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BNP Paribas Investment Partners’ Pierre Moulin: Interaction As ‘A Pyramid’

From equity derivatives trader to long-standing member of the executive committee, Pierre Moulin has worked for French bank BNP Paribas for two decades and, for the past 10 years, within its asset management business. Taking up a new position created last year, he is now global head of products and strategic marketing, helping to steer BNP Paribas Investment Partners through its digital transformation process and build greater intimacy with its range of clients, from fund buyers, institutional to end-investors.

Speaking to CMO.com recently, he talked us through the new role, the evolving organisational structure, and the creation of digital advice capabilities that should give the company an edge.

Moulin: My new position has four dimensions. Upstream, there is the strategic dimension regarding product development and our capabilities. This relates to making sure we understand all the opportunities that arise by analysing the market landscape, including the competition and regulatory environment.

Secondly, my role includes leading the decision-making process around our product launches and offers.

The other two dimensions are complimentary: operational and strategic. One is the digitalisation of how we operate, which includes a digital team under my remit, and the other is quantitative research, which is very important for us and our positioning. It’s a way to be connected to the investment teams and their processes to help them come up with solutions to develop.

The combination of digital and quantitative research enables us to be ambitious in what we call our “digital advice capabilities.” It’s where we can combine user experience, digital ecosystems, and, therefore, digital capabilities together with technologies and algorithms, which helps the core business of an asset manager. 

My role is part of our evolution as a business. The starting point is to be really global and integrated as much as possible in how we operate. There was a need to have people between client and investment able to onboard strategy for the development of the company. 

The company also has a broader digital transformation plan, which is there to prepare the organisation for new challenges in the asset management industry. It covers a 360-degree analysis of internal processes, such as how we manage our product life cycle, for example, and re-engineering these because of the potential of digital. Then there’s digital working and the tools we give our teams to work with on a daily basis so they can better interact with our clients. That’s managed by our IT and operational teams.

The digitalisation of how we track and interact with our clients is my responsibility.

CMO.com: What’s your approach to building more interaction with client through digital, and what are the current investment priorities?
We picture this as a pyramid, where you start from the base and work up through six layers so that, by the top, you end up with a full interaction with clients.

On a basic level—and the work we started about 10 years ago—it is decentralising the management of websites so the organisation is more focused on channels. This looks at how we provide content. We used to write for “print first,” but now we write for digital first, and we are introducing more and more video and infographic content. 

Some years ago we also started developing a more public approach via social media to give us more interaction with clients. We took a more formalised approach to sharing our messages through social media and developed content adapted to that media, for example, a blog, which has worked to create greater interaction with a larger audience and share our value proposition. 

Another step is equipping our sales force to be more efficient and have all the information they need at hand while they’re moving around. It’s an important change of mindset. 

A further step towards greater intimacy with clients is introducing digital tools for our fund buyers and distribution channels so they can build customer satisfaction. Some apply to institutional clients. We developed websites that have the relevant information and content for their specific needs.

Then there’s developing digital for the end-clients. We have many distributors who are also working on their user experience and customer journeys. We help by providing them with MVPs that can supplement and enhance the digital experience, for example, a lot of gamification so they can introduce their own clients to our financial products. 

The final and ultimate step, which we’ve been working on for the past 12 to 24 months and is where we put most investment currently, is building our digital advice service as mentioned before.

These are all steps we’re taking to improve the intimacy with clients. 

CMO.com: Can you share any results?
Regarding our internal channels, we are monitoring the number of advisors we onboard. After building specific environments, tools, and information for all the countries, we have onboarded 20,000 advisors. We know they come back on a daily basis and spend more than 10 minutes per session—that’s a good indicator of how important those tools are in their day-to-day life. 

In terms of social media, we have built a good community of close to 50,000 followers on Twitter and 50,000 followers on LinkedIn. Until now, we’ve measured the breadth of followers but are increasingly looking at interaction levels with this audience. In feedback so far, the results are quite impressive, which reflects well on the quality of information we share. 

Regarding end-clients and our subscription advisory, we can’t share details at the moment, but it’s somewhere we’re investing in quite significantly. 

CMO.com: What innovations have you made in building the digital advice service?
There is a lot of innovation behind this. It relates to how to combine our products and customise how we communicate these to the specific needs of the end-client. The innovation is a mix of algorithm capability with a good understanding of the regulatory constraints and educational requirements so that we create an innovative user experience. 

Another area where we try to be as innovative as possible is in the data dimension. We have built a data lake recently and are looking at how to combine the social data we have to reach new insight on behaviours. We are processing data that comes from the usual internal suspects—such as finance, product data, client—combined with external data such as social media and from unstructured social data. The aim is to start to build some form of predictive aspect in how we present products to different client segments. 

These types of data initiatives are a source of inspiration in the business. They’re a way to build new use cases for audiences, such as teams in product, in sales, and also investment.

We’re also looking into new sources of unstructured data for our investment processes, so not only relying on the usual financial data, income statement data, or price data—but combining that with an extra layer of data coming from elsewhere. 

CMO.com: Where does mobile fit into digital transformation for you?
Everything we do digitally is increasingly consumed on mobile so we have to adapt our content. We have to be able to build tools or apps that are multi-device by definition and, therefore, mix tablets, smartphones, and desktop. 

Our starting point for design is more and more often the smartphone, and then the second step is how to adapt this to desktop. We’re launching an app in France, for example, for use by end-clients. It’s all about teaching about investing in the financial markets. At the same time, we want it to be an enjoyable experience, so we’re doing this through community gaming. We’re helping our clients to build their own portfolio—not necessarily for investing—and to compete with others through leagues and so on. It’s getting a lot of traction and is something that started on mobile. 

CMO.com: The work you’ve done requires a big cultural change internally, what have been the challenges?
It’s been a significant change to put in practice, and one of the reasons we’ve brought together the dimensions under my remit. When it comes to digitalisation, we need to have a spectrum of profiles that are sometimes at odds with each other. On the one hand, we need marketers who are more and more digital marketers—that’s an evolution for sure.

At the same time, we are bringing in a new type of profiles. We’re recruiting data scientists, for example, to crunch the large amount of data that comes from the changes we’ve made.

And we have recruited a significant number of employees who we call “IT agile digital developers” so we can be fast and agile. We’re now onboarding these new recruits and putting a lot of effort into making sure they don’t feel the heaviness of a large organisation or see it as an environment where they can’t innovate. 

One of the cultural changes we, therefore, have to manage is to create an internal startup mindset combined with the legacy of the team profile we have in the company. That’s a distinct spirit we’re trying to develop. 

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