Salesforce Transformation: Chatbots, Credit Unions, & Change Management
Episode 010: Salesforce Transformation- Chatbots, Credit Unions, & Change Management
Get ready to be blown away by our engaging conversation with Chris Trivers, a seasoned leader in the Banking and Credit Union world, who’s been riding the Salesforce wave for an impressive 15 years. Discover the evolution of digital transformation and Salesforce from his perspective, while he shares lessons learned about the critical role of change management and getting buy-in plays in successful Salesforce implementations.
Our conversation takes an intriguing turn as Chris sheds light on the influence of the current economic scenario on bank & credit union digital agendas. He shares how Salesforce and AI tools such as chatbots and machine learning, are the driving forces enabling organizations to swiftly pivot and deliver value.
Later, in Quick Takes we discuss Salesforce’s investment in Hugging Face, the latest in return to work & office trends, and a VERY VERY special Dreamforce announcement.
Links & Mentions
Vice President, Digital
Chris has been in the Salesforce ecosystem for 15 years. He’s currently Vice President and Enterprise Salesforce Leader for Valley Strong Credit Union. Previously was SVP, Enterprise Salesforce Leader for City National Bank and TD Bank. He also worked at GE Capital in Salesforce and Siebel CRM application.
0:00:03 – Chris
Well, first of all, Salesforce is just an application. So if you’re layering that over top of bad processes or folks who don’t want to utilize Salesforce, you’re going to be doomed to fail. So the change management piece becomes huge.
0:00:33 – Fred
Hello and welcome to Banking on Disruption. I’m Fred Kalena. We have another awesome guest on deck for episode 10, Banking and Credit Union leader, Chris Trivers. Dana and I had a great time talking with Chris, discussing everything he’s learned in leading Salesforce implementations at several different institutions. After our interview, we have something different in store for quick takes. I’ll leave the details as a surprise, but the topics we include Salesforce’s investment in hugging face, office leasing trends and a very, very special dreamforce announcement. While you’re listening to the podcast, why not take a moment to follow us on LinkedIn at the Banking on Disruption podcast, and on Instagram at at Banking on Disruption? Now sit back and strap in, because our show is coming to you right now, and welcome back On this episode. Dana and I are excited to welcome Chris Trivers. Chris has been in the Salesforce ecosystem for 15 years and he’s currently vice president and enterprise Salesforce leader for Valley Strong Credit Union. Previously, he was SVP enterprise sales leader for city national bank and TD bank and he also worked at GE capital and Salesforce and Siebel CRM applications.
Chris, welcome, I think you and I got involved in the Salesforce ecosystem around the same time. I was a total accidental admin. I worked for a financial services company, at the time leading an operations modernization program, and one day my boss came to my office and told me we just signed a contract with Salesforce. It’s now part of your responsibility. You’ve got six months to get it live and delivering value. So good luck, but it’s all been uphill since then. I’d love to hear just out of the gate your Salesforce origin story. How did you get started working with the platform?
0:02:18 – Chris
Well, it’s very similar. Accidental admin, I had been a power user of Siebel for many years and owned it for what we used to call GE capital the bubble that I was in corporate financial services. And when the credit crisis hit in 2008, they decided to treat GE capital like a operating company and wanted to utilize Salesforce kind of roll up all the various, the 13 different divisions essentially into one to get a better overall picture of what was going on in the various business units. So I was relieved to find that I wasn’t kicked out on the street but then concerned when they said that, hey, we’re going to be rolling out this thing called Salesforce and I was shocked at the time. Hey, I’m not an IT, I was in marketing. What do I know about Salesforce? So that was kind of my initial, initial entree into Salesforce. And then we essentially rolled out Salesforce to our entire GE capital business and from there I became like the admin for the corporate finance group.
0:03:28 – Fred
That’s fantastic and I love that. That long history across those organizations. For 15 years You’ve led Salesforce implementations at four different places Curious. How has the approach to digital transformation and Salesforce evolved over the last 15 years?
