Leaving the cocoon

BNP Paribas Fortis explores new role in digital ecosystem where the customer's journey is central

The traditional office network and digital channels are no longer enough if a bank really wants to meet customer expectations. We must leave the cocoon and evolve towards, among other things, a platform with providers of non-banking services and new fintech players. But what is the role of a large bank such as BNP Paribas Fortis in that ecosystem? That is the key question of the research in the Chair Partnership that the bank recently renewed with the School.

BNP Paribas Fortis - Michael Anseeuw“The bank is evolving towards a digital ecosystem in which we must respond to different customer expectations, rethink our business models, and interact with our customers in a different way.” Michael Anseeuw, General Manager Retail Banking at BNP Paribas Fortis, does not rest on his laurels. He knows better than anyone the impact of the rapid developments that the banks need to address: “Changing customer expectations is one thing, but there are also the regulations such as the European PSD2 Directive causing banks within the EU to have to be more open to third parties and make ‘open banking’ a reality.”


Open banking
Open banking means that a bank offers its products not only through its office network and its own digital channels but also through a platform for non-banking players and via third parties so that they can respond together to customers’ needs at particular moments in their lives. For example, customers looking for home loans will also be offered other services that they may want to use then or in the near future, such as the services of an energy provider, telecoms operator, or civil-law notary.

5 levers

The way in which BNP Paribas Fortis addresses these challenges is contained in Vision 2020. Michael Anseeuw explains: “For this purpose, the bank is investing in five axes: in the expertise needed to deliver added value to our customers, in digital activities, which we either develop ourselves or in cooperation with partners, in operational excellence, in alternative business models, and finally, in mindset or a new way of thinking, managing, and working with more focus on co-creation with external parties. These five axes guide us when we reflect on our roles in that new digital ecosystem. We reflect on it ourselves, but also in cooperation with partners. For that reason, we have chosen to work on ‘open banking’ within a Chair Partnership with Vlerick.”

Michael Anseeuw, General Manager Retail Banking at BNP Paribas Fortis: “Changing customer expectations is one thing, but there are also the regulations such as the European PSD2 Directive."

Not so much a technical but more a strategic challenge

The research, in collaboration with BNP Paribas Fortis, is conducted under the guidance of Professor Bjorn Cumps, who has already done a lot of research into the world of fintech companies at the Centre for Financial Services. “At BNP Paribas Fortis' request, we will look in the first phase at the bank’s challenges based on interviews with ten directors and board members. These interviews are almost complete, and we are already seeing a major trend. Not many problems are anticipated from a technical perspective; the trickiest point will be the vision building on the business side, namely, what role should the bank have in that new ecosystem?” “I think that as a large bank we really want to play a central role,” adds Michael Anseeuw, “but should we, in fact, take on such a project? That is indeed another question.”

Open-banking lab

In a second phase, from September, a kind of ‘open-banking lab’ will be set up within the Centre. “We are just going to do it,” says Bjorn enthusiastically. “We will set up an open-banking lab in which BNP Paribas Fortis and non-banking partners will work together. Vlerick will initiate, guide, and document the process. What will they come up against? What will turn out better than expected? What will be disappointing? The topic has not yet been set, but the partners will be corporate companies that can give the study the necessary depth.”

Bjorn Cumps, Professor Digital Banking and Director of Vlerick Centre for Financial Services: “We will set up an open-banking lab in which BNP Paribas Fortis and non-banking partners will work together.”

Hot topic

This research is particularly relevant to both the bank and the School. “The findings from this study will form essential building blocks of the new digital ecosystem in which we as a bank want to learn to work,” comments Michael Anseeuw. “It is also our goal to distil from the lab approach a methodology that will allow us to shape other topics within that ecosystem.” Bjorn Cumps: “Two of the School’s strategic pillars converge in this study, namely the impact of digital transformation on financial services. Also, it tries to find an answer to a hot topic that not only the financial players struggle with, which also became apparent during the recent Fintech Future series, i.e. how do you develop a cross-sector platform model? It is a privilege for Vlerick to go in search of that answer in collaboration with Belgium's largest banking player.”

This Chair Partnership is part of the CSR Strategy of BNP Paribas Fortis. The open-banking research was preceded by research into co-creation with B2B customers.

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