A sustainable multi-generational approach to banking

With emerging technologies rapidly changing many different industries, BNL BNP Paribas remains committed to its approach, which focuses on promoting growth, sustainability and technology while leading a competent new era of bankers

Credit: Ozan Tabakoğlu 

After the Covid-19 pandemic health emergency, the global balance has been deeply marked by the outbreak of conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East and rising tensions between China and Taiwan. All this has made the overall scenario more precarious, opening a period of geopolitical instability and uncertainty. It has been referred to – several times – as a ‘polycrisis.’

Today, in order to survive global competition, radical change programmes must be implemented by adopting strategies that ensure, on the one hand, effective economies of scale to increase productivity and improve the economic performance and, on the other, a real positive impact on communities while at the same time fostering a structured energy transition.

We are experiencing a phase where significant phenomena influence our sector. In a similar scenario, knowing how to adapt quickly to change and to understand the new needs rapidly and effectively is fundamental in order to offer ‘added value’ to the customer. Here is an example (but we could make many others). We think of the accelerative effect that artificial intelligence has had and how it will continue to shake up many fields across the most varied sectors, obviously including the financial industry. This means changing production and distribution processes. This means disrupting business models that have worked so far but which risk becoming inefficient if they do not exploit new technologies, processing in real time huge amounts of data to generate useful insights to customise client needs, working deeply on people’s reskilling. It is certainly a complex scenario but at the same time intellectually very stimulating.

Within BNP Paribas, the ‘technology’ component is one of the three pillars of our business plan, together with ‘growth’ and ‘sustainability.’
And with reference to artificial intelligence, today we already have in use more than 700 use cases for applying artificial intelligence in the BNP Paribas group in various departments of the company. The main challenges in our industry are: mindset, people, skills and technology. We firmly believe that to make the difference it is necessary to invest in the continuous training and excellence of our bankers and our team of specialists. In addition to this training activity certified by the best Italian and foreign universities, it is necessary to invest in generational turnover through the inclusion of young collaborators alongside expert colleagues with greater skills.

At least four different generations of professionals operate in the private banking and wealth management industry

This allows new expertise and new skills to proliferate throughout the company, which is indispensable for easier conversations with the new generations (new generations that will also be our new customers in the very near future). The ability to observe and understand the evolving contexts within our industry is a necessary requirement to effectively manage the assets of our customers, especially in a complex and dynamic world that changes rapidly. The role of our bankers on the territory is crucial.

The bankers of BNL BNP Paribas Private Banking & Wealth Management need not only a deep understanding of the financial markets, but specific expertise on our entire range of investment services and solutions. They require above all a strong ability to listen to the needs, requirements and objectives of our customers so that they can develop a real strategic plan that integrates all the components, even the very complex, of the medium and long-term prospects of the company and of the family. This is an activity that requires skills and teamwork and this is why several specialists in various fields and geographies (including credit, real estate, wealth planning, legal and tax advice, asset management, real estate advisory, investment banking and trustee services advice) support our bankers.

We also worked to create specific meetings dedicated to understanding evolving contexts, to interpreting the main elements of changing geopolitical scenarios, to reading emerging trends and characteristics.

It is a series of meetings and debates on the territory that includes, in addition to the presence of our bankers and our clients, the participation of experts in the sector, university teachers and entrepreneurs. Their points of view and their experiences allow us to bring to the debate an effective reading of the main challenges brought about by the new context.

The distinctive elements of our model
More generally, the speed with which new behavioural and social dynamics take root, especially following the pandemic, and the rapid development of new technologies, especially those related to artificial intelligence, require an acceleration in the process of adapting the banking sector.

At BNL BNP Paribas, programmes to ensure this acceleration are structured as part of our Growth Technology Sustainability (GTS) business plan and have already made it possible to take important steps to transform the company, making it leaner, enabling faster decision-making capabilities, and allowing it to stay in step with the times. This activity certainly touches the entire area of technological infrastructure development, allowing for the digitisation of most products and services in order to simplify the customer journey of our clients. It also affects other aspects that aren’t just related to technology.

For example, we recently launched an important ‘social plan’ dedicated to generational turnover, targeting roughly 900 voluntary redundancies with incentives for over 750 hires. This plan therefore provides for a turnover rate in line with others in our industry, with roughly 85 percent of colleagues leaving us being replaced (for the network, the replacement rate will be 100 percent) and enriching the company with new skills and expertise needed to meet the new industry challenges.

The generational transition also concerns the professionals of Private Banking and Wealth Management and is one of the strategic pillars of our department, representing an important factor in our growth plan in Italy. Over the next 10 years this will become a major challenge in the country, since almost one out of every three bankers is over 50. Now, at least four different generations of professionals operate in the Private Banking and Wealth Management industry: from baby boomers to GenZ, through GenX and Millennials.

Our strength, the international reach and leadership position of BNP Paribas in Wealth Management in Europe are excellent drivers to attract the best professionals who work in this field and want to invest in the growth of their skills.

Nurturing talent
Moreover, to be recognised as a point of reference and a place at which to achieve career goals, it is necessary to continue dedicating great energy to create a stimulating and attractive working environment, able to offer a structured career path that guarantees respect for diversity and inclusion, where the work/life balance is a constituent element of a sense of belonging and pride, together with the values of our brand.

The main challenges in our industry are: mindset, people, skills and technology

If I had to summarise the essential elements that distinguish our team, I would certainly say the ability to listen to the needs of our customers, the specialisation of our bankers to build ‘tailor-made solutions’ able to handle even very complex needs, and a clear and shared vision on our development plan in private banking and wealth management in Italy. We surround ourselves with professionals who, coupled with ambition and entrepreneurship, have intellectual curiosity, are able to navigate new ideas and concepts in their field and who are open to new technologies.

The new generation of bankers must have a strong sensitivity to impact investing and sustainability-orientated investment solutions. We believe that our customers have the extraordinary power to have a positive impact on our planet and on communities and our ambition is to support them in their projects to make this happen.

We are part of an international group that provides an integrated and structured platform of transversal and vertical expertise. Globally, BNP Paribas’ Wealth Management combines excellence in wealth management with more than 6,700 professionals and €430bn of assets under management (data as of March 31, 2024).

Our ‘One Bank’ model provides our customers with cutting-edge solutions allowing the wealth management and corporate & investment banking teams to work synergistically to bring ‘the entire bank to the customer’ in a single moment. This mindset to work in a transversal and integrated way is part of the DNA of our group and is based on trust, collaboration and the sharing of knowhow and skills. The ultimate goal remains to bring our customers high value-added proposals, supporting them in all phases of the life cycle and ensuring a very deep level of customisation of financial solutions (including co-investment activities with us on exclusive deals).

The new generation of bankers must be able to move in this ecosystem using expertise, leadership and kindness.