0:03:46 – Chris
I mean the biggest thing that I actually finally experienced now is the industry models. So you know, for when I first started it was taking sales cloud and doing a lot of customization to try to make it work for financial services. Over the years, you know, fast forward to where I am. Now we have the financial services cloud that we’re utilizing and that’s probably been the biggest piece of that, along with the growth, I would say, of the Salesforce ecosystem. I mean there’s literally a something from the app store that you know can solve just about any need if it’s not built into Salesforce. So I would say, probably those two biggest pieces of, you know, industry specialization and then you know, just the ecosystem growing around Salesforce has been pretty remarkable to see in the last 15 years.
0:04:34 – Dane
Amazing, chris, reflecting back, what are some of the key lessons learned through those organizations, through those different implementations, etc. Anything stand out.
0:04:47 – Chris
Well, first of all, salesforce is just an application. So if you’re layering that over top of bad processes or folks who don’t want to utilize Salesforce, it’s it’s you’re going to be doomed to fail. So the change management piece becomes huge. You know to utilize in Salesforce and I’ve always been fortunate that. You know we’ve had some great executive management buy in, but that becomes crucial. And then the other piece of it is is make sure that you have a great internal team and a great system integrator to help you along the way. Those would probably be the biggest things that I would point to.
0:05:29 – Dane
What are some of the notable differences you’ve seen in how various financial services companies approach Salesforce and digital transformation, and how is organizational culture impacted?
0:05:45 – Chris
So I would say the biggest thing is in banking you can either have a lot of silos where you lock everything up and, hey, the wealth people can’t see what the consumer side can see in the business. Banking can’t see it. You have all these little silos that lock it down. But the better way to do it is have more of an open sharing model where everybody sees what they, what the other people are doing and really unleashes the power of that. That’s really one thing. And then the other thing is I think I touched on this earlier, but it’s building that internal Salesforce practice, if you will. So do you have an in-house team of experts, both on the functional and the technical side, to help you grow the product and meet the needs?
0:06:35 – Dane
You know, as a follow up, like when you’re working with those different business unit leaders, talking with them about breaking down those silos. What are describe some of those conversations? How are you getting through to them and getting that buy-in right where they want to bring all that data together and leverage it?
0:06:54 – Chris
Yeah. So I mean part of it is making the commitment right, signing that big check. Part of it is making the personal commitment that they’re going to utilize Salesforce and not be utilizing Excel spreadsheets to do everything. And really a lot of people have been very successful, have lived by their Excel spreadsheets, you know, to do pipeline meetings or to track certain things, and you just have to get out of that culture of doing that. Do it real time in Salesforce. Hey, if the opportunity needs to be updated in a sales stage, do it right there on the screens. You know, have your pipeline meetings right from within Salesforce.
So that would be one thing and then the other thing, at least in financial services, we have a ton of processes that rely on things like SharePoint, microsoft Outlook. You know all these various things. And if you can centralize a lot of those and streamline those processes within Salesforce, you get, you know, a lot of buy-in, a lot of efficiencies, a lot of buy-ins in terms of that. So you know, particularly in a regulated industry like financial services, you don’t want data floating around in SharePoints or Excel’s or Outlook’s emails, right, you want to have it all centralized in Salesforce. Then you unlock the power of the transparency, the ability to do reporting. You know react on a dime, you know you don’t have to have. You know executive systems piecing together a lot of different Excel spreadsheets.
So, it’s really trying to break down what has made people successful and try to push them into the, you know, the more modern tech stack that is Salesforce.
0:08:36 – Fred
Yeah, I love that and I couldn’t agree more that attacking the, the culture and having that executive top-down support to Really, you know, leverage sales force model, running things like sales meetings, pipeline meetings at a sales force I mean, I think that is crucial. I’m curious from the from the bottoms up approach any, any tips or techniques from the field to To really get that buy-in from from the bottom up as well.
0:09:05 – Chris
Well, I mean that’s a great question. I mean some of the the best ideas that we’ve had have come from you know lines of businesses. So you have to have a an ear to those folks, you have to have you know a process whether it’s monthly meetings or quarterly meetings, of things like that where you’re getting that, that information, and then some of the other organizations that that I’ve been in, we’ve had what we call sales force champions or subject matter Experts, and they kind of help bubble up information from their particular line of business and and bring it to a more centralized Location to make it become reality. But it’s really oftentimes I find myself communicating up and and also communicating down in terms of getting great ideas because they can come from, they can come from anywhere, and Then just having making sure that you have that Process internally to make those become a reality, whether that’s through a you know system integrator or through a you know kind of in-house practice, if you will.
