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How to Embark on a Successful Journey with Salesforce and nCino

By 06.21.23
Reading time: 4 minutes

Silverline’s Transcending CRM Podcast explores how the Salesforce ecosystem has impacted the careers of fellow Trailblazers and the businesses that have leveraged dynamic growth from the platform. A recent episode featured Julie Bonnema, VP, Digital Transformation Manager at Peoples Bank in Munster, Indiana. Headquartered in Munster, Indiana, Peoples Bank serves customers and communities across Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland with a wide range of consumer, business, and wealth management products.

Over 17 years at Peoples Bank, Bonnema has played a key role in evaluating and implementing digital technology to improve customer and employee experiences, from developing the company’s first mobile banking system to implementing Salesforce and nCino platforms. Here she shares how Salesforce and nCino have made Peoples Bank run more efficiently and stopped the swivel-chair processes of having too many applications for employees to do their jobs. 

The evolution of digital banking

Peoples Bank’s technology needs evolved as it went from being a smaller community bank to serving a much larger customer set with diverse needs and areas.

When Bonnema started at Peoples Bank, she was the first person tasked with online banking because mobile banking didn’t exist yet. Bonnema recalled that a former bank president came to her years ago after attending a conference. He was excited because, at the meeting, they showed a mobile check deposit for the first time. This was one of Bonnema’s first insights into how technology could help improve the customer experience.

In 2020, Bonnema started looking into different CRM platforms for Peoples Bank. The bank had a long-standing technology, but it was only being used effectively by the retail banking group. This was a problem because the bank needed all its sales teams to be united on a single platform to have one vision of its customers. 

“That’s when I was first introduced to Salesforce and its capabilities in the banking ecosystem. It was the best solution to unify everyone and solve our technology problems. We were also looking at nCino to automate and help our commercial lending process,” Bonnema told Transcending CRM.

Peoples Bank was also dealing with a lot of redundant technology that it sought to resolve with Salesforce. The bank was using Excel sheets for many of its processes. “I can remember in our implementation process it became kind of a joke of how many times people would say, ‘well, that’s an Excel sheet,’ and constantly passing sheets around.”

Keeping the focus on the customer and employee experiences

Bonnema’s various roles over her career at Peoples Bank have enabled her to be a successful leader in the digital transformation of Salesforce. She has a solid grasp of the small and big issues that need to be solved because she has experienced most of them over her time with the bank. 

“I’ve helped customers on the front end in person to big strategic problems such as using business intelligence to get more data. In my different positions, I could see how we needed to marry all these different systems to serve and help people better,” said Bonnema.

“I think every business is trying to solve for getting information at the right time,” Bonnema continued. “We had information, but it was separated in so many different places that it became cumbersome to try to get that all together and into the right people’s hands so we could make good business decisions.” 

Bonnema has stayed in tune with the customer experience as it relates to usability and the user interface. She says, “If it’s not seamless, getting people to buy in will be difficult. One thing I look for in a platform is how easy it is to use and how it makes things better. I don’t want to bring in a new technology that will complicate someone’s job.”

Peoples Bank leveraged Trailhead and nCino University to help its teams acclimate to the Salesforce systems and improve adoption. It has also customized its training to the Peoples Bank’s systems and held open office hours where employees can ask questions about the platform. 

“We’ve seen engagement with our office hours increase because employees are getting information to help them use the system better,” said Bonnema. She has plans to use office hours to listen to employees’ feedback on future Salesforce releases to drive change within the bank.  

Factors for a successful Salesforce journey

Looking back at Peoples Bank’s Salesforce and nCino implementation, Bonnema said that she may have approached it differently. Bonnema shared her learnings that may help other banks when implementing Salesforce:

  • Define your business requirements and get a clear picture of what you hope to achieve.
  • Don’t onboard your entire sales team at once. Bonnema did this but thinks she should have done a couple of smaller groups instead.
  • Focus on a few critical items that will have the most impact and ensure those are great.
  • Take a crawl, walk, run approach, and make sure you get the beginning part right before moving on to the next phase.

Bonnema’s top recommendation for admins or product owners who may embark on a Salesforce or nCino journey is to find a suitable partner. Seek out partners that you can lean into their expertise and that will share in your success. 

Bonnema also suggests that you should strive to make your teams want to use the Salesforce tool, not that they have to use the tool.

“We’ve made small changes over time that result from listening to our users. Sometimes these small changes are more impactful than the big picture things because they make someone’s job easier. And if you can do that on a large scale, those are the things that make people want to use the Salesforce system because you’re listening to your users and getting their feedback.”

Winning with Salesforce and nCino

Bonnema said her team has gained value using Salesforce’s capabilities. Previously, the team had issues with a lack of data in the right place and using manual processes to track data. By implementing Salesforce and nCino, the bank can now track and quantify data in a way it could not before. 

For example, Peoples Bank can now track its application to close time with nCino. The bank reduced the application to close time by 20 days. Bonnema said, “Knowing our Salesforce platform was able to achieve this for the business really makes the investment pay off. We’re more efficient and moving loans through quicker than we’ve ever moved them.” 

Bonnema also likes having a targeted list of improvement areas, such as lead rate conversion, pipeline reporting, and cross-departmental lead tracking. The Peoples Bank team uses Salesforce’s next best action feature to see engagement and how it grows over time.  

“Having access to real-time data has been transformational and not something we would be able to do without these platforms,” said Bonnema. 

Learn more about Salesforce financial services solutions for your business.

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