Case Study: BNP Paribas Fortis gaining agility with the right people on board
Over the past few years, BNP Paribas Fortis, the largest bank in Belgium, has transformed into an agile organization, boosting internal cooperation and the speed of delivery of new products and services. This transition also led to the transition of the Concept and UX team into a fully-integrated competence center. Yet intense collaboration, complementarity of skills, long term vision and the complexity of products and services do require the best suitable people. With a hands-on approach and a team of consultants on board in the Concept & UX team, the digital consultancy and recruitment company Ariad plays its part in finding the right people for the job and helping the team bring the best possible user experience to the customer.
BNP Paribas Fortis is the largest bank in Belgium, with different divisions providing a tailored product and service portfolio to many types of non-professional and professional clients, from individuals and private banking customers over SMEs to large corporates, local government entities etc. Over 8,500 staff members serve no less than 3.6 million customers through a hybrid approach in which both the bank’s large branch network and digital channels play vital roles.
Responsible for the user experience for these channels is the Concept and UX team. These channels involve the multiple mobile applications, transactional web applications and the public website of the BNP Paribas Fortis, Fintro and Hello Bank! brands. The 32 UX and UI designers, UX researchers and copywriters, concept designers and prototypers work closely together to guarantee a quality user experience and make sure the different customer journeys are consistent as well as compliant with branding guidelines. Over the past years the team was built with internal employees and external consultants, some of which were introduced to BNP Paribas Fortis by Ariad, specialised in temporary and permanent staffing of digital professionals.
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Transition into an agile company
In terms of internal cooperation, the banking group has taken giant leaps forward in recent years. Largely by virtue of a huge and unique reorganization the company allowed its people to adopt a more agile way of working. “In the past our UX team was more isolated. For example the connection between our team members and developers or IT architects to discuss what was technically feasible, was often lacking. This hampered getting ideas from the drawing table to a live environment. Now IT and business are integrated and the focus on delivery has increased, as well as the involvement and collaboration between different roles,” says Sandra Tielemans, Head of Concept & UX Design at BNP Paribas Fortis.
Agile ceremonies such as daily stand-ups and feature reviews now motivate the UX team members to work closely together in their squads and connect with IT architects, digital analysts, developers etc. “As such, the team has evolved from an internal customer experience center on demand, towards a fully-integrated competence center fixed on collaboration. “Intense cooperation is the key to understanding each other's challenges and boundaries. The better you know each other, the easier it becomes to work together and the faster you can deliver,” says Thijs Degheldere, who is team lead Concept & UX daily banking and New Easy Banking app and a consultant of Ariad.
My investment in terms of onboarding is enormous... Being selective increases my chances of finding the right people whom I can keep on board as long as possible.
“The agile transformation also has flattened the company structure,” adds Sandra Tielemans. “We now pitch concepts and designs to our tribe lead who directly takes it up to the CEO. While in the past briefings would trickle down the hierarchic waterfall, our team now has the freedom to pitch new ideas themselves. This is a true differentiator for BNP.”
Communicative and interpersonal skills
To maintain this efficiency and consistency, a design system needs to be developed, which involves certain fixed components and rules the team must follow. This in turn affects the required skills the team members must have. “The creativity we look for in new team members lies not so much in aesthetic design but in the ability to find new solutions to face technical challenges and deal with the complexity of our product and service portfolio. Above all, our concepts need to function properly and exude user friendliness.”
Furthermore, strong collaboration among colleagues asks for people with strong communicative and interpersonal skills. The best team members are chameleons who adapt to whomever they work with. “Our work as a team partially determines how over three million customers perceive BNP Paribas Fortis. This responsibility is one we share with other departments and colleagues, and makes cooperation and the complementarity of competences so important. We invest a lot in establishing an open culture and a constructive way of working, which allows us to give and take feedback and challenge each other,” says Thijs.
And finally, as the BNP Paribas Fortis product and service portfolio is quite complex, establishing long-term partnerships with the people the UX team works with is also really important. Sandra explains: “It takes a while to get up and running. My investment in terms of onboarding is enormous. That’s why I focus so much on recruitment. Being selective increases my chances of finding the right people whom I can keep on board as long as possible.”
Finding the right people
It is clear that BNP Paribas Fortis knows that an agile company requires the right people. This is where digital consultancy and recruitment company Ariad comes into play. “What Ariad does well is intensifying the contacts with the people responsible for recruitment, not only when we’re on the look-out for new skills but continuously,” says Sandra Tielemans. “ In doing so, they have developed true knowledge of our specific needs. Also, job vacancies quickly evolve as our needs change. As we are very transparent to our partners and Ariad is always open for input, they can respond fast with matching profiles. The result is that candidacies sent in by Ariad almost always end up on the ‘will interview’ pile.”
“Our job starts with knowing what our clients are looking for,” says Jeroen Van Ermen, founding partner and CEO at Ariad. “For BNP Paribas Fortis this input and knowledge have enabled us to contribute more than twenty strong consultants to the Concept and UX team over the last five years. There is an understanding between Ariad and the banking group of which, eventually, the consultants and the millions of customers of BNP Paribas Fortis reap the benefits.”
Another thing that Ariad does very well is visualising the capabilities and background of suitable candidates in a number of slides. “For me this is very convenient. It helps to keep an overview and avoids me from losing track of valuable profiles in hundreds of candidacies. Also, they commit candidates to only one specific job vacancy. Sometimes agencies suggest one particular candidate for multiple vacancies. I don’t like that because I don’t believe in people as Swiss army knives. I want to find the right people for the job in which they can excel. Only then can you build a truly complementary team,” concludes Sandra.
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