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‘Going digital is not the goal, it’s just a tool’

‘Going digital is not the goal, it’s just a tool’

Paul Jennekens

Manager Marketing

18 October 2018

‘Going digital is not the goal, it’s just a tool’

Mobile first has been the philosophy of BNP Paribas, one of the largest banks in the eurozone, for two years now. Not that strange, because the number of French customers that visit the bank only via their smartphone has risen explosively in the past four years: from 175.000 to 1.2 million. Out of a total of almost 6.5 million customers in France, 3.2 million are now interacting at least once a month with the bank digitally (via web or mobile). Marc Campi, Digital Marketing Director at BNP talks about their digital strategy for the coming year.

You might think that going digital is the ultimate key for banks, but that's not entirely true. Going digital is just one way to simplify the service and respond to the customer's wishes, says Campi. He explains: “Going digital is not the goal, it’s just a tool. The most important thing is that our applications and services stand out in terms of simplicity: it must be clear, transparent and personalized for the customer.”

Looking for the right balance

Campi admits that the desire for simplicity, which is embraced by all digital teams within BNP Paribas, sometimes comes into conflict with new legislation such as the GDPR, PSD 2 or MIFID and IDD.

These laws plead for more consumer protection through strong customer authentication. He states: “It is true that legislation sometimes forces us to make functionalities less simple. We are always looking for the right balance, which is sometimes difficult.”

That BNP Paribas is on the right track with finding the right balance was proven with the successful launch of Hello Bank!, the online banking offer of BNP Paribas. This application offers all banking services in one device, from loans to investment solutions and from current accounts to insurance. It also offers clients access to thousands of BNP Paribas branches where they can ask for help. Hello Bank! (in Germany the local subsidiary of Hello bank! uses the brand name Consorsbank) has acquired three million customers throughout Europe over the course of five years. Besides Hello Bank!, BNP Paribas also created apps like My Accounts or My Transfers that have a single payment feature.

According to Campi, this digital banking environment works so well because of the collaboration with the physical branches of BNP Paribas. Campi: “We offer our services via smartphone, the web and our physical establishments. It’s up to the customers to choose the channel of their preference. We will continue offering our services across these different channels in the near future. The fact that the number of mobile users is rapidly increasing does not mean that we are exclusively focusing on mobile banking and mobile payments.”

Completion of cross-channel integration

The plan for next year shows that BNP Paribas is investing in all channels. The focus of the bank lies on the completion of cross-channel integration: the bank wants to offer a consistent user experience across its on- and offline channels, as consumers are using websites, mobile apps and physical banks interchangeably. Campi explains: “So it shouldn't matter how a customer seeks contact or wants to receive service, all channels should overlap.”

He gives an example of a customer that wants a mortgage loan. It would be easy if he or she can make a calculation on the web, then schedule an appointment online, go to the branch to talk to a consultant, simply upload the necessary documents at home and then receive feedback again. Campi: “As you can see, all channels are used interchangeably, but that shouldn't affect the customer experience. For example, the consultant should already know about the calculation that took place online when the customer enters the local branch, and the customer should also be able to immediately receive the output of what was discussed with the consultant during the face-to-face conversation via his smartphone.”

In addition, the applications are extended with account aggregation, a process by which information from bank or business accounts of an individual or household is collected in the web or mobile application, also the ones from other organisations. This is a service developed by French Fintech Budget Insight, which proves that the French bank does not hesitate to cooperate with third parties. Campi: “Fintechs provide good ideas in specific services. For some aspects we will indeed turn to Fintechs, although I expect the customer relationship will remain with the banks. After all, the relationship with the customer is for us the most important thing. As I said, going digital is not the goal but the tool to offer the customer the best service.”