Banks need to innovate to stay ahead of customer needs or risk losing them: ING’s Benoit Legrand

Banks now increasingly need to innovate to remain at least one step ahead of what customers need or risk losing them, said ING’s chief innovation officer Benoit Legrand.
Business Insider/Sujin Thomas

The days when financial institutions decide internally what’s good for their customers when choosing new products to roll out are definitely over.

Instead, banks now increasingly need to innovate to remain at least one step ahead of what customers need or risk losing them, said ING’s chief innovation officer Benoit Legrand.

“What we used to do in the past is, we used to think about it by ourselves and then say this is going to be good for the customer because anyway he’s got not choice and he is not moving (banks),” he told Business Insider on the sidelines of the Money20/20 Asia event held recently.

“Customers now have more power to change. This doesn’t happen overnight. It may take 10 to 20 years for people to move but if you do not wake up today or (didn’t) a couple of years ago, then you might have a difficult wake-up call five years from now and go ‘where are my customers?’.”

Legrand, who is also CEO of ING Ventures leads the charge when it comes to innovation and working with fintechs to keep the Dutch banking giant, which has some 37 million customers, among the top in consumer banking satisfaction worldwide.

ING Ventures, a 300 million Euro fund launched last October is aimed at investing in fintech companies – and is an area which Legrand personally specialises in.

Today, ING has 140 live fintech partnerships after stopping 40 which didn’t work out.

He said: “At the beginning of the partnerships, we want to make sure we know what we’re looking for and they (fintechs) know what to look for. Sometimes the companies don’t deliver and sometimes the technology they’re selling is more effective on paper than in reality.”

There have also been instances in which fintechs were dropped because ING’s own teams developed systems in a better way. Ultimately, it isn’t a numbers game, he said.

“It’s a dynamic way in which we shouldn’t be stuck in those numbers. For me, it’s key to deploy culture because behind every bit of digitalisation is a human being,” said Legrand.

In Asia, ING has invested in Hong Kong-based fintech WeLab, which provides consumer loans in mainland China and Hong Kong in a fully automated process that takes minutes from application to approval.

“If you’re a fintech, speed for you is absolutely key. There are 100s of them running the same fight so you’ll need to go faster than your neighbouring fintechs. If we can help them implement things, validate things, get it to the customer and scale it faster, then this is of immense value to them. ,” he said.

“I think my life was easier three or four years ago when the word ‘fintech’ was not as well known as it is now. We’re just overloaded by requests internally and externally.”