banks

New ways of working – a turning point for traditional banks

Compared with online banks that have already started paving the way, traditional banks are lagging behind when it comes down to new ways of working. Several factors, such as an increasingly competitive environment (online banks cropping up left, right and centre, as well as new fintechs and regtechs, for instance), Generation Y arriving on the employment scene and the changing face of today’s customers, are all coming together to make the banking landscape a complex one. Brick and mortar banks are forced to undergo a total transformation. 
Over the past few months these organisations have been using online banks as a source of inspiration, dusting themselves off and putting their best feet forward to begin new ways of working. Change is underway.

1. New methods of working driven by digital tools

As Edouard-Malo Henry, Human Resources Director at French bank Société Générale, points out, transformation within banks is inevitable and must, eventually, be a total transformation: “Société Générale is a multichannel bank for its customers, and must also be a multichannel bank for its employees.” Digital tools are a means for these businesses to not only change their ways of working but even the businesses themselves.  

Some banks, such as Neuflize OBC, have opted for shared communication tools such as Trello or social networks for businesses. The aim of these tools is to foster communication between employees and to facilitate group projects by rendering productivity tools available, such as those used in start-ups and the Big 5, GAFAM.

Many banks have already gone ahead and kitted themselves out with touchscreen tablets, and Société Générale is no exception. As part of the DigitForAll programme in 2015, the company sent out 90,000 touchscreen tablets to its employees and set up the “SG Store”, enabling them to access job-based apps for all front-office employees.

The use of tablets by customer advisors has been seen as a minor revolution within bank branches. Yet it’s a major change for customers as tablets completely change the relationship with the advisor. Say goodbye to traditional face-to-face encounters and top-down communication, and say hello to side-by-side communication, where teaching and listening are the necessary skills for active and engaged customers.   

Using these tools in this new way has also had a strong impact on the daily lives of employees, especially the advisors to business and private banking customers, who carry out the majority of their meetings outside the bank branch. Notebooks, pens and photocopies are being replaced by tablets that offer autonomy and greater flexibility, and all this whilst stepping up sales power: the new ways of working are creeping into the organisation of work. Easier access to customer data also reduces employee stress levels and saves time, leading to more efficient working.

2. Digitalisation inspiring the work place

As well as setting up digital tools, banks are transforming their customer areas as well as their regional and national headquarters, in an attempt to give themselves and their image a more modernised look. Some banks have already caught on and are undergoing major visible changes.

By sprucing up their branches, banks are aiming to recreate the relationship with their customers, to break away from their robotic image, and to breathe new life into the customer experience. Redesigning the self-service and customer areas is the first step, and this is exactly what BNP Paribas has achieved with the “2 Opéra” branch, described as an “Innovation Lab.” The goal for these new types of branch is to test out a new, re-imagined customer banking experience, combined with using high technology. In this new branch, customers will see various different areas adapted to their needs as well as dedicated lounge areas. They also host events there, such as conferences, exhibitions, and meetings with innovative start-ups.

However, these outward facing changes are only the tip of the iceberg. These developments would be impossible to achieve without the necessary deep self-reflection and internal transformation within the banks. This is particularly the case at Société Générale, which designed “The Dunes”, a 126,000m² space in Val-de-Fontenay, considered a real city. Employees can take advantage of restaurants and cafés, a nursing station, an IT support desk as well as music area for playing the piano and singing together. Everything has been purposefully thought out for the well-being of their employees.

The Dunes project was inspired by what’s already being seen at GAFAM, online banks, coworking spaces, and start-up incubators. With open spaces for collaborations or experiments, the aim is to test out new working methods and to roll out the most successful ones across the group’s other sites. Françoise Mercadal-Delasalles, Group Director of Resources and Innovation, sums up the ambition of this creation in a few simple words: “By distancing ourselves from the HQ at La Défense, the intention was to improve efficiency, to foster the development of working groups or teams for durations of 30 minutes or 2 hours at a time, by recreating “districts” rather than an open space”.

This collaborative and creative approach is also behind the emergence of Digital Factories that we are seeing in banks. As Loic Lemoine and David Maurange from Sopra Steria point out, these factories offer a “new organisation of working which is fundamentally free. Heavy procedures have been reduced to a strict minimum, with a more horizontal structure, and a unilateral and open approach to information sharing.” This strategy has been implemented by BPCE and Banque Privée 1818. The group has gone on to implement its own digital strategy by making communication between employees and customers easier. With 20 employees across different teams (banking, IT, etc.), the Digital Factory is seen as the space where digital projects can and will come to life.

3. Transforming management

For complete transformation the managerial structure within banks also has to re-jigged, and businesses are no strangers to the phenomenon of younger employees shaking up their organisations.

This is giving banks a new latitudinal approach, as Hervé d’Harcourt from BPCE explains: “Whilst our age pyramid is now balanced, it can still act as a means for equalling out the staff.” This is helping banks to undergo their digital transformation without too much of a social divide, and is also gently guiding employees towards the new ways of working and a new form of management, one that is better adapted to today’s generations.  

Traditional banks are being tempted by the freedom of these companies. Axa Bank and Allianz, for instance, two forerunners in this dynamic approach, have fully come on board with this hierarchical liberation. One is showing confidence in its employees, and the other is allowing more freedom of speech within the business.

Axa Bank has focused on the little things causing minor problems for the customer advisors, the issues that ultimately go towards deteriorating the quality of life in the workplace and, in the end, employee efficiency. Jean Prévost, HR, Communication and Operational Excellence Director at Axa Bank, began the approach towards “liberation” by implementing the mantra that improved working conditions equals loyal employees and improved quality of service.

As for Allianz, they implemented a sort of liberated structure thanks to an internal social network allowing employees to chat with managers as well as with Chief Executives, for instance. This project was sponsored by Jacques Richier, the CEO, who is also active on the network and replies to questions asked by employees.

Traditional banks have taken notice and the transformation process in underway. Their efforts and investments in these new ways of working will enable them to slowly but surely start their development. But we should keep an eye on these giants which are freeing themselves from the constraints of their past. Even if they’ve taken their first steps, the road ahead is still a long one, as we will show you in our upcoming third article.

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Laura Fernandez & Aurelie Touchard

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