Banking Beyond: Damian Ragan on Credit Agricole’s Distinctive Approach in Poland’s Financial Landscape
One of the business decisions that I'm particularly proud of is the development and implementation of our mobile application. I take great pride in it, especially knowing that this is just the beginning. The application holds immense potential, and I'm passionate about the plans we have to further enhance and offer valuable features to our customers.
Credit Agricole Bank Polska
Vice President of Management Board
In a world where banking growth often teeters, Damian Ragan, Vice President of Credit Agricole Bank Polska, reveals the strategy behind their impressive 13-14% annual ascent in Poland. As competitors play catch-up, Ragan's blueprint for organic development is reshaping the landscape. Dive in to uncover how one of Poland's banking giants is setting new benchmarks and redefining success.
What are the plans for Credit Agricole Bank Polska for the next 3 to 5 years?
Our plans for the next 3 to 5 years aim to continue developing organically at a similar pace to the current growth rate, which is around 13-14% year-on-year. This growth is considered dynamic, especially when compared to market benchmarks.
As part of the larger Crédit Agricole Group in Poland, we are going to focus on organic development as a universal bank to provide a comprehensive range of offerings to various customer segments. These segments include individual customers, Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) clients, international corporations, and the EFL Group, which offers asset finance services such as leasing, rentals, factoring, investment fund management (Amundi), and two insurance companies providing property and life insurance (Crédit Agricole Ubezpieczenia).
While organic growth is their primary development vector, we also adopts an approach towards potential opportunities in the Polish market. They remain open to accelerating their growth through acquisitions if suitable opportunities arise.
How does Credit Agricole Bank Polska differentiate itself in a saturated market?
We differentiate ourselves through our unique positioning, individualization, and a focus on delivering value and pleasant surprises to our customers. While the general opinion of banks in Poland is positive, we strive to find a niche and distinguish ourselves from the rest of the sector.
Our unique positioning based offering tailored products and services based on our customers’ individual needs. We aim to provide relevant solutions that address real customer needs, adapting our offerings to match those requirements. Additionally, we strive to create processes and experiences that deliver better impressions and pleasant surprises, not only during critical moments but also in everyday banking interactions.
To achieve this, we have developed various channels and content that revolve around the concept of being a “bank full of benefits.” We have built our channels and content around this idea to ensure that our customers receive useful, interesting, and necessary information aligned with their daily lives. For example, we have implemented a mobile application that offers benefits and coupons tailored to the user’s profile, leveraging customer activity data to provide personalized experiences.
At Credit Agricole Bank Polska, we recognize the importance of going beyond traditional banking services and aim to cover a wide range of customer needs, from consumer-focused to more life-related requirements. We have integrated benefits such as insurance coverage for homes, discounts, coupons, in the future tickets, parking fees and more within our offering to meet these diverse needs. By incorporating these additional services, we strive to provide a comprehensive and value-added experience to our customers.
This approach has contributed to our strong position as the second-largest bank in Poland, as indicated by external strategic research and the Custom Recommendation Index (CRI), which measures customer satisfaction and recommendation levels.
What are some unique challenges that Credit Agricole Bank Polska has faced in recent years, and how did you overpass them?
One of the unique challenges that Credit Agricole Bank Polska has faced in recent years is the fact that it is a relatively small bank in Poland, despite being a representative of the 10th largest global banking group. The challenge was to gain momentum and grow at an appropriate pace, aiming to catch up with the market and build scale. By doing so, we aimed to become more resilient to external shocks and disruptions while improving stability and investment capabilities.
To overcome this challenge, we implemented a program for accelerated bank development, leveraging the support of the Crédit Agricole Group. We successfully accelerated its the growth rate, achieving a significant increase in active net customer accounts. The growth of 13-14% of active customers with accounts year-over-year, reflecting substantial changes.
Investments were made in enhancing brand recognition, which is evident through increased communication activities across various channels. Significant efforts were also directed towards digital transformation, improving digital platforms, and enhancing remote banking channels. This included the development and launch of a new mobile application that offers a range of benefits to customers, reflecting the bank’s focus on providing a value-added experience.
The proactive approach, investments, and the successful implementation of the accelerated bank development program have allowed us to address the challenge of assets size and achieve significant growth. This progress is visible in the bank’s performance and the positive trend of expanding our customer base.
Can you discuss a business decision made in recent years that you’re particularly proud of, and why?
One of the business decisions that I’m particularly proud of is the development and implementation of our mobile application. I take great pride in it, especially knowing that this is just the beginning. The application holds immense potential, and I’m passionate about the plans we have to further enhance and offer valuable features to our customers.
