BNP Paribas is the European Union’s leading bank and a major international player in financial services. Operating across 65 countries, the group has nearly 190,000 employees.

While BNP Paribas has long been interested in digital platforms, as a result of new uses and the potential of new technologies, the group is now repositioning itself within its various ecosystems to capitalize on these new business models. Examples are, initiatives around the Bank-as-a-Platform model in its insurance and consumer credit (Embedded Finance) businesses, and its Beyond Banking strategy.

Here, Wavestone interviews Andreas Lambropoulos to understand the detail of the platforms initiative launched by the IFS division in 2020.

Former head of IFS division’s strategic initiatives, Andreas Lambropoulos is now Head of Corporate Engagement for BNP’s Investment & Protection Services division.

Why did you launch a large-scale initiative on platforms?

Andreas Lambropoulos: In 2020-2021, I was working in the IFS division, which then brought together international retail banking activities, from insurance and consumer credit, to asset management, private banking, and real estate – across more than 60 countries. The objective of IFS’s strategic initiatives was to link all these activities together and drive growth, by focusing on a number of key threads: innovation, digital, data, marketing, sustainable development, and open innovation. The platform economy, which is based on generating value from data, end-to-end digital journeys, and the networking of players, is a complex subject to grasp, yet one that’s fundamental to the future of our activities. Focusing on this area, then, fell perfectly within the scope of our remit and offered a great opportunity for the various IFS division entities to work together with the support of other business functions.

What were the challenges that such an initiative presented?

Andreas Lambropoulos: These considerations touch the heart of our businesses and have a strong IT dimension. Given this, we had to set up an organizational structure that could choreograph the various skills and subject-matter experts. With a large number of people involved, it was essential that we gathered them around a common objective: to study the platform model and its relevance to our businesses, and to come up with concrete business cases. That’s why we partnered with Wavestone, which had the expertise to understand this need for a clear business vision, but also brought real mastery of the IT aspects, and the ability to onboard BNP teams from a wide variety of backgrounds.

What did you expect from this forward-looking initiative?

Andreas Lambropoulos: As the business model for our activities was partly based on partnership with companies involved in mass-market retail, automotive, banking, and new technological platforms, we were already convinced that the platform model was going to become key. Compared with traditional approaches, it’s a more open and broadly distributed model, which makes it easier to multiply the opportunities and create value from technological advances.

In particular, we had to do this by studying the way we could capitalize on these models from both a technological and cultural standpoint. Are they really levers for growth? Can they be made to work? What’s the right timing? Will we be able to make the right choices from a technology point of view as well as meeting customer expectations? There were so many questions that Wavestone helped us address. Beyond defining the business cases, we also wanted to determine the enablers that would allow us to implement these types of transformation, and to lay the foundations for the IT projects.

How was the initiative run?

Andreas Lambropoulos: We held about 30 workshops with senior managers from IFS division entities. Initially, the workshops were very focused on specific activities, with the aim of educating and providing a detailed understanding of the platform economy; then they became more cross-functional, as they addressed the skills and enablers the group would need. We also went through a contextual phase, where we reviewed what other financial players were doing and assessed the potential of the models to create value. One of the big questions was whether this could be a real driver for growth. The figures showed it was, but we really saw it a few months later, when, as a result of the Covid crisis, digital became more central than ever to business models. We’re now convinced that to develop relationships with major retailers and increase access to customers, the platform model is essential – and that’s why it’s central to financial services today. The pandemic also brought an additional challenge because the initiative was launched just a few days before we went into lockdown. We had to ensure we could provide both support on the initiative itself, but also in a technical sense, by bringing together the participants so that they could contribute remotely on subjects that were unfamiliar to them.

What have been the first results from the initiative?

Andreas Lambropoulos: The project enabled us to draw up five business cases; and three of them were selected. Once Wavestone had completed its work with us, we also noticed that our businesses were considering these new business models more closely. For example, BNP Paribas Cardif and BNP Paribas Asset Management have just launched MonDemain, a service dedicated to retirement, and designed it as a test bed with the aim of creating a platform that can offer an entire customer journey. We’re also developing partnerships with technological platforms on the market, with the aim of becoming a solution provider for these players. We presented the results of these workshops and the business cases at an IFS Executive Committee meeting, after which the decision was taken that the businesses should incorporate the initiative’s findings into the development of their strategic plans. So our work has contributed greatly to providing them with material. BNP Paribas also recently unveiled its GTS 2025 strategic plan, the main lines of which are partly based on platform models.

Does the initiative also feed into your work in your current position?

Andreas Lambropoulos: Definitely! I’m now responsible for the Corporate Engagement aspects of the Group’s Investment & Protection Services (IPS) division. This division, created in June 2021, brings together group activities dedicated to protection, savings, and investment, as well as real estate services. We need to ensure the acceleration and engagement of all our businesses around the challenges of sustainable finance, if we’re to become a benchmark in this area. We’re positioning ourselves to achieve this across many fronts: responsible (ESG – environmental, social, and governance) saving, the accessibility of insurance, the energy transition and biodiversity considerations in real estate, impact investing to support the transition, Net Zero, the circular economy, financial inclusion, mobility, and the cities of the future… but also in terms of ESG Data, by ensuring that all of the group’s businesses and functions incorporate them. Platforms can be a real accelerator for our customers’ transition to a sustainable economy; they enable a wider audience to be reached and make technology a central driver of value for sustainable and responsible development.

Wavestone demonstrated a capacity to adapt rapidly against the backdrop of a pandemic. The firm’s teams were able to address very different worlds and be comfortable with both the IT dimensions and the substance of our activities. Wavestone provides high-quality support; its consultants listen to the needs of all stakeholders and they’re able to bring out the best in diverse and multicultural teams. The partnership was successful and appreciated by everyone. The feedback has been unanimously positive!

Andreas Lambropoulos,
Head of Company Engagement – BNP Paribas Investment & Protection Services

This initiative needed us to develop an innovative and engaging approach, that could provide a business vision and long-term direction, while also addressing the challenges of technological feasibility. Our team worked together with the BNP Paribas project team in a shared spirit of listening and commitment.

Joël Nadjar,
Partner, Wavestone