Salesforce launches software for financial advisers

Some 25,000 Merrill Lynch employees are now using the Wealth Management Edition as part of a test-run partnership.

NEW YORK--Salesforce.com on Tuesday debuted a new Web-based software package it touts as an all-around technology solution for financial advisers.

The company's Wealth Management Edition was unveiled by chairman and CEO Marc Benioff, accompanied by chief marketing officer George Hu, at a presentation at the Hotel Pierre in midtown Manhattan. Benioff said the new product is the result of the company's increased focus on the financial services industry, claiming that the hosted "next-generation desktop" software will make it easier for financial advisers at both small and large companies to work with their clients.

"Stocks and investments are not enough," Hu said. "Now, it's all about managing relationships."

Tuesday's announcement also revealed the identity of the " mystery megacustomer " that was hinted at last week: it's Merrill Lynch, where Salesforce claims 25,000 financial advisers are now using its Wealth Management Edition product as part of a test-run partnership.

The new software, like Salesforce's other customer relationship management (CRM) offerings, allows businesses and their employees to customize the features to suit their needs without needing to do any extra coding--call it Web 2.0 for the enterprise world. Some of the options demonstrated on the desktop console were streaming Web video, call-center mashups with Internet telephony services like Skype, market data, and custom applications built with Salesforce's Apex technology .

Benioff and Hu touted it as an alternative to hardware-heavy infrastructures that are pricey, hard to install, require technical expertise to maintain and are out of date in today's world of Web tools, according to Salesforce.

"The incumbent systems out there, proprietary systems services like Bloomberg, have failed to capitalize on (the) opportunity" that new Web technologies have presented, Hu said.

Wealth Management Edition, which will cost $500 per user per month, will be available in the third quarter of the 2007 fiscal year. The new product is only the first in a line of financial services-oriented Salesforce packages, according to today's announcement. Over the next year, the company expects to expand beyond wealth management to the banking, mortgage, capital markets, and insurance sectors of the industry.

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