0:10:05 – Fred
Now that’s. That’s awesome. I love that, just shifting gears a little here. You know you’ve seen a lot in the last 15 years obviously a lot of change. For today, what are some of the biggest challenges that you see financial services companies facing as they’re dealing with digital transformation, and any thoughts, recommendations on how they could overcome those obstacles?
0:10:28 – Chris
Well, a lot of what we’re seeing today in the industry is all about how do we get more deposits, how do we keep companies, you know, sticky? Are, you know, companies or individuals sticky in terms of not running to that, that rate? So you know it’s that that becomes a big thing. You know, we, we have started to, we have implemented Marketing cloud. So it’s really like the combination of the various clouds. So we have financial services cloud, we have marketing cloud and we have mule soft.
It’s like how do those work together to give a more connected in our case, member experience? But it could be a prospect or it could be a, you know, client experience, depending what it is. So that’s huge right is like how do you interconnect that, the various clouds? How do you make processes more efficient? But a lot of times it’s all about getting that. You know, getting the, that, that new loan or new deposit into the house, because it’s, you know, least from financial services perspective. I haven’t seen this type of environment since probably 2008, when I started. So it’s it’s a combination of efficiencies, it’s a combination of, you know, top-line growth, right? So you want to hit both the top line and the bottom line and I believe Salesforce can help in both of those.
0:11:46 – Fred
No, that’s that’s. It’s very insightful and certainly you know everybody thinks about. You know sales first, with sales, for sales is right in the in the name Service has a lot of strong use cases and marketing as well, and kind of time that marketing to sales motion together. I think your, your spot on is critical, especially for deposit gathering institutions like credit unions. I’m curious Whether it’s from today or just you know, over over your history working with the platform Beyond kind of that core sales service and marketing, can you share any innovative ways you’ve seen companies in financial services use Salesforce that are really delivering a lot of value Well, I would say in my last firm, the big aha moment was, you know, the the PPP crisis.
0:12:36 – Chris
During the pandemic, you know, financial services had to pivot real quickly. Luckily, we already had the foundation of sales service and marketing clouds, but it was one of the first times that we really stitched together the various clouds and and process to kind of make an end-to-end and solution, if you will. So, you know, getting getting folks to submit their applications who’s the Salesforce communities that? Then having it come into the sales cloud and then marketing through through them, through the marketing cloud, that was the big aha, because we did it so fast. We didn’t have a choice Regulations and that we got from.
The SBA were changing, you know, and we even had bots that went to the SBA to, you know, to, to book the, to book the loan. So it was kind of in and from cradle to grave, all done in a matter of months, and it really opened the eyes, I think, of the organization that, hey, this is the power of Salesforce, it’s not just a Salesforce automation tool, it’s, it’s about building a better end-to-end process. So I would say that’s probably the big, the biggest thing, you know, coupling that with, at the time, einstein, you know that the, the BI and the machine learning aspect of it really helped, you know, help the organization a critical period of time, but personally it helped grow the the reputation of Salesforce at the bank.
0:14:03 – Dane
That me, fred. It’s you now. Next question, chris. Is it kind of centers on, you know, economic conditions and Impact, etc. The question is how has the current economic environment impacted priorities and investments in digital transformation for financial institutions?
0:14:27 – Chris
Well, it’s an interesting time because you both have the pressure and the opportunity with decreasing budgets and priorities to show the value that you get from Salesforce.
So it’s kind of a tale of two cities. Right, you have budgets being looked at, but if you can show the value you get from Salesforce, that becomes huge as well as laying that foundation of what Salesforce can do for the opera, for the organization. So I mean, I would kind of point to that that it does make it tougher. Right, checks are not as easy to write, you know, particularly in an increasing rate environment. But the other piece of that is that you know the digital side. Getting more business from your phone or from your members coming in through that channel becomes increasingly important because whether you’re in a credit union, whether you’re in a bank, the branch becomes is really really expensive model. So you can get deposits coming in via the digital channel. That’s an awesome thing. So it’s really like trying to pivot and making sure that you’re focused on both the top line and the bottom line and trying to meet the consumers where they live and these days as increasingly more mobile or digital.
