As always with change, different forces are at work. Digitalization in the cash management sphere is no exception to that rule: at one end of the spectrum, some fear that it might spread confusion by making it more difficult for banks to prove their differences; to others on the contrary, digitalization is a formidable opportunity to further mark their territory. Both senior executives within BNP Paribas Cash Management, Frédéric Croué and Hubert de Solages, support the latter view, and they explain why.
ActivitiesDigitalization strengthens its footholdThe digital trend continues to spread, as demonstrated by research published in the 2016 World Payment Report (WPR). Co-edited by BNP Paribas for the first time this year, the WPR is part of the leading references for payments worldwide. Amongst other findings, its 2016 edition shows that corporates expect more and more digitalization from their banking partners.
Quite interestingly, the Report's digital maturity assessment chart (cf. chart at the end of the article) shows a discrepancy between the perception that banks have of their own digital maturity and how corporates rate their banks from the same digital perspective (see box below). The thing is, perception is reality; so banks have no choice but continue to improve their corporate clients' digital experience, while better communicating on their digital achievements. As always, spreading the word is key to fostering a new perception as well as a strong driver for wider adoption. And as it happens, adoption remains a challenge to be raised.
"Banks have no choice but continue to improve their corporate clients' digital experience, while better communicating on their digital achievements."
High hopes, high stakesAll this comes in a context where corporates' fundamental expectations from banks have not changed significantly over time, whereas the pace of change is indeed accelerating. The WPR 2016 highlights that centralising account management, increasing automation to better manage operations, and relying on customer-focused solutions based on data and analytics are and remain at the top of corporate agendas. Would there really be nothing new under the sun?
"While everybody agrees that the pace of change is accelerating, it sometimes takes longer to gain adoption than to design and implement a new digital process", ponders Frédéric Croué. Similar observation from Hubert de Solages whose team of eight relationship managers handle treasury management activities for major worldwide corporations: "Considering the size of these organisations and the complexity of their non-standardised environments, conducting change remains a challenge and as a result, adoption is naturally a slow process".
Expectations for more digitalized services are tremendous but corporates insist on being able to leverage on existing platforms as opposed to new, proprietary solutions. Indeed, most of their digital expectations could be met today as the Bank's digital offering is already considerable. In addition to solutions, which are the most visible part of our digital response, support services like on boarding or Bank Account Management (eBAM) are already in the digital innovation pipeline – some still at proof-of-concept while others are already at pilot stage. "After digitalizing the core of the relationship with corporates, we have engaged in an active journey to digitalizing support processes", explains Frédéric Croué. "This is part of our co-development approach", adds Hubert de Solages.
Data brings us closerInitiatives like BNP Paribas' "corporate on-boarding for a new customer journey» are precisely heading in that direction. Here, the objective is to simplify and harmonise new clients' contracting experience using a collaborative digital workspace to collect KYC data, open accounts and activate requests using e-signatures. In addition to paving the way to a highly digital – simple and efficient – client journey, such initiatives have the potential to bring the Bank even closer to the corporate market thanks to data analytics – a vision that is strongly shared by Hubert de Solages: "The more data banks and corporates exchange, the better they know each other, and the closer they get. That is why we see digitalization as an opportunity to further anchor into our core values: understanding corporates, providing long term support and building partnership as trusted advisors".
Client knowledge and understanding allow the Bank to respond precisely to corporate needs while positioning itself at the very heart of a new ecosystem whose guiding principle is co-development. In addition to corporates' first-hand input, such ecosystem integrates the creative drive of new entrants like FinTechs."Client servicing is part of our DNA, and digitalization means that while the core and support processes are safely dealt with, we can provide more added-value and bring stronger innovation to our clients", concludes Croué. With such conviction in mind, who's still afraid of the big digital wolf?