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Benefits and challenges of innovation in the financial sector - New trends in the financial sector

Credit Agricole: a different approach to digitalisation in retail banking

By Musca Xavier - Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Crédit Agricole S.A.


Digital breakthroughs have created two major challenges for the traditional retail banks organised around branch networks.

A challenge for loyalty banking and the universal banking model…
…but certainly not a threat

By splitting the bank-customer relationship into small parts (my mortgage with my broker, my insurance with my direct insurer, my credit card with my dealer, my savings with another direct savings bank, etc.), both pure players and customers miss the point that the value of a comprehensive knowledge of a customer is much more important than the sum of products that can be sold separately.

They have forgotten that a customer credit score can be significantly improved by their insurance, payments or savings behaviour. They have forgotten that managing both customer savings and loans allows the bank to have a more flexible management of the customer’s cash needs or cash excess. They have forgotten that the optimal advice can only be achieved through a comprehensive view of the customer’s assets and liabilities. It should be borne in mind that the customer relationship fragmentation, fuelled by digitalisation, is incompatible with the KYC regulatory spirit.

Credit Agricole has been experiencing the global customer relationship approach for more than a century; we know the value of a global relationship. The more focused the pure-players are, the more value we create for our customers by providing them with a comprehensive service. Our fully integrated loyalty program and our customer knowledge are directed towards increasing value both for our customers and then for us. Our model relies on the management of all specialised business lines, on the expertise and on the necessary know-how to answer the financial and patrimonial needs of our customers.

A challenge for human relationship management…
…not so much for Credit Agricole

The questions we commonly hear are whether digital banking would necessary lead to a robotisation of the relationship; whether automated advice would replace our human advisors. Without any doubt, we strongly believe that the answers are “no”. Banking does not only deal with products, prices, services, etc. It also has to do with trust, with mutual risk taking, with advice, with trans-generational links. The more digital the world becomes, the more we feel our customers need trust, reassurance, advice and interpersonal relationships.

A comprehensive knowledge of a customer is much more important.

What is a robot advisor worth when the customer goes through divorce, is confronted to the loss of a close relative, falls ill or has a serious car crash? What is a robot advisor worth when customers turn to us to lend them money to launch their business? We are convinced that digitalisation leads to increasing the value of human relationships.

That is why we intend to move our organization toward a 100% digital AND 100% human relationship bank within a multichannel proximity branch network. Convenience, 24/24 access to the bank will be ensured through our digital and mobile technologies that are being upgraded. Access to advice, to human contact will be possible for all our customers throughout our branch networks and on our customer relationship platforms.

A global relationship bank, allowing 100% digital AND 100% human, that is the model we are building to face the digital challenges.