The wave of innovation will give a boost to additional growth

Interview with Jean-Laurent Bonnafe, Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas — by Edouard Lederer, Thibaut Madelin, Guillaume Maujean and David Barroux for Les Echos

BNP Paribas is half-way through its 2016-2020 Business development Plan. Will it meet its objectives?

We are in line with our forecasts. Our 2020 Plan has three broad elements: company engagement, digitalisation, and performance. Engagement means integrating into the bank’s strategy the notion of a “positive impact” regarding the challenges facing society: the energy transition; equal opportunities for young people; diversity; and support for entrepreneurs and the local communities where we are present. This engagement represents a positive contribution to society, and it is part of the essential missions of the bank.

What is the importance of digitalisation in your business plan?

We are investing 3 billion euros in technology as part of the 2020 Plan. The aim is to work on improving the customer journey so as to do our job as a bank in a more predictive, efficient and transparent way. All our employees and all our business lines work tirelessly towards this goal every day and for the benefit of our clients, whether they are companies, investors or individuals. Sometimes we gain new business models from outside: Gambit or Nickel are very good examples. They are ingenious, creative and they have created a concept and new market. They are accelerating our transformation. Regarding Nickel, two years ago it had 300,000 customers. This summer, it had one million, and by 2020 our goal is to reach two million. We are also thinking of expanding Nickel internationally as it is something that should inevitably follow.

What is your IT budget?

We are investing more and more in technology because the customer experience today is essentially one based on digital technology. By analogy, this is similar to wind farms, the initial cost of which was in no way comparable to nuclear energy. With research and hard work comes efficiency. In a few years, real industrial-scale solutions in terms of fluidity, distribution, agility and the right levels of security will have been reached. Industry in general operates this way. And in banking, which is gradually becoming a sector of technology, it will be the same.

Have you created a private “cloud”?

Yes, we are among several companies to have made this choice. Public cloud-type technologies have the advantage of being extremely innovative but do not allow for the necessary security levels, particularly with regards to data protection.

But all this will change with the implementation of frameworks such as the GDPR directive or equivalents. We need to put in place mechanisms that ensure both strength and security. When you are a large company, whose business is based on managing data — which belong to your customers — and you are asked for a level of security in line with GDPR, for example, you cannot make compromises. It is as simple as that.

Does this give you an advantage compared to other banks?

The strategy that we have implemented gives us a kind of industrial advantage. In industry, regardless of the sector, technological strides require a scale effect at a certain time. Some companies reach it, others do not. For the latter, either they will join up with others in their sector or they will evolve in an environment that does not provide sufficient levels of security. It will most probably be the first approach that prevails.

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