0:15:54 – Dane
What financial services, Salesforce use cases or innovations have most impressed you recently? Are there any compelling examples you’d like to share?
0:16:07 – Chris
Well, we’re real deep into the deployment of financial services cloud. When I saw financial services cloud I don’t know, maybe about five, 10 years ago, it was just really a marketing ploy, and when I was at the bank, we essentially built a customized financial services cloud, which is awesome, but it was a lot of work, took a lot of really talented people to keep it going and fast forward to when I joined the credit union. We have a best in class financial services cloud where a lot of the things that we built at the bank were already built for us. So that, to me, was I underestimated how much has really expanded in that time period since we first looked at it to now what I’m involved with it now. So I think that was a big piece of it. The other piece of it is the AI machine learning piece of it chat, gpt, all that stuff. I have yet to experience chat GPT, but it really gives you a lot more sizzle, shall we say, with their traditional Salesforce offering.
So a lot has happened, I would say, in the last five years. Communities is there having that portal. I know when I was at G Capital many moons ago, they were trying to create a customer portal, but they were trying to do it through traditional means and not Salesforce. If we had communities at a time, that would have made that effort so much easier. So there’s a lot of things there that do it. So it’s the industry model, it’s the CRMA, it’s the chat GPT. It just keeps coming. Innovations just keep coming fast and furious, which I think is a great thing. Makes it a little bit challenging to try to keep up with that, like what’s the difference in between some of the things. But it is kind of cool to see how much innovation Salesforce has thrown into their product.
0:18:09 – Dane
It’s a quick follow up question. I mean outside of the obvious is coming across articles and that sort of thing. What steps are you taken to keep up with all of the changes, the innovations, the different product names, etc. Do you go to a lot of the industry events or how do you keep up with it?
0:18:31 – Chris
Well, one of the things that we did at C-National was we had a capabilities matrix. So here’s the 20 things that the sales cloud would offer, and is that something that we are currently offering? And we kind of measured that right. So it was at the time I think we were using, when I left, about 80% of the sales cloud. But as product focused professional, that was kind of part of my personal metrics to say, hey, how much bang are we getting from the buck by using all these capabilities? And that included things that were add-ons, that included things that were purchase different SKUs, and then that also included different type of capabilities from the sales cloud, and we did that for the marketing cloud. We did that for the service cloud as well. So kind of really a capabilities focus of that. And it did get tough like things were merged, things were renamed what have you but we updated those like once a year to ensure that again, our focus was on using as much as we can that we either had inherent in our particular cloud or that we purchased as an add-on, and so that was a big piece of it.
I would say the other piece of it is something is interesting To a POC get a small group. Try to talk Salesforce into getting a free licenses and test it out. There’s nothing that works better than something that works in your own organization and Salesforce being a sales-oriented organization, on the one hand they don’t want to give away free licenses, but on the other hand they want to make sure that you are buying things like Einstein or AK CRM, because that’s how they get incented and that’s how you slowly start to build the business case. Hey, it worked for this group. They talk to another group. They want to come in. So I can’t stress that enough is like hey, try it out. Try it out, you might find things that you don’t love about it. You might find things that solves a lot of pain points. So, as much as you can do that either free or smaller purchases I think is an awesome thing.
0:20:52 – Fred
Yeah, I love that idea. I think that you’re spot on and you’re right. Obviously, salesforce is wanting people to purchase more licenses. But I would say and I’d love to hear some of your advice on how you’ve organized that talk track. When I’ve gone in either as a client or as a partner, working with one of my clients to Salesforce, to have those conversations, just treating Salesforce as a partner and saying, hey, this is what we’re thinking, this is the business challenge, this is the product set that we don’t own, that we think might solve the challenge. And we’ve laid out this POC and here’s the success criteria and you know what, at the end of the day, if it solves the problem and there’s the ROI, then there will be an order for it. And how about working together on this? And I’ve usually found Salesforce to be pretty open to those kinds of conversations. I’m curious. It sounds like you’ve had some pretty good success with a similar approach in the past.
