Digital innovation in the financial sector, a segment known as "fintech," will put consumer banks at "the epicenter of disruption" over the next five years, according to a recent report from PwC. That's why this month Salesforce plans to roll out a new industry-focused application: Financial Services Cloud for Retail Banking.

Building on Financial Services Cloud, the company's first industry-specific software-as-a-service offering launched in 2015, Salesforce said the new application is designed to help retail banks provide the personalized and connected services today's customers have increasingly come to expect. Specifically, the service is aimed at modern consumer banking's loyalty problem, according to Salesforce.

The company cited research showing that more than one-third of customers currently buy financial products or services from their primary banks' competitors, with new tech startups also eating into bank businesses. Salesforce said its new cloud services are aimed at helping retail banks engage with customers in more proactive, personalized, smart, and digital ways.

Aimed at Banking's 'Loyalty Crisis'

"Accustomed to ordering an Uber with the click of a button or paying a friend back for dinner with the touch of a thumb, customers have come to expect the same convenience and personalized experiences from all businesses they interact with -- including their banks," vice president and general manager of financial services Rohit Mahna wrote earlier this week in a Salesforce blog post. "Unfortunately, bogged down by disparate systems and silos, banks struggle to keep up. And, as a result, banks are facing a loyalty crisis."

Set to become generally available later this month, Financial Services Cloud for Retail Banking provides a role-based console that lets financial advisors, personal bankers, and other bank employees access a wide range of information on customers, including employment status, accounts, educational background, household financial holdings, loans, and more. With the help of Salesforce's Einstein artificial intelligence, it also generates automated and prioritized referrals for additional products and services customers might qualify for.

In addition, the new retail banking application can help bring together disparate internal systems for workflows and processes, making it easier for banks to, for example, begin a new loan process from within the Financial Services Cloud. Banks can also use the service to build their own customer apps.

Mahna said Financial Services Cloud for Retail Banking was built based on feedback Salesforce solicited from "dozens of leading banks with a focus on fundamentally transforming the way bankers engage with their customers." He added that Salesforce also used comments from banking customers to address their specific challenges and wishlists.

"And, this is just the beginning," Mahna said. "With three seasonal product releases every year, we will continue to improve the product to ensure it is meeting the changing needs of retail banks."

Continued Shifts to Digital, Mobile Self-Service

Ongoing changes in the banking industry mean that banks with strong digital services and channels for customers have an advantage in building customer loyalty, according to a report released late last year by the management consultancy Bain & Company. Digital and mobile services are also more cost-effective than person-to-person-based banking services, the report found.

"Most banks will have to become more aggressive and thoughtful about guiding customers to mobile self-service," the Bain report stated. "Banks also must improve their mobile apps to make them truly easy and convenient."

Salesforce cited data from Nucleus Research that found such tools as Financial Services Cloud can help banks cut their costs for initial customer consultations by 40 percent to 60 percent, and can also help reduce administrative burdens.

In its recent survey of more than 1,300 financial services and fintech executives, PwC found that 80 percent of respondents agreed that "consumer banking will continue to be the epicenter of disruption over the next five years." Respondents said customers were most likely to move personal loans (64 percent) and personal finance services (50 percent) from traditional banks to fintech providers.

Salesforce's new service for retail banks includes tools provided through nCino, a cloud-based company founded in 2012 by bankers and other businesspeople. Financial Services Cloud's integration with nCino's Bank operating system supports services for originating and funding new loans or deposits, among other capabilities.