At a bank with over 170 years in its history, BNP Paribas is not necessarily the first bank that comes to mind when thinking about fresh innovation. However, it has launched several solutions that the French incumbent hopes might shift opinions. Patrick Brusnahan investigates

BNP Paribas is one of the largest banks in the world and even it has to rethink some things. At the bank’s UX Day, Theirry Laborde, deputy chief operating officer, conceded that the bank is often seen as a “dinosaur”.

However, BNP Paribas is adapting its strategy. Speaking to RBI, Sophie Heller, chief operating officer, retail banking & services at BNP Paribas, sees this as a large trend.

She says: “Large banks are shifting their model in order to operate just as small connected start-ups do, and are leveraging successful methods of digital players.”

Four pillars

BNP Paribas’ retail banking strategy is focused on four “pillars”: choice, instantaneity, customisation, and simplicity. This is where the bank finds it can bring value to customers and is therefore crucial. Heller believes that “they are key in generating client satisfaction and loyalty”.

Not all customers need the same services or solutions, so the French bank feels that it is important to offer flexible choices. It narrowed it down to four different offers for certain needs:

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  • The need for a large choice of banking products and services, plus a dedicated adviser if necessary, addressed by BNP Paribas’ full omnichannel offer;
  • The specific needs of affluent customers, addressed by BNP Paribas Private Banking’s omnichannel model;
  • The need for simple mobile banking addressed by “Hello bank!”. All basic banking products and services are available on mobile, with assistance provided via a call centre, and at competitive pricing. This offer is mostly dedicated to millennials, and
  • The need for financial inclusion addressed by “Nickel”. Nickel is an easy payment offer for low-income clients, who need to keep cash and require a physical contact point when opening their account: With Nickel, clients can open an account within five minutes at a tobacconist.

Heller explains: “These four models are available 24/7 and the transactions are increasingly being carried out in real time.

“The diversity of the business lines within BNP Paribas and its open innovation strategy through external partnerships allow us to develop and offer solutions beyond regular banking services to meet our clients’ expectations. Thus, we provide solutions covering comprehensive customer journeys by addressing needs in terms of mobility, healthcare, shopping, housing, etc.”

Becoming digital

With so many digital players in the sector now, can BNP Paribas still maintain a strong relationship with its customers? Smaller players are slowly taking pieces of the relationship away by offering a single product at competitive rates.

“We have learned from clients, that despite budgeting and financial management not always being seen as thrilling, it remains a requirement for their peace of mind,” Heller says.

“Banks are legitimate in their eyes to act as trusted partners and to manage not only products and services, but to help them have a comprehensive view on their finances and to help them successfully arbitrate according to their needs and financial goals.”

So how will BNP Paribas know if these actions are a success? Are they actually helping customers?

Heller concludes: “We are also monitoring each customer journey (conversion rate, effort score, delays…) and each channel. We are monitoring that our actions are positively impacting those indicators, and if not, we are taking actions.”

BNP Paribas’ new innovations

  • Didid: With the tagline “Dream It. Didid. Do It”, Didid is the first smartphone application which enables users to apparently “turn dreams into reality”. Launched in March 2019, it helps customers plan goals, save for them, and realise them. Didid was one of the first Belgian companies to receive a licence from the national bank to link users’ bank account to an app. Users can save directly or receive gifts from friends and family. Currently, the app has been downloaded over 30,000 times.
  • Guarantme: Used as a guarantor for tenants without a guarantor to rent in France. The client can file a claim in five minutes and receive a response in less than 24 hours. Available in France since June 2019, it keeps rental income also secure.
  • Genius: A digital assistant in Luxembourg, it sends alerts and messages to customers regarding their banking behaviour. Utilising AI, it understands habits and anticipates future income and expenses, getting ahead of cash flow problems, for example. It is also self-learning and can adapt its messages according to the customer. In addition, customers gain 24/7 access to advice and made aware of spending behaviour.
  • Lyf Pay: An app in France aimed at simplifying payments. Accessible to all, regardless of bank, it includes a number of functionalities. Users can make payments (in-store, online, in instalments, at time of order), share payments, and enjoy benefits such as loyalty schemes and offers. It has been deployed in a number of locations such as festivals, stadia, and large food stores.
  • Nickel: An account-keeping service open to all with no conditions regarding income, deposits or wealth, and no overdraft or credit facilities. Accounts can be opened within five minutes at a tobacconist. For €20 ($22) a year, it provides an international payment card, a personal bank ID, and tools to track transactions in real time. Launched in 2014, it now has more than 1.3 million customers and still gains nearly 35,000 new customers each month.
  • Paylib Entre Amis: This enables customers in France to reimburse friends quickly and easily with just a mobile number. It’s fee free without additional charge and available regardless of the beneficiary’s bank.