Interview with Benoit Legrand
Head of FinTech
How is ING bank facing the phenomenon of FinTechs? Do you see them as competitors or as partners?
It’s a very game-changing thing. As a matter of fact, we somehow consider ourselves as being a 20-year- old Fintech; we were also disruptive ourselves, so as it is a culture change, I think we know how this culture is moving. And today we look at them more as partners, as working with them just to open up our minds and get things done, which could be done faster and better because those solutions already exist there, so we really look at them as partners.
And how concretely are you applying the new FinTech tools and ideas?
So, we have different ways of doing it: one of them is that we have incubators like the ING FinTech Village in Belgium or the Innovation Studio in the Netherlands, where we have those companies with us for couple of months to try to put their solution into our services. So including them and helping them to grow is one way, or we have partnerships with companies as we would have normal partnerships with suppliers , but we also take stakes in companies like we do with Kabbage in the United States for instant lending, but always with the idea of bringing this customer experience to our customers, so the idea is not as such to partner with
FinTechs, but the aim is to empower our customers to get a step ahead in life and in business. So how can we use this technology – this customer experience – to be closer to customers and deliver value to them? Eventually, this is about delivering value to the customers.
And is it easy or challenging to cooperate with such new instances in banking?
It’s a big challenge. Let’s be frank and honest, it’s a big challenge because two opposite cultures need to work together – different interests, big companies with heavily regulated processes and then people with smart ideas and technologies, a lot of agility and not always the same objectives – so it’s a huge challenge; it’s a cultural challenge, but the difference is made by people eventually, whether we effectively and genuinely want to work together and we are transparent and honest in telling each other what is going right what is going wrong and also accepting that mistakes will be made.
It’s really an example of partnering, and there is nothing new in the world of partnering, it’s now happening with FinTechs, we have partnered with many people many times in many different businesses; the idea has not changed – being a partner takes a lot of effort, being authentic and genuine and a lot of good results at the end as well.
That’s certainly a big challenge. The whole banking industry is built on trust, so nowadays things are going fine, but you may well come to a point where FinTechs might have some problems. And we have seen this in different parts of the world; it’s a normal thing. I think I expect more regulations to protect consumers. But building trust is absolutely essential.