0:21:48 – Chris
Yeah, I mean the old way is to treat the sales team of any organization as an adversarial. It says a zero-sum gain I win, you lose, or they win and I lose. But the reality is that if you partner with Salesforce, they are very open to doing things like that and treat them like a partner. Treat them like I always do myself, as the external advocate or internal advocate, I should say, at the institution I’m in. So the more that I can work with the account executive and their team, the better off will be, and sometimes it’s easier said than done. It all comes down to how talented they are, how busy they are and things of that nature. But I want Salesforce to succeed almost as much as they do and if you have that relationship, I think it’s a good thing. That’s where you get those great ideas from, or the POCs become more applicable because you have that kind of symbiotic relationship.
0:22:52 – Fred
Yeah, totally, I love that. You know I’m curious. I mean, believe it or not, there’s still some Greenfield out there, there’s still some organizations without Salesforce and they’re just, you know, kicking off their journey. There’s a lot more, I think, that are, you know, going through some of what you’re describing with transitioning from not having FSC to having FSC. So, whether it’s NetNew Greenfield or whether it’s a big reset on your Salesforce program, what advice would you give to financial institutions that are just getting started on a big journey like that, and what are some things they should be aware of, like pitfalls to watch out for on the way?
0:23:28 – Chris
Well, one of the things that attracted me about my current role at Valley Strong is that they are going through that Greenfield piece, so I feel like I can talk to that with expertise. It’s really to make sure again that you have the executive support, that you have done the appropriate needs analysis, that you have a great partner and you know what success looks like. So what are the metrics that you look like? But it’s the other piece of it is try to build it in a organized way. Hey, you don’t wanna come out with all the bells and whistles and have the organization not ready for it, so that’s important. It’s also important to make sure that you’re building that, that you have the budgets for it, that you have the experts for it. Sometimes we look at the licenses, sometimes we look at the costs, but just equally as important is do you have the right folks to run it?
And one of the things that I kind of live my career on is I view Salesforce as a product, not as a project, and any product is a creating thing. You have to nurture it, you have to water it, you have to prune it, you have to do all those things or it’s not going to grow as prudently as you want. So going in with that mindset, I think, is extremely important. Hey, it’s not a traditional IT initiative where you’re gonna roll out a core mainframe and you may be done with it right, something that you’re gonna have to continue to build. You’re gonna have to continue to nurture, and that includes having the right people, having the right budgets and things of that nature.
0:25:12 – Fred
I think it’s critically important to treat Salesforce as a product and treat it as a, whether you’re running in some kind of a formal agile fashion or not, but making sure the users know that there’s a roadmap and there’s more features coming, and that they should be thinking about what’s the next thing they can leverage with the platform, and so that you don’t get into a situation where you’re creating more and more data silos. So I’d love any tips or tricks you have in helping organizations understand that mindset. So I know that for me when I’ve worked with clients in the past, especially in financial services, there’s a lot of waterfall to overcome, a lot of. I better get every feature in right now, because nobody’s gonna touch this for the next 10 years unless I get everything I want right now, and that’s just not the right mindset.
0:26:06 – Chris
Now you’re a hundred percent right. I go back to when I was involved in the Siebel side. Everything was a million dollars and everything was a nine project. Right, you have to throw all that stuff at the owners to get that. And what we ended up building was awesome, but it also looked like an Excel spreadsheet on steroids. There were a lot of fields that need to be built right. So the cool thing about Salesforce is you cut that time market down. But that’s both a blessing and a curse, right, so I can throw in 20 new fields in a matter of minutes in Salesforce. But then you start to build that Excel spreadsheet on steroids looks.
So part of it is having the governance. So you have a way to approve something. Hey, you don’t wanna have 20 fields that talk about volume. The same way, you don’t wanna have 20 sales stages that say different version of application accepted or application received. So do you have that governance built in? Do you have that mindset?