However, there is another significant business decision that I am proud of, and it goes beyond just our sector. It is the decision to adopt agile methodologies step by step throughout our organization. We have indeed implemented these methodologies for the majority of our development projects, and now we aim to accelerate this process and introduce it as a standard working model across most of our organization.
We are not limited to IT-related areas but are extending the adoption of agile methodologies to other domains such as marketing, communication, and management. This expansion allows us to align different areas of our organization and work together more efficiently. While it is a challenging task to transform the entire organization to operate under an agile framework, we are dedicated to making significant progress in this direction.
By embracing agile methodologies on a broader scale and striving for the transition to an organization operating based on agile principles, we aim to enhance collaboration, streamline processes, and drive innovation. This decision is significant as it represents our commitment to continuous improvement and adaptability in an ever-changing business landscape.
Overall, both the development of our mobile application and the adoption of agile methodologies across our organization are business decisions that I am proud of. They reflect our dedication to embracing technology, improving customer experiences, and fostering a culture of agility and innovation.
Please note that the provided answer is based on the information available up until September 2021, and there may have been updates or changes to Credit Agricole Bank Polska strategies and initiatives since then.
How is Credit Agricole Bank Polska addressing the need for more personalized banking solutions?
We are actively addressing the need for more personalized banking solutions by leveraging data and investing in advanced tools and technologies. Our first step involves improving the efficiency and flexibility of our data management platform. We are enhancing our CRM system and investing in new tools that elevate the entire ecosystem of customer relationship management to a higher level.
Our goal is to enable effective profiling that can deliver relevant and tailored content to our customers in a timely manner. For example, we have implemented a feature called “Rzeka Korzyści” (River of Benefits) in our mobile application, which provides personalized coupons and benefits in various sectors such as gastronomy, retail, and services from our Benefit Club and our special offer . We aim to make this river of benefits unique for each customer, based on their profile and analyzed behaviors, ensuring that the offers are genuinely aligned with their individual needs.
Furthermore, we recognize that our customers have different channel preferences. We segment our customer base and take into account whether they have a strong preference for digital channels, branch-based interactions, or a combination of both. Approximately 40% of our customers have a strong digital preference, around 25% prefer branch interactions, and the rest have a mix of preferences.
To cater to these preferences, we are expanding our remote advisory capabilities. This means that even if our customers prefer interacting with people and want to discuss their decisions, they can do so remotely. By offering remote meetings with our advisors, we provide our customers with the experience of a regular in-person meeting without geographical limitations.
The combination of personalized offerings, tailored content, and a focus on preferred channels demonstrates our commitment to providing more personalized banking solutions. By leveraging data, enhancing our CRM system, and investing in digital capabilities, we aim to deliver a customized banking experience that meets the diverse needs and preferences of our customers.
What steps is Credit Agricole Bank Polska taking to strengthen its risk management framework?
In recent years, we have taken several steps to strengthen our risk management framework. One important aspect is acknowledging our history as a bank and learning from past experiences. For example, in the Consumer Finance sector, we encountered higher margins and a slightly higher level of risk. However, we have consistently worked towards improving our risk indicators. Our non-performing loans (NPL) ratio has been below market standards, both for consumer loans and for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and corporate clients.
We believe in responsible lending practices and closely monitor genetic risk indicators, such as NPLs, in every segment of our business. We aim to maintain a balanced approach, considering factors like increasing minimum necessary income for households to function effectively.
External events such as the pandemic and inflation have presented unique challenges. The pandemic brought significant shocks, but thanks to various protective measures, liquidity in the market remained stable. However, inflation and its impact on purchasing power require careful consideration. While wages have been increasing, they are still catching up to inflation, resulting in a complex landscape that requires continuous monitoring and adaptation.
During times of crisis, we strive to be a supportive partner to our clients. We work closely with them to find solutions tailored to their specific needs. For instance, we offer options such as payment holidays and loan restructuring to help clients navigate challenging periods and return to their normal schedules.
We recognize the dynamic nature of the market and the need for constant vigilance. We closely observe market trends and remain committed to being a reliable partner for our clients, providing solutions and support during both favorable and challenging times.
How does Credit Agricole Bank Polska ensure compliance with ever-changing financial regulations globally?
Ensuring compliance with ever-changing financial regulations globally is a top priority for us. We understand the importance of staying up-to-date and adhering to regulatory requirements. Compliance and regulations are mandatory aspects, leaving no room for negotiation. As part of our commitment to compliance, we not only comply with Polish regulations but also adhere to regulations set by our group.
