BNP Paribas Asset Management Acquires Majority Stake in Belgian Fintech
In 2016, BNP Paribas was on the lookout for ways to digitalize and enhance its client experience, both within local branches and online. Around the same time, robo-advisory startup Gambit Financial Solutions announced its next fundraising round.
Although the two had been in contact for years, it was Gambit’s victory at the 2016 International Hackathon in Paris that rekindled the bank’s interest.
Over the years, fintechs have helped large institutions improve security, data storage, compliance and more. However, when BNP Paribas reached out to Gambit, it was looking to transform one of the sector’s most crucial aspects: the way in which client and bank interact.
Transforming client engagement
After carefully scanning the globe for the best options, BNP Paribas Asset Management ultimately chose to partner with Gambit, a mature startup with seven years of proven market success. According to Geoffroy de Schrevel, CEO, Gambit Financial Solutions, his company stood out because of its experience and the type of bank-client interaction it facilitates.
“Also, we had one technology in which we solved two problems: how can the bank make advisory services better at its branches — in the physical world — and what can the bank offer to people who don’t go to branches anymore? Today, we are the only company that uses one tech solution to solve both of those issues,” he explained.
The partnership agreement allows enough wiggle room for both parties to flourish while fully benefitting one another. The financial group can still use other solutions and Gambit can continue serving its b2b clients, an important prerequisite for Geoffroy.
Protecting autonomy for the sake of success
While supporting the effectiveness of this trend — large companies partnering with innovative startups — Geoffroy noted that there is a right and wrong way to manage such collaborations. Preserving the speedy way in which fintechs experiment and develop is critical.
“The usual trap is that the big company simply buys a small company and tries to integrate it completely, and it’s usually a failure. The deal went well because from the outset both the CEO and I shared the view that we would stay independent. I didn’t have to convince them,” he said.
While serving as the preferred robo-advisory solutions provider for the BNP Paribas Group’s Retail and Wealth Management networks, Gambit can still pursue R&D, grow its 50-person staff and expand into new markets beyond Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland.
“We have a different way of organizing things, making decisions and experimenting. This really lets us take care of our people, and that’s the only asset we’ve got,” he added about the deal, which is currently awaiting regulatory approval.
Simplicity for all ages
The fintech’s user interface is based on simplicity, something Geoffroy insists is as important to older, more conservative clients as it is to the younger, tech-savvy generation.
From the get-go, his team linked the digital experience to the user’s lifestyle. Rather than adopting complex terminology, they used personal goals and priorities as measurements.
With Gambit, advanced financial literacy or significant wealth are not prerequisites for making smart, immediate and personalized investments via its platform. Most of the population has no interest in personal finance but obviously still earns money. Robo-advisory solutions can remove friction and fear from investing, encouraging these individuals to make the most of their earnings.
“Certainly for us the mission is inclusion, then transparency. The content and tone of the dialogue we incorporate make us different. If there is a problem we simply explain it openly,” Geoffroy said.
The reality of robotics
Today, robotics are involved in everything from food to healthcare to transportation. Nonetheless, the thought of a world run by robots still sounds unappealing to many. The term robotics can be misleading.
Gambit’s solution runs on constantly updated algorithms overseen by an experienced investment advisory board made up of real people.
“It’s like in a plane. You’ve got the automatic engine, but you’ve still got a captain to make sure it goes well. Ninety percent of the flight is managed by robotics, but if you asked someone if they want to be flown by a robot, they would say ‘no,’” Geoffroy said.
Gambit’s early days
Gambit was born 10 years ago from the dissatisfaction of private banking clients who felt underserved by their banks. Rather than being force fed products aligned to some hidden agenda, clients wanted genuine, transparent guidance.
“We thought, let’s start by understanding what the client wants and what the risk profile is. That’s what we did, but we were specialized in private banking. Then we had retail banks coming to us asking for a similar solution, so we went to industrialize the product,” Geoffroy said.
By 2015, pure internet players were reaching out to Gambit too. In the near future, the startup plans to continue democratizing its solution, presenting it as an ideal option for small banks and individual advisors alike.
Through its subsidiary Birdee, which is hosted at lux future lab and officially launched on Tuesday, Gambit is taking the rare step of moving from b2b to b2c, giving individuals a simple tool to continuously manage savings throughout their lives.