“Crédit Agricole aims to increase 15% of total self-care turnover by 2025, compared to 5% today”

Twenty billion euros is the budget that will be spent on the digital development of Crédit Agricole over the next three years. Eric Caen, the group’s chief digital officer, talks to us about the results and prospects.

Eric Caen, chief digital officer of Crédit Agricole. © Credito Agricole

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Eric Caen. You have to listen to the customers. Many of them are asking for more autonomy, which requires us to be flawless when it comes to self-care. Our customers will not compare us with other banks, but with the apps they use every day such as Google Maps, Waze, Netflix or Uber Eats. If these universes provide a seamless experience and the bank doesn’t, customers don’t understand. We also look at what new banks do that do not have a network. It certainly costs less for customers, but when there is a problem there is often no one to answer and solve complicated issues. For our part, we still need to improve our customer experience. Everyone has got into the habit of updating their apps because it gives access to new products and options, banks and insurers depend on it.

The personalization of the customer journey is a strong lever of innovation for new banks. Qand you?

This is part of our ambitions which have been set out in our 2025 Mid-Term Plan. We want to move towards broad customization, but there is still a lot of work to be done at this level. The experience is the same whether you are a retiree, a young parent or a student. The challenge will be to customize it thanks to the data.

How is the introduction of a new product going?

It depends on the projects. Some are unanimous and do not necessarily imply competition, others are more complex and require the example to prove useful and effective. We are a very decentralized group, so there are a lot of decision makers.

What is your opinion on your Datalab opened in 2019?

We work hard to tailor trips and offers to each customer’s situation. What is certain is that we still have a lot of work to do. Regulation is one of our problems. We are fortunate to be in a country where data is extremely protected. From this point of view, we cannot do anything that goes beyond the rules of the GDPR. This is one of the reasons why innovation takes time to be successful. Another explanation lies in the circulation of data between our different entities, namely that we have to make sure that our data exchange respects the wishes of the customers and is very complicated. For example, in the case of a new partnership, we need to make sure our customers accept a new offer. Three years ago, one in two projects failed, compared to one in 20 today. There is much better, but there is still a lot to do.

Selling self-care products on apps is one of the segments where we are making the most progress. We also aim to increase total self-care revenue to 15% by 2025, from 5% today. It is a project based on a budget of 20 billion euros that is spent on IT and digital. The data should enable us to make the right offers at the right time. A customer who goes on vacation can be offered travel insurance in just a few clicks, which we don’t know yet.

“In just under five years La Fabrique has created a dozen start-ups”

Is artificial intelligence part of your innovation tools?

We have an in-house team that develops neural network-based AI models with AI data scientists and graduate students. This way we know which offer to push to which person. We still have a lot to do on this point. On the other hand, we are testing a form for replying to emails in a dozen regional health insurance companies. This allows us to respond faster to the 70 million emails we receive each year. These are not automatic replies but machine learning that allow you to create a model that can respond to 80% of emails and that is offered to our consultants who just have to send it. We are destined to become more and more a technology company.

Crédit Agricole has recently launched products such as Up2pay or instant credit. JTo what extent do you have the ambition to push these kinds of offers?

The best way to support our customers, wealthy or otherwise, is to test offers on payments, credit, insurance, automobiles, or the energy transition. In particular, we want to help companies that produce hydrogen, which store energy without using batteries. The arrival of an economy car with economic leasing is also on our plans. In the health sector, we have launched a card for health workers to help them shop for people who can no longer travel. We want to help our customers at all stages of their life.

And where is your start-up studio?

In just five years La Fabrique has founded a dozen start-ups. The Blanke Ondernemersbank is one of the projects that have sprung up. The advantage of these ad hoc corporate creations is that we avoid the weight of the history of our computer tubes. The best way to go faster is to create parallels. Another example is the Sline platform, which allows traders to rent instead of sell.

How do you position yourself with respect to the neo-banks?

We have to put ourselves at their level on all digital developments, whether on courses or design, our interfaces or the KYC. When we get there, there will be nothing left for the new banks. Our group can count on a solid network that maintains the human aspect of relationships. It is a schizophrenic reflection as we want to increase the autonomy of our customers through simplified paths while strengthening our agency network. Becoming a new bank is out of the question. Some of our customers do not use an application and we have to support them as well as young people who want to do all their operations on smartphones.

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