BNP Paribas Looks To Transform Finance With Tech: 'A Place For Open Innovation'

BNP Paribas Looks To Transform Finance With Tech: 'A Place For Open Innovation'

Innovation and growth in fintech erupted during the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s according to Matthieu Soulé, the head of BNP Paribas S.A.’s BNPQY Silicon Valley-based Innovation Lab, a space to foster innovation and reshape financial services.

Over his career working in digital transformations and innovation strategy, the Audencia Business School alumnus led BNP’s foray into new business models that address finance needs in the changing spaces of mobility, luxury, energy and retail, among others.

In a discussion on BNP’s work around new technologies like blockchain, Soulé said the European financial institution is keen on staying relevant with advancements in payments and peer-to-peer lending, for example.

“My day-to-day is to dissect and analyze new fintechs, insurtechs and technologies that are relevant for so many things today,” he said in reference to cultivating relationships through startups and accelerators.

“We’re accelerating the matchmaking between the new players in the market.”

Crisis Spurs Innovation At BNP: The pandemic drew more attention to technologies that increase access and transparency to financial services and products.

In a discussion on shifts in consumer preferences, Soulé said BNP's innovation labs are a method of ramping up innovation around tech enablers like big data, AI, automation and robots for banking.

“BNP was one of the first to have this kind of innovation in the Bay Area, looking at how these new technologies are impacting the financial services world,” Soulé said.

“It’s a place for open innovation, basically identifying what’s coming up on the market — the opportunities and threats — and trying to create the right connections, at the right time, for the bank.”

Soulé credits such launches as BNP’s Investment Insights service, which allows users voice-activated market commentary and thought leadership through Amazon Inc AMZN Alexa devices, to the research and development at the innovation centers.

Soulé On Sustainable Banking: More recently, BNP has seen increased interest in sustainable finance, he said. 

“BNP is pushing technology and climate change,” the BNP exec said. “We’re pretty committed to being the leading bank in the sustainability and climate change effort.”

The efforts have proved successful, he said: BNP created banking and investing tech that increases awareness around clients’ carbon footprint.

“Our initiative was announced and launched in July 2020,” he said in a statement on BNP subsidiary Bank of the West’s partnership with 1% for the Planet, to launch checking accounts designed for climate action.

As part of the development, Bank of the West will donate 1% of net revenues generated from accounts to support nonprofits focused on creating a healthy planet.

The offer will also enable users — from consumers to businesses — access to carbon footprint analytics based on their financial services activity, or spend.

“If you’re going to a gas station, it will tell you what your impact is on the planet,” he said. “We’re looking to evangelize, or create awareness for clients around their carbon footprint.”

Platform For Growth: Given BNP’s size, Soulé said the organization has the potential to inflict serious change in finance.

“BNP is pretty large on the retail and commercial banking side,” Soulé said on the firm’s work with digital-focused initiatives and startups. “We are banking somewhere between 35%-40% of the startups in France.”

Going forward, he said the organization will leverage a culture infused with free-spirited creativity and established principles to disrupt finance.

“The idea is to create an impact based on financial services, and have that transition to have a better impact on the world,” Soulé said on his work with early and late-stage startups.

“What is the future of financial services? Financial instruments are a means to an end, just the way to do it. Banks could be instrumental to the nation, to make an impact.”

Posted In: 1% for the PlanetAmazon AlexaAudencia Business SchoolBank of The WestBNP ParibasInnovation LabInvestment InsightsMatthieu SouléFintechInterview
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