During times of crisis, we are proactive in implementing solutions that address the needs and challenges faced by our clients. For instance, we actively participated in the COVID-related support programs, such as the “Tarcza COVID” initiatives, on equal footing with other banking partners. We also launched the possibility of applying for “500+” benefitfor families and caregivers, catering to the needs of both Polish and Ukrainian clients. The application form is available in both languages, ensuring seamless access for our clients. Additionally, we have introduced new solutions related to benefits, such as the “Dobry start” program.
In the realm of support for small businesses, we actively engage in programs offered by institutions like BGK (Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego), providing support in the form of de minimis guarantees and credit repayment guarantees. We also collaborate with the Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture, offering preferential loans. We assess each program’s benefits for our clients and engage where we see value.
Overall, our commitment to compliance and our active participation in programs and initiatives demonstrate our dedication to supporting our clients, both in the retail and small business sectors. We strive to stay informed, adapt to regulatory changes, and provide the necessary assistance and solutions to meet the evolving needs of our clients.
How is Credit Agricole Bank Polska approaching digital banking and what changes can customers expect to see in the future?
We have developed a comprehensive approach to digital banking by aligning our strategies with the evolving preferences and interests of our customers. We actively engaged with our clients to define the missions of each channel. For example, our mobile banking channel serves as the primary interaction point, encompassing various transactions, checking account balances, accessing transaction history, utilizing personal financial management tools. We are working now on additional services such as ticketing and parking benefits.
In contrast, our branch channel has a redefined long-term mission that goes beyond acquiring new customers and sales. It focuses on educating customers about online banking, cybersecurity, and promoting our vision of being a “100% Human, 100% Digital” bank. We aim to provide empathetic advisors supported by robust technology. Our goal is not to replace human interactions with technology but to leverage technology where it brings value to our customers. For instance, more than 30% of customer interactions are handled by bots, whether voice or chatbots. These interactions primarily address simple queries such as account unlocking, verifying information, or gathering basic loan-related details. This automated service ensures convenience and availability, as customers can access it 24/7.
However, we recognize that certain decisions may still require consultation and expert advice. That’s why we maintain a human touch and provide access to knowledgeable professionals when customers need personalized guidance. We believe that the decision-making process, although facilitated by user-friendly technology, can still be complex, and individuals may require assistance in considering all relevant factors.
Our strategy combines the ease of technology with the importance of human interaction, emphasizing our commitment to delivering exceptional banking experiences. We aim to strike a balance between efficient processes and personalized support, ensuring that our customers have the necessary resources and expertise to make informed decisions about their financial matters.
Any plans regarding open banking and fintech partnerships?
We are excited about the continuous development of our digital banking capabilities. In addition to the features currently available in our application, we are planning to introduce additional services and non-banking attractions. These offerings are being developed in collaboration with partners in Poland to enrich our existing portfolio. These services may include parking fees, transportation tickets, and highway access.
Our focus has been on enhancing the user experience and navigation within our mobile banking channel. As a first step, we prioritized live assistance and navigation features. Moving forward, we aim to equip our application with functionalities such as personal financial management tools. These tools will help customers observe their spending patterns and optimize their financial behaviors, including loan customization based on individual preferences.
We have a longstanding partnership with Hard, a biometric identification technology provider. Thanks to their expertise, we have been able to introduce secure and convenient remote account opening processes, with over 60% of small business accounts being opened remotely using biometric authentication.
Overall, our approach to digital banking involves strategic partnerships and leveraging cutting-edge technologies to enhance the banking experience for our customers. Through these initiatives, we aim to provide a comprehensive suite of digital solutions that meet the evolving needs of our customers and empower them in their financial journeys.
What are your thoughts on the role of application usability, particularly in the context of the CA24 Mobile app, in enhancing customer engagement and satisfaction?
We believe that application usability plays a crucial role in enhancing customer engagement and satisfaction. If the design and navigation are not user-friendly and do not deliver a good experience, even the most advanced functionalities will not be fully appreciated. Therefore, we prioritize ease of use and usability as key elements in the development of our CA24 Mobile app.
To ensure a positive user experience, we have established a triad approach: design, navigation, and functionality. Design and navigation are the initial focus, followed by the implementation of relevant functionalities. This approach allows us to deliver a seamless and intuitive mobile banking experience to our customers.
We recognize that different customer segments have unique needs and preferences. As a result, we offer customization options within the app. For example, customers have the flexibility to personalize their dashboard layout according to their preferences. Additionally, we provide features like “BLIKlik” that allow customers to access essential services without even logging into their accounts, ensuring convenience and efficiency.
