Social trends and technological evolutions have given banks opportunities for additional services and products. Combined with the acquisitions that the European capital market offer, this gives banks scale, which is good for them and their customers.
Proust once said that the true journey is not a quest for new landscapes, but rather looking with new eyes. That is also what we in banking and insurance have had to do in recent years and what we will have to continue to do.
Head of Retail Banking
CHRO of BNP Paribas Fortis
More feminine and greyer
Our business model looks different now than it did 10 years ago, and that has to do with four social trends. First, we live in a much more feminine world. For example, more than 50% of assets are owned by women and there are many more female entrepreneurs. This has implications for banks. Women‘s purchasing patterns are different from men‘s, their view of work is different and they attach more importance to certain things, such as education, health and protection. In investments, for example, this has made capital guarantees more important.
Second, our society has continued to age. There are more people over 65 than there are young people. These older people naturally have a different view on financial services. They too are more cautious both in spending and investing.
Sharing and a more Asian approach
Third, sharing has become more important. Ownership is no longer the Holy Grail, which has led to more leasing formulas. But the range of products has evolved even further: we now insure drivers who set off with a shared car and finance their use. We do this beyond Belgium - those who cross the border are automatically asked by us if they want to remain insured during their time abroad.
Fourth, the world has become much less Western. The majority of the middle class is in Asia and that has had an impact on the global culture. It is now much more Asian and this has also had an impact on how companies – including banks – shape their product offerings.
The Cambrian explosion in technology
In addition to the social evolutions of recent years, there has been the ‘Cambrian explosion’ we experienced in technology. It has had a major consequence: nowadays, everything happens instantaneously, even in the banking world.
This has naturally raised our customers‘ expectations. We have known since the pandemic in the early 2020s that the concept of ‘place’ has become a completely different thing. ‘Time’, too, has become a very different concept for customers in the meantime. They determine where and when they want to be in contact with us. As a result, we not only have to adapt technologically, but also humanly. Our advisors are much more flexible now than they were ten years ago.
In the meantime, a bank has become tokenized. As a result, the concept of banking has also become much broader. On the one hand, we have been re-evaluating banking-as-a-service, which fits in with the example of car insurance as soon as you cross the border. On the other hand, it is now also about banking-as-a-platform. The diversification has been huge in the last few years. Note that this does not mean that we are adding anything to our product and service offerings. It does mean that we are looking at what things we can offer that the customer thinks we can do credibly and that we can get technologically integrated nicely into our existing offerings. The entry of capital into a company specializing in software for charging electric cars in the 20s is an example of this approach.
Employees need different skill sets
The importance of technology to our operations naturally has implications for our employees. We have fewer human assets now than we did ten years ago, but the profiles are also completely different. The skill of being able to deal with technology and ideally to work on it themselves has become an absolute requirement. But this also goes hand in hand with the skill of being able to deal with change. We hope that universities and other educational institutions soon focus more on the development of soft skills instead of hard skills. People will learn those hard skills on the job.
By the way, a career nowadays looks completely different than it used to. Thanks in part to the fact that banks now also offer many other services, we can offer complete careers within the same group, whereby employees work for a number of years for one company in the group and then a number of years for another company. And all this according to a nicely mapped out plan that we can finally completely personalize, including the necessary training.
Much needed career plan
Fortunately, we have such personal career plans. This is the only way we can convince people to stay with us for a long time, because we need them. After all, scale is more important than ever these days. We continue to grow our core business, integrate vertically or horizontally thanks to our diversification, and operate in several countries.
We owe this to the unified European capital market, which has greatly facilitated cross-border acquisitions. This has not only meant efficiency for us, but also better service for our clients, from retail to corporate and investment banking.
About the interviewee
Sandra Wilikens is a member of the Executive Committee of BNP Paribas Fortis and is Chief Human Resources Officer. Her drive is to make the bank a more committed bank every day and she is responsible for BNP Paribas Fortis‘ sustainability strategy. Wilikens has worked for the bank since 2004 in various roles, including as Head of Estate Planning, Advisor Wealth Structuring and Director Wealth Management Belgium. She is also a board member of Vanbreda Risks & Benefits.
Michael Anseeuw is also a member of the Executive Board of BNP Paribas Fortis. He has been responsible for Retail Banking since 2014 and, like Wilikens, has been with the financial group since 2001. Anseeuw has a penchant for innovation and the rise of ‚phygital‘ that will undoubtedly serve him well in his current position.
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