Why now is the time for digital corporate banking

BNP Paribas' Head of Digital Banking offers his thoughts on the digital landscape, the future of banking and Centric, the bank's electronic platform.

Artificial intelligence (AI), algorithms and automation are changing work, not least in the financial markets and banking world. Banking, however, is a people business, and it is the human touch that drives business. The fears of the consequences of greater computing power are well trailed, but if designed well, AI should enrich the experience of how corporates and institutional investors interact with banks.

Thierry Bujon de l’Estang, Head of CIB’s Digital Banking for Clients, gives his thoughts on Centric, BNP Paribas’ electronic banking platform, what it is, how it helps – and why it is the future of BNP Paribas.

Bonjour Thierry – and thanks for speaking with us! First things first: what is Centric?
Centric is CIB’s electronic banking platform that is increasingly our clients’ interface with the bank. It can count 100,000 users in 45 different countries with 35 different applications. After initial development in Asia in 2012 to provide a single sign-on login, over time it has gradually grown into a fully-fledged portal giving clients access to the full suite of the bank’s e-Banking tools. These include authentication, alerting, help corner, and even chat and video chat for certain clients.

When we started developing Centric, we actually made two structural choices: first, ensure our clients sign in only once with security levels adapted to their needs; and second, be as modular as possible. This latter point both allows our clients to tailor their e-Banking portal to their needs and means we can integrate new features and applications more quickly. Which is why today Centric has so many applications and users in so many countries.

Why is digital banking important for clients?
Simplicity, modularity and customisability are the goals we felt important to underpin the Centric user experience. We designed Centric to help our clients with their daily banking needs, through their entire banking journey. Based on their input, we have worked hard to ensure an optimal customer experience, with many applications along the full value chain. These include:
  • Market Insight applications – allowing users to keep up-to-date with market trends and prices as well as essential information for treasury departments on payments and currencies, and also access to research.
  • Transaction applications – a complete set of applications allowing clients to process their daily flow activities such as cash management, deposits, foreign exchange, trade finance and supply chain. We are always looking at ways of improving Centric to give our clients the best possible customer journey in accessing BNP Paribas’ expansive product range.  
  • “Post Trade” applications – allowing users to complete the transactional life cycle with features such as trade history, electronic documents, valuations, the possibility to confirm and net in STP mode – and in the next few months the ability to make queries on transactions directly online.
  • Third party services – we are also opening the platform to offer services such as treasury management tools, with more right around the corner.
How does digital banking help clients?
By offering this “one-stop shop” to our clients, we are setting the pace in defining a new era of banking for our clients. State-of-the-art tools and optimal user experience mean they can focus on their most important tasks, execute in a more informed and secure way – thereby helping them perform as efficiently as possible.

Beyond this we are also working hard to empower our clients to be as autonomous as possible, allowing them to directly manage the profile of their users and create new ones in the platform for extra convenience. We are also working on new ways of interacting and letting our clients decide what they would like us to develop, listen to their suggestions and co-design tomorrow’s tools. This will allow us to be as close as possible to their wishes – as well as anticipate their future needs.

Work and widgets: Centric in action

What are the latest trends in digital banking – and where will we be in 2025?
We developed Centric with the most advanced tools, ensuring flexibility with the modularity mentioned above – but also to be ready for a new era of open banking platforms. This is a major trend in the industry that we are embracing, for example, in the way we have designed integration kits allowing third parties to integrate Centric. This allows us to complement BNP Paribas know-how with best-in-class providers elsewhere. Our ambition is to become the reference financial desktop for our clients.
How does Centric fit strategy of CIB?
At CIB our aim is to deliver the best products and services to clients, wherever they are. Centric gives us the opportunity to fulfil this strategy digitally, to experiment and to push the technological boundaries. Most of Centric’s services are readily accessible in more than 45 countries. Our focus is ultimately on the way Centric becomes a key part of the overall customer experience, complementing the human relationship part. The way we communicate with clients on the platform – be it via videochat, the help corner or down to the smallest ‘execute’ – is critical. It is with this philosophy in mind that we have designed the Centric interface – and it is why we think it represents the future of banking.