Digital banking: Centric anticipates the future needs of corporates

As operations are increasingly dematerialised, it is key to innovate and expand digital banking platforms like Centric to better serve the needs of CIB clients.

Digital banking is the future for corporate and institutional clients, and importantly, platforms need to be nimble in order to introduce new features in a timely fashion, and innovations must be aligned to the needs of its users. A balanced mix of understanding specific client needs with the flexibility to plug in Fintech innovations which have much shorter time-to-market are essential in providing a truly tailored platform.

In this interview, Thierry Bujon de l’Estang, Head of Digital Banks for Clients at BNP Paribas CIB, shares his insights on digitalisation in the banking industry, the evolution of banking applications such as Centric, BNP Paribas’ platform for corporates, relations between the Bank and Fintechs, what a client-centric approach means and how the Covid-19 crisis underlined the resilience of the digital banking model that BNP Paribas had put in place.

How do you assist companies in their digital transformation?

Thierry Bujon de l’Estang: By understanding our client needs and transforming those needs into solutions, we can help our clients’ digital transformation from start to finish, be it by offering an integrated suite of cash management applications, or an integrated suite of Global Markets and applications amongst others. This innovative and different way of working allows our clients to interact in a digital manner, but at the same time allow them to concentrate on value-added tasks.

Have you witnessed an acceleration of uses since the beginning of the pandemic?

T.B.E.: Well, actually no, which is a proof that Centric, our digital banking platform, and its applications were already well embedded in our clients’ daily habits. The fact that Centric is a web-based – yet very secure – platform also means that it was easy for them to access it even if working from home.

What is your approach to innovation in digital banking?

T.B.E.: The approach involves gathering feedback from clients and from different BNP Paribas teams, so as to offer an integrated service across different products and applications, to ensure that our clients and the Bank are able to work in a digital way. We carefully analyse what they do and how they would like to do it before designing a solution, and we also incrementally improve things once they are launched. Being agile is the key. Being digital just for the sake of it is nonsense. Developing “cool features” that nobody uses is a waste of time and money, so we try to focus on real problems and real added value on Centric.

How do you work with Fintechs?

T.B.E.: Centric, our digital banking platform, is designed to easily integrate third-party solutions. Fintechs have the advantage of being very focused on one given topic or feature and can put their energy in delivering just that. When we find a Fintech product which actually matches a real client demand and is complementary to what the bank offers, we can easily add it to the Centric application suite.

How is Centric improving user experience?

T.B.E.: By optimising and digitalising our processes and applications and offering self-servicing capabilities, this not only speeds up the interactions with the Bank, but also creates efficiencies for both clients and the Bank. By having integrated applications across different products and services, this flow between applications creates a more seamless and harmonised way of working which helps improve the customer journey across Centric.  By removing cumbersome and time-consuming daily tasks, this allows our clients to remove unnecessary interactions with the bank and allows clients to communicate with the bank for topics they need advice or help with.

What is Centric?

Centric is BNP Paribas’ digital banking platform initially designed for CIB clients, but today also distributed across CIB and Retail markets. It’s the “one-stop shop” for our clients to reach all our online services, and also to interact with the bank on their daily banking topics.

What kind of applications are available on your platform?

Centric offers applications for all aspects of daily digital banking:

  • Pre-trade applications that increase market insight such as Market Data, Research or the Currency Guide. We will be adding the Markets 360 application from Global Markets shortly.
  • Transactional applications for Cash Management, Foreign Exchange, Commodities, Trade Finance and Deposits.
  • What we call Post-trade applications offering extra services such as reporting, but also confirmation of trades, monitoring positions and even regulatory topics.
  • Administration tools so that clients can easily create and administer rights for new users

Centric is also gradually evolving into a direct communication channel with our clients. We can put marketing and information messages in Centric. This is one area where a lot will change in the coming months as we will be introducing a virtual agent capable of replying to questions directly and route inquiries to relevant teams for more efficiency.

What clients of the Bank can use Centric?

Centric offers value for all clients, regardless of industry or company size. The vast majority of our Centric clients are Corporates, but we also have Institutional clients using the platform as well as Securities Services’ clients. Centric clients are distributed over more than 40 activity sectors, from mining to aviation, media, healthcare and many more.

In terms of individual users, we see that roughly 1 in 3 users are managers (treasurers, financial managers), the others are specialists (accountants, treasury operations, trade officers). Centric is completely modular, meaning each user can configure the platform to his/her wish, access the applications they need in a personalized set-up. So, big or small, simple or complex needs, everything is possible with digital banking.

For how long does Centric exist? How many users does it have?

Centric was launched in 2013 as a “single access point” to some online banking applications. Since then it has grown into a full-fledged platform, and today it is available in 45 countries and we have more than 100.000 users registered on the platform. Number of users is growing steadily and what is also interesting to note is that the average number of applications used per user is growing which proves the relevance of our offer.