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Salesforce Joins Fintech Farm – Interview with AJ Kiefer

Salesforce is proud to announce a partnership with Helsinki Fintech Farm and a sponsorship to the Future Digital Finance Forum 7 this April in Helsinki. We will fly in AJ Kiefer, VP, Success Cloud Transformation Services EMEA. Before the event and AJ’s keynote, Salesforce Finland’s Head of Financial Services Jaakko Vilén set aside a brief interview with AJ.

Jaakko: AJ, your job is to boost our customers’ innovation to the max. Salesforce has been nominated one of the most innovative companies several times, so your work must be easy? But seriously speaking, what are the most difficult aspects in your job?

AJ: As we all know, innovation is a moving target – It’s not something you achieve and then walk away! It’s a continuous journey, and one that try our best to help our customers experience with speed and agility. Some of the biggest challenges we see are not only in technology infrastructure, which can be fixed or replaced, but in the way we as humans are conditioned to resist change. It’s really hard to transform the ways we work, with our colleagues, customers, and partners! We often see innovation driven without people at the center of design and processes, which can be the biggest culprit of stalled transformation.

Jaakko: A banking customer of ours described Salesforce in two buzzword terms: Platform and Ecosystem. What does this mean in practice, could I ever explain it to my mom?

AJ: That’s a good conclusion and I guess you are right that they are indeed buzzwords – but not without meaning. Platform in our world means the common technology that is developed jointly, and continuously improved, together with our customers and partners. New innovations are brought into reality several times each year via releases – for everybody’s use. And the ecosystem, it is probably most of all the mindset that our Trailblazer customers are often happy to share what they have done – even with their competitors.

Jaakko: We in Finland and Nordics like to think we are front-runners in digitalization. We have highest usage of mobile and online services. We even make jokes about the American travel cheques – so what should we look to the US to learn about?

AJ: Kudos to you in the Nordics for being true trailblazers! We have a lot to learn from your pioneering spirit as well. In the US, I think many companies are living the values of customer-first, and are not afraid to break the mold to deliver on customer expectations in new and delightful ways. We’ve also jumped feet-first into the gig and sharing economies, by virtue breaking down the barriers between service and consumer. This also speeds up the expectation of transparency and trust with companies. 10 years ago, no one would have dreamed of jumping into a stranger’s car multiple times a day, but Uber has completely shifted that consumer behavior with low-cost, peer-to-peer sharing options.

Jaakko: With the continued threat of challenger banks, what are the big things that Banks should be concerned about?

AJ: The use and sharing of data is moving at a breakneck speed, and we are all rushing to keep up. An urgent issue for every company today is to figure out how best to use customer data, but in an ethically responsible way. This point is critical – If data handling is done with integrity and transparency, it will create even deeper trust with consumers. If not – well, we have seen how dangerous lack of trust can be.
Developing a Culture of Innovation is also an important piece of the puzzle – How do we share, collaborate, and innovate with speed? Key to this is transforming our ways of working and our cultures to support ethical decision making and speed of innovation.