s where it really starts…

Charlie Johnson

Agreed. Absolutely.

Andy Max

Without that, without leadership teams wanting to change the culture at your bank and how you work, it will fall on deaf ears until you get that support, until it’s reinforced by those dashboards and by the metrics. We hope one day to have commissions being paid out here with some future integrations and other good reasons and benefits to get in the tool, but without that support, it’s hard for us to evolve from the Rolodex to Outlook, to now, Salesforce. It’s what we always talk about, there are winners out there like… You started with a Rolodex thirty years ago and you wrote it all down, right? Then, Outlook was cool and you got into that and you were able to have it all in one place. That took a little while for you to trust Outlook to make sure it was doing what it was saying it was going to do, then, understanding what the capabilities were. Once we mastered that, then Salesforce came up four years ago at the bank and as they continually go in there and can see all of their conversations that you mentioned before and getting out to inform everyone what the potential is… That’s one big thing that we’re working on here is making sure that our training is effective to each one of those groups that you identified, too, from the early adopters all the way to the laggards that maybe have been around for a long time and like their current process.

Just to throw a few quick notes in, that’s what we’ve experienced here at the bank.

Charlie Johnson

No, absolutely. It’s management support and belief and understanding of the cultural change. It really is, it’s a paradigm shift within the organization. I don’t want to be melodramatic or over dramatic on that, but it truthfully is. It’s understanding that culture of engagement and the user’s experience and the customer’s experience that is realized through the efficiencies that are gained within the internal platform and with different tools that can be utilized.

We’re standing up one of our first customer portals through Customer Communities, which is essentially exposing internal Salesforce custom pages externally to the world through an authenticated website. We’re revolutionizing our entire customer application and approval process, which, in the past, involved three or four different groups and the manual gathering of documentation and scanning and moving it into a paperless environment, manually. Now, we’re going to do that all through a Communities page directly with the customers and automate a bunch of processes and approvals and communications.

You talk about innovating with sales and the tools keep evolving. You’re trying to evolve your culture and, honestly, the tool is evolving at a pace twice that that you could possibly change culture and change behaviors. Those are the hardest things to change, but like at Dreamforce this year, we saw Salesforce IQ, the new fully integrated tool that a lot of people looked at and said, “Well, it’s just an email connector, isn’t it?” No, it’s much deeper than that. It’s an email connector and it mines social media, so all of my emails … I just installed it the other day, all of my emails now have everybody’s Twitter handles in it. It automatically went out and found those and brought them into my information stream.

It’s powerful tools that deal with big data and the connectivity of today’s world and how sales can leverage that. It takes a long time to integrate some of those really advanced functions into the culture of, “How is this really leveraged in a sales’ strategy?” It takes a lot of big thinkers and creative thinkers out ahead of the culture to lay that roadmap and be able to bring people along, but as you say, Andy, bringing management along with that vision is key to adoption down the line, because if their manager isn’t reinforcing the use of the tool, they’re not going to use the tool. That’s a very important primary point of success of integration. Certainly.

Andy Max

Charlie, could you elaborate a little bit on some of your experience, as far as on boarding with Chatter and Twitter a little bit as you just said there? It’s cool to, me and you, who see the benefit in it and how to work collaboratively in that setting as well, but how do you get some of those people that have never even been on Twitter before to see that same value?

Charlie Johnson

As much as I’d love to say, “Flagstar has a fully-vetted and well-defined social engagement strategy,” we don’t. We’re experimenting and, certainly, again, the majority of my vision’s on the B2B side. Social engagement on the B2B side is a little limited as it is on the B2C side, but bringing people along to that environment … I’ll tell you, it was kind of funny, because we rolled out Chatter, and Chatter is a blend of Facebook and Twitter. It’s a Facebook UI with a Twitter functionality.

Talking to people, when you first introduce it, you’d say, “Well, it looks like Facebook, but it acts like Twitter,” and you’d get blinking eyes, blank stares. You’d go, “Okay. Let’s talk about walls. I have a wall, which is a whiteboard in my office. Then, there’s a public wall, which is the whiteboard on the outside of my office wall. Then, there’s your wall, which is your whiteboard in your office.” Talking to them about how you can post to those three, how I can @ mention people, how I can use hashtagging to follow trending and topics …

Many of those concepts are very foreign to them, because, again, I’m in my early forties, I certainly didn’t grow up with social networking, but it’s funny, you look at generational differences in the understanding of these concepts, you talk to a millennial that is entering the workforce or has recently gone into the workforce and man, you talk about Chatter and Twitter and Facebook… Facebook is old, you know? Facebook is the Twitter for old people. Their concept and their perception of it is so much different than the seasoned employee team that you’re trying to work with, so you’ve got to be able to tie in…

Taylor Magargal

I’m going to stop it here for now. This conversation gets even better, though, and we’ll bring you more in future podcasts. If you would like to reach Andy or Charlie, you can find them both on LinkedIn. Charlie is on Twitter with the handle: @headinmysaas. We will provide links to all of that and some of the topics we covered today in the show notes for this episode, which you can always find at If you like what you heard here, make sure to subscribe to the feed in iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher, and be sure to leave ratings and feedback. Thanks for listening. Until next time, I’m Taylor Magargal and this is LenderPerformance.

About the Author

Jim Young

Jim Young, Director of Content at PrecisionLender, is an award-winning writer with experience in a range of positions in media and marketing, from reporter to website editor to content marketer. Throughout his career Jim has focused on the story – how to find it, how to understand it, and how best to share it with others. At PrecisionLender, he manages the many ways in which the company shares its philosophy on banking and the power of relationships. Jim graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Duke University and holds a masters degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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