The Customer Effect

Bank bots, move over: BNP Paribas is putting human advice before robots

  • BNP is rolling out a mobile-first, messaging-based wealth management platform for its clients
  • Unlike a robo-adviser, the offering is meant to change the client experience, not the actual model for investment advice
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Bank bots, move over: BNP Paribas is putting human advice before robots

BNP Paribas is rolling out a new digital investment tool — one where the advice is written entirely by humans.

It’s a departure from most of the new digital advice offerings that have emerged in the last couple of years; it’s not a robo-adviser — it’s not even a robot-human hybrid. It’s just a core service for the French banking giant’s high-net-worth clients brought to the mobile device. It might seem a little behind the times, but banks generally don’t apply new technologies to old services overnight, and that sort of caution is particularly applicable to BNP.

The new offering from BNP, called myAdvisory, offers message-based financial advice through the bank’s mobile app, based on clients’ portfolio and risk preferences, financial recommendations as frequently as the client allows and a chat-based trading platform. BNP is at the beginning of a slow rollout, beginning with the clients who provided the feedback on which it built the offering.

The bank has a system that monitors market activity and alerts a team of advisers when something happens that might have a significant on a client’s account, said Salvador Vidal, global head of products and services marketing for BNP’s wealth management unit. Those advisers then send that information to a team of relationship managers, who then message the affected clients, deliver that information and ask: Do you want to follow this advice?

“We’re monitoring and learning from the [customer] usage what kind of channel they prefer, when they prefer it. … We have a very open approach to that,” Vidal said. “We don’t want to take steps and force an offering on clients who don’t want it. We’re committed to co-creating products for clients, giving them those tools and, as they use those tools, making them evolve to fit their needs.”

That’s why while legacy banks and startups alike are rolling out artificial-intelligence-powered robots that dole out algorithmically created investment advice or AI-powered chatbots. BNP is just giving clients anytime-anywhere access to a human adviser. It doesn’t currently offer a robo service but has not ruled out future plans to do so.

Just as the mobile device truly disrupted the client experience in basic banking and gave customers “the mobile banking experience,” wealth management services should be following that path, said April Rudin, chief executive of wealth management marketing firm The Rudin Group.

“This is mobile wealth management, and I think that doesn’t exist,” she said. “Most wealth management and financial services firms don’t mimic and break out the client experiences like a luxury brand does. This is really an upset to the client experience and demonstrates that BNP has changed the experience instead of changing the products or services they offer.”

Citi actually revealed a mobile-first retail banking experience in December for its Citigold credit card members (clients with qualifying balances of at least $200,000) that includes access to investment with a click-to-call button for immediate access to their financial advisers. It’s not a messaging-based service like BNP’s though.

But the focus is the same: high-net-worth clients are global, mobile and want to talk to an adviser when they want to. Some want a self-service model – a robo-adviser – but probably not for their entire portfolio, and existing wealth management firms are so paper-oriented they can feel a little clumsy or antiquated compared to the smooth, fast digital experiences customers are used to today. That’s the experience BNP is trying to change.

“One thing we share with the luxury industry is the clients; we have the same clients. We’re aiming to transform the experience we give them so they understand we are what we are, which is also a luxury brand. That’s the reason why we launched this whole solution.”

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