Orange Bank’s deputy chief executive officer talks to Joy Macknight about 5G’s potential impact on the banking industry, as well as the French mobile bank’s use of AI and cloud technology.

Delphine d'Amarzit

As the fifth generation of telecommunication systems, or 5G, begins to see large-scale deployment in Europe, Orange Bank is well placed to take advantage of the ultra-high bandwidth and low-latency connectivity in an Internet of Things environment.

As the mobile bank of French multinational telecommunications firm Orange, it will benefit from the telco’s willingness to be at the forefront of 5G, according to Delphine d’Amarzit, deputy chief executive officer of Orange Bank. For example, the bank will play a role in the telco’s connected home strategy, currently under development.

Career history: Delphine d’Amarzit  

  • 2016 Orange Bank, deputy chief executive officer
  • 2015 Canal+, group secretary
  • 2013 French Treasury, assistant secretary for financial services
  • 2009 French Treasury, assistant secretary for multilateral affairs and development
  • 2007 Advisor to the prime minister for economic and financial issues

“In addition, 5G reinforces our capacity to offer banking services wherever and whenever customers need them. It will allow us to exploit mass amounts of data in real time in an agile and connected way,” she says. “Banks will need to take advantage of that, or they will be disintermediated by those who can.”

Building on experience

Launched in November 2017, Orange Bank builds on the telco’s African mobile service, Orange Money, as well as its contactless payments product, Orange Cash, in France. Given the success of both approaches, Orange decided to launch a fully fledged banking operation with a specific model in France. “The first thing we wanted to do was to disrupt the banking experience by building directly for the mobile device and delivering an outstanding customer experience,” says Ms d’Amarzit.

At go live, the bank only had the mobile app; it had a web interface for onboarding but not for banking services. “We were quite bold to be entirely reliant on the app,” she says, “but customers can do almost everything on the app.”

Orange Bank is using artificial intelligence (AI) in its relationship model to serve clients in real time, 24/7. “When a customer asks a question, the first response will be from Djingo, our AI chatbot, which can give an immediate answer. If it can’t provide an answer or if the question is too complex, Djingo will connect them to an expert,” explains Ms d’Amarzit, reporting that Djingo now understands nearly 80% of the questions and deals entirely with almost 50% of queries.

Remote relationship

Orange Bank operates a 'phygital' – combining physical and digital – model. “We take advantage of Orange’s physical network and use the sales interaction opportunity to promote our banking services. We see our ‘shops’ as assets, unlike many traditional banks, which tend to see their branches as liabilities,” she says. "But they sell a purely digital product."

In more than 200 Orange shops approved for bank account onboarding in France, customers can interact, receive help in account opening or obtain advice. Additionally, the bank plans to offer in-shop financing later in 2019.

In less than 15 months, Orange Bank has grown its base to more than 250,000 customers. Interestingly, it is not focused on early adopters or digital natives solely, in contrast to many other neobanks. “We are appealing to ‘le grand public’, who may need help to move towards a more digital experience,” says Ms d’Amarzit.

Importantly, Orange Bank can leverage the telco’s data to improve the customer experience. “With the customer’s permission, Orange can provide us with a score that will enable us to provide some services much faster than possible without prior knowledge of the customer,” she says. “For example, we can give overdrafts to certain customers with very few or no additional questions. Those customers can have a quicker, better service with a new bank that knows them through telco data.”

Ops in the cloud

Orange Bank is building its Spanish operations on a cloud-based core banking platform, Mambu. The Spanish branch is currently under development, with plans to launch by the end of 2019. Its French operations remain on the core system it inherited from Groupama Banque; however, it is shifting its continuous integration, continuous delivery system onto the cloud and already uses several other cloud platforms, such as Salesforce.

“While we don’t have our whole ecosystem in the cloud, we will move towards the cloud in increments,” says Ms d’Amarzit. “We are keeping the French supervisor in the loop because it rightfully wants to have a look at that.”

Orange Bank's expansion plans are linked to the telco’s footprint. In addition to launching a Spanish branch, the bank will build on the experience of its sister operation, Orange Money Romania, and launch a consumer credit offer in the country. “The bankarisation rate in Romania is developing and therefore there is opportunity for further financial services penetration,” she says. The bank is also looking to expand its product range in Slovakia, Poland, Belgium and beyond in the coming years.

While Ms d’Amarzit is currently in charge of Orange Bank in France, from where it will tackle Europe, there are plans afoot to rationalise the way it manages financial services. In future, the bank will act as the hub for all the control and compliance operations, including Africa, and she is at the centre of planning what that will look like.


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