In terms of accessibility, we have implemented various modes such as a driving mode, dark mode, and high-contrast mode for visually impaired users. We have also incorporated screen reading software to enable comfortable usage for individuals with visual impairments. We value inclusivity and aim to make our app accessible to a wide range of users.
Moreover, we have integrated a feature called “Korzyści” (Benefits) into our application. It offers a range of coupons and discounts in various sectors, personalized to each customer’s profile. This engagement-driven feature has been well-received by our customers, as evidenced by the significant number of active users and daily logins.
To continually enhance usability, we closely monitor emerging trends in the industry. We recognize the importance of leveraging big data and effective data management practices. This includes collecting, archiving, and utilizing data to provide valuable frontend services such as alerts and personalized offerings. Additionally, we explore the utilization of cloud technology to improve scalability and cost efficiency, as demonstrated by our sister bank in Ukraine.
Overall, our approach to application usability focuses on providing a seamless and engaging experience for our customers. We strive to deliver a user-friendly interface, intuitive navigation, and personalized features to meet their evolving needs and enhance their overall satisfaction.
What are the most significant emerging trends in the banking sector that Credit Agricole Bank Polska is keeping an eye on?
I believe there are several significant emerging trends that Credit Agricole Bank Polska is keeping a close eye on.
Comprehensive Digital Banking: One key trend is the growing customer expectation to have their entire banking experience available within a single application. Customers desire convenience and accessibility, seeking not only traditional banking services but also other useful functionalities beyond banking.
User-Friendly Interface: Simplicity and intuitiveness in application design and navigation are crucial factors for customer satisfaction. Banks are continuously evaluating their applications to identify opportunities for improvement, including adding new features and removing unnecessary elements to ensure an effortless user experience.
Real-time Data Platform: There is a technological and architectural challenge in building a robust data platform that can handle data processing and provide real-time access to customer information across all channels. This empowers customers to have instant access to their data and allows banks to effectively manage and utilize this data to provide personalized services.
Customer Profiling: Profiling customers and understanding their behavior is essential in building tailored offerings based on their real needs and preferences. By utilizing advanced analytics and artificial intelligence, banks can create customized solutions that resonate with customers and enhance their overall banking experience.
Aging Society: As the Polish population continues to age, banks are closely examining the changing expectations and needs of older customers. Understanding the evolving demands of this demographic is crucial in designing relevant services and content within banking applications. It’s important to consider how aging customers interact with technology and adapt offerings accordingly.
Healthcare and Well-being Services: With an aging population, there is an increasing market for healthcare-related services. Banks are likely to explore opportunities to provide health-related services or act as an assistant, offering support and guidance to customers in managing their well-being. This trend presents potential partnerships and collaborations between banks and healthcare providers.
These emerging trends are continually evolving, and Credit Agricole Bank Polska is committed to staying at the forefront of innovation. By closely monitoring these developments and actively responding to customer expectations, Credit Agricole Bank Polska aims to provide a seamless and personalized banking experience for its customers.
How is Credit Agricole Bank Polska adapting its business model to accommodate the shift towards sustainable and ethical banking?
Credit Agricole Bank Polska is committed to adapting its business model to align with the shift towards sustainable and ethical banking. We recognize the increasing regulations, expectations, and challenges related to sustainability, and we aim to be at the forefront of this transformation.
To achieve our sustainability goals, we work across various areas within the company. This includes reducing our own emissions and energy consumption (Scope 1 and 2 emissions), as well as assessing the emissions generated by the projects we finance (Scope 3 emissions). We are actively developing concrete solutions to support emission reduction efforts.
For instance, we have launched an energy transition advisory service for our customers. This service goes beyond providing financial support, offering specific guidance and expertise. Our advisors visit businesses, farms, or individual customers to assess their specific situation and propose tailored solutions. This may involve offering cheaper loans, longer repayment periods, or providing advice on energy transformation strategies. Our goal is to not only provide financial assistance but also contribute to the actual implementation of sustainable projects.
Furthermore, we are exploring ways to integrate sustainability education and awareness into our banking services. For example, we are considering the inclusion of a carbon footprint calculator or an educational module within our banking application. This would enable customers to track their carbon emissions and identify opportunities to reduce their environmental impact. We understand the complexity of categorizing transactions accurately, but we are actively seeking partnerships and innovative solutions to address this challenge.
Our approach to sustainable and ethical banking involves not only financial support but also providing guidance, educational resources, and customized solutions to our customers. We aim to empower individuals and businesses to make more sustainable choices and contribute to a greener future.