And then I think you also touched on it Do you have a process to get those ideas, to groom them out, to get them over to the developers whether that’s an internal team or an external team and then kind of walk that go through having that published, having a specific agile process where you are having a release schedule on X amount of period, whether it’s bi-weekly, whether it’s monthly, whether it’s quarterly, whatever that is getting that stuff into the pipeline becomes extremely important. And then it’s taking that little Missouri motto like show me, you have to show your users have to see that they don’t have to get everything in that first byte, that they can take multiple ways to get that information or fields into Salesforce. So some of that is it becomes important just to show through the earliest iterations that hey, we didn’t get a perfect, but we continue to iterate until we get it better and better and better.
0:28:13 – Dane
Yeah, I love that. As a final question, this one’s future focused. What do you think will differentiate financial leaders three to five years from now when it comes to digital transformation and Salesforce? And then with that, what would you tell your peers to focus?
0:28:34 – Chris
on now? That’s an amazing question. I’m still trying to get through the week, but part of it is we tend in any business but financial services are always chasing after the next shiny new object, right? Hey, this application can do X and it’s best in class. You have to step back and say and have more of an enterprise architecture approach to it and say, hey, we have this huge investment in Salesforce. Is there something that we can build or buy with Salesforce that allows us to accomplish that same task? And that’s an evolving thing. And you need buy in from everybody, right, because some line of business might want this really cool shiny new object. But there’s a pretty good chance, with Salesforce being the market leader, that you can either build or buy something that accomplishes the same thing. And at least in financial services, we don’t want to have 800 vendors, right, you have to have a process for tracking those. You have to have due diligence on all those. So it just makes sense to make sure that you are limiting your tech stack. So I would say that is number one.
Number two is always think from, in our case, the members perspective. First, things are changing. They’re not coming into the branches, they’re wanting to do things more mobile. How do you get that done? And then it’s like don’t be afraid to try new things. The machine learning serving up the next product, all those things make the team members roll that much easier. So that becomes important. And then always keep your eye on the future right.
Are there other partners that you look at? The example that I always give is 10 years ago I was at Dreamforce and saw this small little company called Encino and I was like they had this little booth. They were just 10 guys from North Carolina, but it intrigued me like hey, how do you get that? You don’t have to leave Salesforce to get a loan approved? All that information will write back to Salesforce. That’s a beautiful thing. And just following that their trajectory, I was like there’s no way that. It’s great, that’ll only work in a small little organization, but in a big bank it’ll never work.
Well, fast forward, five, 10 years later, most of the banks that I was at to the bank being the first and one of the biggest then City of National all started to go to Encino. So it’s looking at what is coming down the pike and it may not be time to utilize it. Maybe chat GPT is not the best time to re-rolling that out, but who knows, in five years it might be. And that’s what I found within Encino is that you just get connected. You just see that over the time that started to solve a really bad use case that we needed to be solved at TD at the time and then eventually at City of National.
So it’s amazing how that one small little connection with that having an open mind and being able to do that just really helps to make the future. Now, financial services is a funny place. We’re not the most forward thinking in history, which I’m sure, fred, obviously you can attest to but sooner or later we are catching up with some of the other industries. We’re doing a lot more innovative things and sometimes it’s just going back to the future and looking at the playbooks that either we didn’t think at the time or that other industries are using and deploying those in financial services.
0:32:21 – Fred
Yeah, absolutely. I frequently take inspiration from what I see happening in other industries. I’ve been in this financial services game for 25 years, first on the client side and now in consulting. But there’s a lot to be learned from what is happening in CPG or what’s happening in manufacturing and what’s happening in other places, and I think the more you can draw those insights into your program, the more innovative you can be as a financial services company.
I also really love what you said at the beginning of your response around simplifying the tech stack, looking at what you already own. And this kind of harkens back to one of those earlier themes right, looking at what you already own and what can you accomplish. And maybe it’s not adding the latest WISBANG new tool, because guess what? Not only is it something else to maintain, but if you really want that customer 360, you’ve got to then spend money and time and effort to integrate that back into the rest of the stack. So I think you’re spot on with all of that. I really appreciate the conversation, chris. This has been phenomenal. Thank you for your time. As we wrap up, just love you. If you could tell our listeners if they’re looking to reach out, make a connection with you. What’s the best way for them to find you?
