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Our Market Views
27/03/2017

What about digital in Corporate and Investment Banking?

In the current era of social networks and FinTech start-ups, when the topic of "digital bank" comes up, it is mostly associated with financial services for consumers and, possibly, small and medium enterprises.

However, the reality is that the ongoing revolution affects all business lines in banking, including, of course, Corporate and Investment Banking, Securities Services, and by extension any B–to-B activity of the bank.

Here, I would like to share with you the 7 key pillars that I deem essential for a successful digital strategy in financial services.

Client first!

One guiding principle in my line of thought is that "digital" is not just about technology. The transformation that we are dealing with is based on two key aspects. First and foremost, the customer – or, more generally, the user, who may be an employee or a partner – is at the core of our concerns. The evolution of customer behaviour and expectations must define whatever we undertake. Then, and only then, technology provides the means to build what our users need. In addition, on another level, technology constantly brings new capabilities which generate additional expectations and these need to be addressed. And so the process starts again…

With this in mind, it becomes obvious that any strategy has to put the client first and this has been a clear priority for Societe Generale since 2010. This contrasts with the recent past, when bankers might have had more time for their products… In practice, this client-focused approach translates into two mandates for every project we launch.

1. One is that the user experience will always trump functionalities: the customer journey should be the cornerstone of the design of new products and services.

2. The other is to deliver a similar experience to our employees and to our clients. Not only does this bring operational efficiencies, but it is also an excellent way of adding more transparency to our relationships. Incidentally, thinking this way, even for internal applications that may never be opened up to external users, is a strong driver for better design and for future-proof solutions.

Then technology

Below the client-focus layer, the next three pillars can be considered the IT enablers of modern customer expectations.

3. Because customer needs are different from one group to another and because they also change with time, our entire application portfolio has to be available in the form of basic services, accessible through APIs ("Application Programming Interfaces").

4. Then, because client satisfaction is our primary objective, we have to put in place the tools we need to measure it. These metrics help us identify the adjustments required to achieve excellence. Knowing if, when and how our services – especially, but not only, in real-world situations – are used is the key to identifying those that are successful as well as those that should be discontinued or, more often, redesigned.

5. And because everyone now takes for granted the permanent availability of the tools they use in their personal and professional lives, we also have a responsibility, as IT professionals, to ensure a fully functional, always-on environment at all times.

To pull all these ambitions together, two interconnected "engines" round out our vision: innovation and value creation.

6. The changes implied by the focus on our clients' increasingly complex needs, at every level of our organization, as well as the pressure from new competitors, force us to accelerate innovation in every corner of our business.

The availability of our building blocks (APIs cf 3) is a major enabler for creativity, allowing our staff to quickly prototype and build new value-added solutions for our clients.

7. At the same time, we must be careful to ensure that everything we do remains aligned with our objective of creating actual value. For this reason, striking the right balance between these pillars underlies and supports our entire strategy.

The process of putting these broad principles into practice is already under way at Societe Generale and in other financial institutions. This will gradually become an integral part of all business activities and the enterprise culture.

 

At Societe Generale, we are moving forward step by step, each one transforming a concept or an idea into an action or a project.