Société Générale CIO describes the bank’s digital strategy - Transactions & Technology -
SocGen_Claire Calmejane

Claire Calmejane, chief innovation officer of Société Générale, outlines how the French bank approaches digital transformation through a single platform to deliver a seamless digital experience.

This article is part of The Banker’s Special Report, Digital transformation across European banking groups, in association with Backbase.

Q: What is your digital transformation strategy?

A: Corporate and institutional client needs are constantly evolving. In addition to focus interviews and digital listening, we’re making strategic choices on what we want to serve digitally and supporting our senior bankers to spend time solving and advising clients on the complex needs caused by today’s environment, such as geopolitical uncertainty, economic and market volatility, and the fragmentation of the fiscal environment.

The key is in building a human-tech partnership. On the one hand, digital plays a central role in allowing the automation of transactional activities and integration into client systems; and, on the other, it helps our bankers to better advise clients. Across the group, we have about 80 live artificial intelligence use cases, with the support of our central wholesale business, specifically on capital markets and coverage.

We also keep an eye on the future with our internal start-up, Forge, which recently enabled Société Générale to perform the first worldwide central bank digital currency transaction. We are also leading participants in trade finance ecosystems such as We.trade and Komgo for trade commodity finance, which is based on distributed ledger technology.

We believe that the digital ecosystem will be the future of trade finance, as it will materially reduce the manual burden, processing time and errors, and improve risk management, that is credit risk and fraud, for all parties involved.

Q: How is the strategy being rolled out across your regional footprint?

A: SG Markets, our corporate and investment banking platform, is available to our clients across geographies. It is an open platform enabling the integration of services provided by our partners through a seamless integration to meet local market specificities. Our wholesale digital office is working with the business units to ensure a smooth adoption.

Q: Are you trying to create a seamless and uniform digital experience across multiple countries?

A: This is central to our strategy and we believe is a must for the whole industry to meet rapidly evolving client needs and expectations. We recently set up a structure cutting across our business lines in order to deliver a seamless digital experience for our large corporate clients across business lines and countries, under the sponsorship of the head of wholesale and retail clients.

We will deliver a single streamlined digital know-your-customer [KYC] client journey, a 360-degree view of all their services with the bank, a single digital access to all their services, and the integration of product offerings through digital, such as payments and foreign exchange.

Q: Are there specific challenges to this approach?

A: From a regulatory perspective, differences exist in requirements across markets, such as KYC documentation and verifications. This requires processes to be adapted to meet each market’s conditions.

One of the biggest challenges for many incumbent corporate and investment banks is the legacy technical infrastructure and architecture. Legacy systems need to be progressively replaced or adapted to enable the integration required to deliver our vision of a seamless and simple client experience across products and borders, and enriched client services. One example of this is the ability to access all banking services digitally through a single platform.

Q: How are you addressing these challenges?

A: Transforming our technical architecture is a constant focus. Our vision is to provide a common client interface, SG Markets, on top of a combination of old and new systems, as well as group-wide and locally-specific systems. This will allow us to deliver a rich and seamless client experience, as well as meet local requirements in terms of regulation and banking services.

A core focus for the group is the use of data and the underlying data architecture. We are putting extensive effort into creating data lakes that will allow us to better serve our clients and give them best-in-class digital access to their banking services.

Q: What would be the ideal solution?

The ideal solution is one that will allow clients to expend the minimum effort on their banking needs and to focus on delivering value to their own clients and building a more durable and better world. It will give clients the choice of access to banking services through the web, mobile or through direct integration into our systems through application programming interfaces or market protocols.

Transactional services, such as payments and simple investments, will become almost invisible, and the focus of client interactions will be on providing high-quality advice on complex needs, such as through digital self-care or by enhancing our frontline with digital tools, and thereby adding value to their business.

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