The banking sector is undergoing a full digital transformation. What does this mean for BNP Paribas Fortis' large physical branch network? We asked their Head of Retail Footprint.
"BNP Paribas Fortis is the market leader in Belgium and is part of an international group that is active in 75 countries. We have positioned ourselves as a bank for ‘a changing world’."
This world, and in particular the banking sector, is indeed changing dramatically. "More and more services are being done online. That is why in recent years, our branch network strategy has mainly focused on optimising the retail network. This included merging branches at existing and new locations and smarter ATM coverage."
Digital transformation: from 800 to 460 offices
The figures are self-evident. “Whereas in 2013, we still had 800 BNP bank branches, by the end of 2020, we will have just 460. Meanwhile, there has been an explosive growth in the range of digital banking services. This has resulted in a great interaction between online and offline. We are preparing our customers to carry out their most basic transactions digitally. They can still turn to our experts for banking matters related to the important stages of life, such as buying a home or setting up a business. They can do so both in the physical branches and remotely.
"What is the new ideal branch distribution? Where should we still have a presence? What are the optimal locations? Where should we merge branches?”
Branch network optimisation involves taking significant strategic decisions. For years, BNP Paribas Fortis has been relying on RetailSonar’s insights to substantiate these decisions. “After all, we are still serving 3.5 million customers in our physical branches. Together, we need to find answers to many relevant business issues. What is the new ideal branch distribution in Belgium? Where should we still have a presence? What are the optimal locations? Where should we merge offices?”
Fewer ATMs, maximum customer satisfaction
“We are also continuously analysing and improving our ATMs’ locations. Fewer branches mean fewer ATMs, which can adversely affect customer satisfaction. Nobody wants to have to travel far. We use an intelligent queueing model to be able to perfectly match the number of machines with local demand.”
The optimal branch network of the future
“Fully optimising our branch network optimisation is no easy exercise. RetailSonar's insights are helping us make the right location decisions with greater confidence and certainty. The fact that these choices are data-driven means that they will also be more readily accepted internally. So, you can safely say that our decisions are more long-term.”
"Our location decisions have already been faster, more accurate, and more forward-looking for years."
Physical branches will continue to play a special role in this. “It is still important for BNP Paribas Fortis to maintain a presence at the right locations. Physical contacts are essential to be able to inform our customers about good and safe online banking. Proper staff training for that digital coaching makes all the difference.”
Our contact is very satisfied with our long-term collaboration. “RetailSonar’s strengths lie in the mix of strong mathematical knowledge and a very committed consultancy team. It is obvious that they are truly dedicated. They want to learn and actively think with us. The insights are not gained with standard solutions but are the result of an iterative process in which the model is continuously adjusted. That is how we make each other smarter. You really do get added value for your investment.”
"The consultancy team is very committed and actively helps us to think things through. You really get added value for your investment."
Further strategic projects will follow in the coming years. “The bank will continue to evolve. We are about to launch a new ATM initiative. While the bank branches are becoming more the places where people go for financial advice, we are installing ATMs mainly at locations where people need cash quickly. For those analyses, we again count on RetailSonar’s expertise.”