0:33:36 – Chris
Find me on LinkedIn is probably the easiest place. If I’m not not accept most applications connections, I should say, so that’s probably the best way. Just Chris Trivers, t-r-i-v-e-r-s. Just like it sounds, and there’s not too many trivers out there who so it’s I should be somewhat easy to find.
0:33:57 – Fred
Sounds great, and we’ll definitely put a link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes. So really appreciate your time and thank you very much. We’ll hopefully talk again really soon.
0:34:06 – Chris
Thanks a lot, guys, it’s been fun.
0:34:14 – Fred
And we’re back with Quick Takes. Well, kind of, we record Quick Takes the day before the podcast airs. However, dane was unavailable this week for our normal banter. In the spirit of our tech oriented pod, I’ve invited an AI bot to be our guest co-host for Quick Takes this week. Say hi, charlotte, hi, charlotte. Wow, let’s see if you keep that dry wit with you for the rest of the segment. So, charlotte, we’re up. What’s first on deck this week?
0:34:42 – Dane
Thanks, Fred. First up this week big story out Tuesday that Salesforce is leading a $200 million round of financing for AI startup Hugging Face. The proposed round, which will more than double the privately held company’s valuation, which currently stands at $2 billion, will reportedly come from Salesforce’s venture capital arm, Salesforce ventures, along with several other unnamed backers. Salesforce may be paying a high price for a piece of Hugging Face, which runs a service that helps companies store and use AI software, Similar to the way GitHub lets developers store software code. The new funding valued the startup at more than 100 times its annualized revenue. Fred, what are your thoughts on this?
0:35:24 – Fred
So I love this story and this development. First off, when you think about what Hugging Face does providing tools to enable users to build, train and deploy machine learning models based on open source code and technologies it makes a perfect complement to Salesforce’s approach to trusted AI. Hugging Face makes it easy for developers to share tools, models, model weights and data sets, is a perfect setup for companies who may want to build and train their own AI model to use with Salesforce or other internal apps. Now, salesforce Ventures has a long history of investing in new tech companies. Their roster includes hundreds of names, including a bunch of tools that I use every day, like zoom, air table, snowflake, drop box and many more. In some cases, these investments have turned into outright acquisitions for Salesforce. Good examples to be mule, soft and velocity, which became the underlying technology behind the industry clouds. But in most cases, the companies remain private, go public through an IPO or get acquired by a firm other than Salesforce.
Salesforce is a really well run company and in my experience, they’ve invested not only money but also leadership in. Many of the companies were venture invests, so I think this could be great for hugging face. As for the valuation, you can totally see how that would seem high. Like GitHub, hugging face has a freemium model, and even with the popularity of generative AI, so far a lot of people haven’t really delved into standing up their own models. I’m not surprised the revenue number is as small as it is right now, but I got to think that that number only goes up as more companies are sorting out how they’ll approach generative AI and dip their toes into creating their own specialized models. So, all in all, I’m super excited for this investment and will definitely keep on top of additional developments.
0:37:12 – Dane
Yeah, I agree that this is a story to keep an eye on. I’d like to pivot now to a story from a theme you and Dane have talked about extensively on the podcast, before I return to work and traditional office space. According to a Wall Street Journal report, office tenants are renewing leases, but for far less space. In the second quarter, us businesses signed new leases for an estimated 97.5 million square feet, up from 57.4 million square feet in the second quarter of 2020. Yet, in the second quarter, the average US office lease size was 3,275 square feet, or 19 less than the average lease size between 2015 and 2019. The article theorizes that many businesses are shrinking space because of hybrid workplace policies. Currently, 61 of US companies allow employees’ remote work part or all of the week, up from 51 at the beginning of the year. Fred, I know last episode you and Dane discussed Zoom calling for employees to return to the office three days a week. What do you think is going on with these two trends?
