Salesforce.com set to challenge Bloomberg

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NEW YORK - Salesforce.com is taking on Bloomberg.

That was a key message from Marc Benioff, chairman/CEO of San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, who spoke yesterday at the Pierre Hotel during Salesforce.com's customer, media and analyst event.

Mr. Benioff made allusions to this effort while describing Salesforce.com's new Wealth Management Edition service, which will be available during the third quarter of 2007. The service combines Salesforce.com's relationship-tracking features with data streams and marketing intelligence from partners such as Thompson Financial and Dow Jones.

Pointing to an abacus and a Bloomberg terminal, Mr. Benioff said the Wealth Management Edition represents "the next generation of financial services technology."

George Yu, chief marketing officer at Salesforce.com, explained that proprietary systems like Bloomberg have failed financial services firms because they are highly complex and closed (as opposed to being open and adaptable to other programs) and lack CRM integration capabilities.

He also spoke about the massive opportunity in the wealth management industry because only 245,000 Bloomberg terminals are installed, even though there are 3.8 million underserved financial advisors who want integrated data with CRM and are Internet-savvy and awaiting a new standard.

After showing the solution to several customers, Mr. Yu said the company found people saying this is what they've been waiting for, describing it as "the Holy Grail."

As with Bloomberg, financial advisers using Benioff's services can set up alerts for when information about their clients comes across the wires, tap into fully integrated e-mail or Web phone services to call those investors and monitor information for regulatory compliance purposes.

Other players contributing to the solution include Cisco, which supplies the voice-over IP service, and Dell, which offers desktop computers with the 30-inch screens that will be used.

Salesforce Wealth Management Edition will be the first in a series of financial services applications from Salesforce.com, which is currently scheduled to release Salesforce Banking Edition, Salesforce Capital Markets Edition, Salesforce Insurance Edition and Salesforce Mortgage Edition. These forthcoming financial services editions will extend the benefits and success of the on-demand model to all areas of the financial services industry.

In addition, Salesforce Wealth Management Edition will include the CRM features and functionality of the Unlimited Edition, including custom tabs, custom objects and AppExchange applications, Salesforce Sandbox, Apex Mobile, Premium Support and Administration. Salesforce Edition is scheduled to cost $500 per user each month.

Mr. Benioff also announced that Merrill Lynch has deployed the solution to 35,000 users and, as a result, has become Salesforce.com's biggest customer.

"After a pilot with more than 5,000 users for a year, [Merrill Lynch] decided that the proprietary technology they used before was no longer appropriate, and that they would move to Salesforce.com," he said. "We were very excited to receive this order from Merrill Lynch as the keystone of this new financial services strategy."

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