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April 13, 2013

Insider Insight, Volume I: The Financial Sector

Posted by

Brice Le Blévennec

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François Gillon is head of e-Channels at Deutsche Bank Belgium, in charge of defining the bank’s overall digital strategy.

 

I met François at his ‘Porte de Namur’ office to discuss what’s happening in the financial sector on the digital front. It quickly turned out that my perception of banks and bankers was stuck somewhere in the eighties. Forget about grey men in dark suits who are more technophobic than your grandparents. A new generation of e-bankers is out there; they are young, creative, and they’re probably working on the next technology in the market, while you’re reading this interview.

 

Mr Gillon, as someone who has seen the transformation of a bank from the pre-digital era, what was it like for a bank to immerse itself in a new world of fast-evolving technologies?

More and more, banks need to think like start-ups in terms of how fast they can understand clients’ needs and come up with adequate solutions. They have learned that they have to be agile, not only on the business level but also when it comes to IT. Technology is evolving fast and it is key to select and implement the ones that allow you to deliver a better customer experience. Delivery times also matter. If developing a new mobile app takes 12 months, by the time it is released it is no longer relevant.

This is even truer when it comes to mobile applications than to [web] online banking. Apps need to be updated very frequently, almost on a monthly basis, as opposed to online banking enhancements that often occur between 2 and 4 times a year. Users are becoming more and more demanding; they get used to their new features very quickly and they are waiting for the next ones.

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I see both a Blackberry and an iPhone here on your desk. Are you a high digital consumer in your spare time as well? Can I tell my readers that I found a fellow-geek?

(laughing), maybe I am! It’s just that I’m really passionate by how technology can improve people’s lives. I especially believe in mobile and its way to deliver immediate content and make our lives easier.

I’m curious by nature so I always try to understand the next technological trends. I follow closely a whole range of forums and wiki sites on digital, I even volunteer to try new beta technologies… When I come to think about it, I’m a client of six different banks in Belgium just so I could experience their digital services. For me, the only way to understand technology from a consumer’s perspective is by consuming it myself!

We keep hearing about the financial sector in the context of the current crisis. But what are the sector’s main challenges when it comes to its digital services?

One of the main challenges of our industry is that banks became a pure commodity; to the extent that it has become hard for clients to even differentiate one bank from another. They all offer similar services at similar rates. When the service and the price are similar, banks’ ability to stand out is geared toward improving the client’s experience.

The competition is developing over which bank offers the best service, adapts to the clients’ needs and understands their priorities. So our next challenge is really about how we build this unique experience of added value. We see it in the development of branches and call-centres which are more and more experience-oriented. When it comes to digital services, my role is to ensure they are highly efficient, effective, insightful, and even enjoyable.

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