0:38:15 – Fred
Oh gosh, charlotte. It seems the headlines on hybrid work keep whipsawing more than the S&P 500. I actually think this story makes sense with the broader trends we’ve been discussing on the pod. Generally, companies can see that hybrid work isn’t going anywhere, with some employees staying remote most or all the time and others spending some regular time in the office. All this means less demand for space overall and probably more flex space, assuming that kitchens, restrooms and other mixed space stays flat. Conference rooms and phone rooms increase a bit and desks and dedicated offices drop down. A net fit 19% reduction in lease size makes total sense to me. I’m still on the work from home hybrid brand wagon For many white collar office roles. 80% or more of job functions can be done as effectively from home. I’m a big advocate for home by default office when needed. It gives your employees more flexibility and more time, even just by avoiding the commute, which is now an average of an hour round trip across the US.
0:39:12 – Dane
Well, one advantage of being an AI is that I never have to commute. Another thing I don’t have to worry about is travel headaches. But, fred, I know you spend a lot of time on the road meeting with clients, partners. I saw this week that new hotel policies mean that often guests who want to check in early or check out late are increasingly hit with new fees, while plenty of hotels still try to honor early check in or late check out. The next time you travel you may be in for a major disappointment.
0:39:39 – Fred
Yeah, I gotta say this one hits a little close to home. This is one where your loyalty may pay off. I’m a Starwood turned Bonvoid traveler and have been top or second tier for as long as I can remember. Probably 90% or more of my stays each year are at a Marriott family property and one of the perks is guaranteed late check out. So, with very few exceptions like a few times that I’ve stated convention hotels I get to stay in my room free up to 4pm, which is really nice, especially if I want to try to get back and change after a meeting and before I go to the airport. That said, I’ve seen the trend.
A few weeks ago I had to unexpectedly stay at a grand Hyatt. I’ve got no status there and this is no shade on the hotel. The hotel was phenomenal, but late checkouts were definitely at a price. Lucky for me, I didn’t need one that day and as a traveler I can get that this can be frustrating. I also see the hotel side especially in peak demand. It takes a lot of effort to turn rooms, and even more so if you have to do it early and late in the day. So my tip to our audiences try to reach out in advance, if you can. For me, the Marriott app lets you put in your arrival and departure times about a day ahead of arrival and, like all things in travel, keep a cool head and understand that sometimes it’s just too busy for a hotel to accommodate your special request.
0:40:57 – Dane
For sure something for our listeners to keep in mind, especially with Dreamforce coming up in just over two weeks. On the Dreamforce front, I understand you have an exciting Dreamforce announcement.
0:41:08 – Fred
Yeah, I’m really stoked that we were able to pull together a meet and greet for the podcast during Dreamforce. Many thanks to Formstack, who’s co-hosting this with us in their space. We’re on Howard Street, short five minute stroll north of the Moscone Center, which is a phenomenal location. We’ll be posting a link on the feed and also on the website where you can come in and register. We do ask that you register in advance, but it’s Wednesday, the 13th, from four to six PM at the Formstack space. I’ll be there. Many of our guests that have been on the podcast will be there and we’re really excited to welcome our listeners to come and join Mix Mingle.
Talk to me, talk to our guests. We’d just love to hear you. We’d love additional questions. One of the things we’ve talked about doing on the podcast and haven’t fit in yet is listener questions. That’s a great opportunity to get your listener questions answered by myself or by our guests in real time, hopefully. I know Dreamforce is a packed week. We tried to set this up at a good time where the sessions were waning towards the end of the day, well before the concert, well before some of the bigger marquee pre-concert parties, really close to the convention center. Hop in, grab a drink, recharge yourself, recharge your devices and hopefully we’ll have a great crowd and some great conversations.
0:42:31 – Dane
That’s awesome. Sounds like a fun party. I guess my virtual invite got lost in the email.
0:42:37 – Fred
Well, I don’t know the logistics of getting an AI bought into the party, but if we can make that happen, I’d love to see you there, Charlotte. And thank you everyone for tuning in to this edition of Quick Takes with a little bit different format. Hope you enjoyed it. Well, everyone, we hope you enjoyed episode 10 of Banking on Disruption. Don’t forget you can find show notes and a full transcript of the show on our website, bankingondisruptioncom. If you liked what you heard today, please subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review. New episodes drop every other Thursday, so we’ll see you in two weeks and in the meantime, don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram at at bankingondisruption. Until next time. This is Fred Kavanaugh, and wish you success in your digital pursuits.
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