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Microsoft To Expand Access To Financial Services Cloud

‘For Microsoft to be successful in deploying these, they‘re gonna need a partner like us to go out there and help set it up,’ John Weston, senior vice president of the global Microsoft practice for Boston-based Microsoft Gold Partner Publicis Sapient, tells CRN in an interview.

Microsoft will make its Cloud for Financial Services package of industry-focused cloud tools generally available Nov. 1, giving partners an opportunity to add a new vertical or expand upon existing offerings for banks, credit unions, insurance companies and other such businesses.

Financial services was among the many industries that made drastic changes to accommodate not only employees working remotely during the pandemic, but businesses needing to remotely access accounts and new capital, Bill Borden, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of worldwide financial services, told CRN in an interview.

The opportunity still exists for partners to sell digital tools to legacy financial businesses and businesses on the cutting edge, including so-called “neobanks” that are digital only, without any physical bank presence, Borden said.

“Everybody‘s been looking at the customer value chain associated in banking, insurance, capital markets and coming up with ways to automate, digitize, create efficiencies, create opportunities at certain points of that value chain,” he said. “You’ve seen that happen dramatically.”

[RELATED: Microsoft’s Erik Arnold: Why Now’s The Time To Tap Into The ‘Partner Momentum’ Around Nonprofits]

Financial services is one of the industries Microsoft has targeted with a package of cloud-based tools and services. The others are health care, retail, manufacturing, sustainability and nonprofits. Microsoft announced the newest industry cloud, Cloud for Sustainability, at its Inspire conference in July.

Although financial institutions exist in a highly regulated environment, just like health care, Cloud for Financial Services holds the potential of helping partners start serving financial services as a new vertical or expand on existing offerings aimed at financial institutions, Borden said.

“Now a partner can actually get to scale with these types of capabilities by building and using our entire technology stack to actually enrich their value proposition to their customers,” he said.

John Weston, senior vice president of the global Microsoft practice for Boston-based Microsoft Gold Partner Publicis Sapient, told CRN in an interview that he’s been working with Microsoft’s cloud for financial institutions.

He said the package acts as a new interface for financial institutions that want to use new, cloud-based tools with their legacy systems. The collaboration applications included in the package, for example, can help speed up internal communication and the process for executing loans.

Weston doesn’t think the package will lead to more competition for Publicis Sapient when it comes to financial institutions, calling the regulations and complexity around mortgages and other financial processes difficult to overcome for an unfamiliar partner.

But for Microsoft to be successful with its industry clouds, it will need to rely on its partner ecosystem, Weston said.

“For Microsoft to be successful in deploying these, they’re gonna need a partner like us to go out there and help set it up,” he said.

Navy Federal Credit Union and Virgin Money UK are among the first financial institutions to preview Cloud for Financial Services, according to a Microsoft blog post earlier this month.

Cloud for Financial Services pulls from Microsoft Azure, 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform and comes with multi-layered security and compliance and trust commitments built in, according to Microsoft.

The cloud package’s capabilities include a unified customer profile showing financial, behavioral and demographic data. A customer onboarding feature aims to simplify loan applications and loan processing. The banking customer engagement feature aims to create personalized interactions and reduce customer churn and the time needed to resolve issues. And the collaboration manager feature automates front and back office tasks to improve communications with customers, according to Microsoft.

Cloud for Financial Services’ financial crime combating features include an account protection feature to protect against bot attacks, account takeover and fraudulent account access. The purchase protection feature aims to protect merchants from online fraud with advanced adaptive artificial intelligence, according to Microsoft.

The cloud package also has a risk assurance and support feature, providing a dedicated team of engineering subject matter experts for internal and external risk, audit and compliance needs. And the regulatory compliance assessments feature aims to help organizations manage compliance, implement controls, report to auditors and keep track of certifications, according to Microsoft.

Along with Publicis Sapient, the other service partners working with Cloud for Financial Services include Accenture, Avanade, Avtex, Capgemini, EY, KPMG and PwC. Independent software partners working on third-party products and services for the cloud package include Backbase, BaseCap, Finastra, Mortgage365, VeriPark and Zafin, according to Microsoft.

Along with the general availability of Cloud for Financial Services, new tools in Cloud for Nonprofits become generally available in November, according to Microsoft. Volunteer engagement, volunteer management and security and compliance enhancements will become available next month.

This month, Cloud for Healthcare, which was already generally available, gained new capabilities including improved modeling of health care data in dataverse, better linking of patients and expansion of Dynamics- and Power Platform-based solutions in Europe and Asia.

In February, Microsoft will release public previews of new Cloud for Healthcare features, including the ability for providers to see unified patient profiles and patient activity timelines plus improving the speed of using care management features.

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