Bank of the West: Enhancing global solutions with local relationships

Jean-Marc Torre explains Bank of the West's strategy for developing strategic partnerships with its commercial customers

December 15, 2017

International business brings international complications. That complexity brings uncertainty, disruption, and events we can’t control. Jean-Marc Torre, senior executive vice president and commercial banking group head for Bank of the West, explains how the bank works with customers to ease those complications. Offering a global network through BNP Paribas, Bank of the West also works to develop local relationships – and to this end has established a number of new commercial banking centres in key commercial locations of the US, to offer closer, more customised support to new geographies and industries.

Jean-Marc Torre: Why business is so complicated? I think in the business environment, everyone understands that we live in a complex world where there’s a lot of uncertainty, possible disruption, and events we can’t control.

It has been the case before, but I think it’s never been that much, and with that frequency, as it is today.

We are now in an environment where more things happen that we cannot predict than before. So in the business community, how we can deal with it is by collaborating, discussing, and looking at all the facets of it.

We have to be ready to deal with what we cannot predict, so how to deal with it is to have flexible solutions: being clear on what you want to achieve, but being flexible in how you do it.

World Finance: How are you collaborating with your partners to help them identify opportunities for growth?

Jean-Marc Torre: The business community, working particularly internationally, have developed different models. But one key is to have strategic and trusted partners. Selecting the right ones, and having the right level of dialogue, is I think critical.

When you talk about growth, particularly internationally, one essential aspect to make the difference between global and local is having global solutions but being also able to leverage the local possibility and solutions you have.

One example is cash pooling: people talk about this as a global capability that companies internationally need. You can see cash pooling as a way to centralise treasury. Then you have control globally. But this is not a substitute, to multi-currency liquidity management. This is where you design that you may want to keep dollars in the US, because interest rates are better than in Europe.

Again, you have to go into understanding what you want, and go beyond the solution to achieve your strategy. This is possible only because you have a strategic relationship with a bank that has got not only the capabilities, but also the ability to balance the local and the global.

World Finance: Innovation is also incredibly important; how do you work with clients to help them identify ways to innovate, and gain a competitive advantage?

Jean-Marc Torre: To become a competitive advantage, I think it’s a question of more developing a culture of innovation, rather than finding the innovation that will change the world or your business immediately.

The question is, not to be innovative for the sake of being innovative. I’ll give you the example of real-time payments: it’s a great advance, and who doesn’t want it? But at the same time you need to be thoughtful of, do you need that for everything, and do you have the level of control of the processes that allow you to take the maximum benefit out of it?

It’s a combination of having the products; but you must also have the dialogue, or be open to the discussion, to see what is best for you, and what are the consequences to make best use of them?

World Finance: You’ve established a number of new commercial banking centres to help grow Bank of the West into some new markets; tell me more.

Jean-Marc Torre: We again want to build relationships. So if we develop product capabilities or new geographies, it’s because there’s a need in our customer base, and we see that we can bring new services or new support to help our customers grow. Because this is how we’re successful: only if our customers are.

It’s all about how we can be a global and local effective partner. If I take the example of Cleveland, our latest office, we have important international customers that had a local office there. The company globally had great ideas about how to optimise their treasury and their various products. So the local management of our customer and the local manager of Bank of the West there developed a relationship and understood that there were interesting and local solutions that could improve the structure they had.

And I think this exemplifies how important being nimble, being local, and building relationships at all levels between the bank and international companies makes it work.

World Finance: Jean-Marc, thank you very much.

Jean-Marc Torre: Thank you.