“STARTUPS BRING US NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE”
Karin Schintgen, CEO of BGL BNP Paribas’ lux future lab, shares with us what the bank aims to achieve with its startup incubator, as well as what the incubator and bank each gain from the other.
What is lux future lab?
This is a unique initiative at its heart. BGL BNP Paribas has decided to impact the social and economic dynamics of Luxembourg by investing, in a targeted manner, in entrepreneurship and education. !e lux future lab was, I believe, the first incubator created by a bank in Europe. The two platforms – the entrepreneurial (incubator) on one hand, and the training on the other hand – are aimed at three specific audiences, all located at the intersection of the entrepreneurial process. !e first audience is young people between the ages of 16 and 18, who are at the stage where they must begin to choose the direction of their studies. Secondly, we target startup founders when they start their businesses. And the final audience includes those of us who, while working for an employer and regret not having realized our business ideas, decide to start a business.
How, and to what extent, is this project strategic for BGL BNP Paribas’ activities?
The project is strategic for BGL BNP Paribas and meets the ambition of our institution that wants to be “the bank for a changing world.” In fact, “change” is exactly how the lux future lab positions itself, that is to say, at the level of education, business creation and diversification. It is also
strategic for another reason – our bank and its services will be heavily impacted by new technologies. So, it is in our interest to monitor these changes for the bank, for our private clients’ businesses, and on behalf of our youth. I would note also that the BNP Paribas Group now has incubators in many other countries, like France, Belgium, Italy, Turkey and the U.S. In addition, our center for technology and innovation tracking, “L’Atelier,” is busier than ever analyzing trends and the latest developments in disruptive technology from San Francisco to Shanghai, on our behalf as well as on behalf of our customers.
How do you concretely assist startups every day?
Having met with many startups, we identified five major areas where they need help and resources. These areas include: office and meeting room accommodations, training, professional consulting, development of an international network and funding. For consulting, we brought together a group of professionals around the following themes: legal, human resources, corporate finance, accounting and tax, business development and communications, intellectual property and, finally, IT development. With all these professionals we have agreements providing preferential rates to startups. The FinTech sector is booming. Is it a strategy of the lux future lab to concentrate on this area? lux future lab’s strategy is to offer its services to a broad portfolio of startups in different sectors. We welcome startups in fields as diverse as computer games, social networks, ICT, IoT and medical IT. We also try to regularly host social enterprises. That said, over the last two years, we’ve seen the number of FinTech startups increase dramatically. They now represent 60% of our portfolio. The FinTech startups are attracted to lux future lab for two principal reasons: first, their proximity to the branch and, secondly, the bank’s expertise and network, particularly the international dimension of that network which a large financial group such as BNP Paribas can offer. BNP Paribas is present wherever a startup might want to develop. After defining our service offerings, we are focusing our efforts this year on expansion and accessibility of this very international network for our startups. I think that is our greatest strength.
Does the bank view FinTech startups as a threat, or as allies?
The bank sees no threat in FinTech, and at most, a challenge. You know, it’s easier to be creative when you are very agile, which is not the case of banks that have more heavy regulatory burden, complex IT structures and obligations in terms of customer management and human resources. To help picture this, I like saying that banks are liners when compared to those small speedboats that are startups. It takes a little more time to change course, but we have good resistance to storms, a lot of expertise, including in the famous back-office, so important to FinTech startups. Our goal is to work with startups. Furthermore, in Paris, our various businesses have asked to be introduced to startups that may serve their needs. Some 140 startups presented their projects and ten were selected, including a startup assisted by the lux future lab. Two of our other FinTech startups are currently working closely with our bank in Luxembourg. I would say that we are allies. Startups bring us new technologies and a different approach to the customer experience. As for us, we bring the experience of back office processes, knowledge of financial markets, rapid scalability capabilities, etc.
What is your opinion on the current state of the startup ecosystem in Luxembourg?
Like many others in the world, the Luxembourg ecosystem is boiling. What is different, when compared to other places like London, Paris or Berlin, is that Luxembourg is home to some commonality. I think all the players in the market have the intention to work together to attract the best startups to Luxembourg. There is a real dialogue between the various incubators, the Ministry of Economy and institutions like Luxinnovation and Luxembourg for Finance, who support us, take the initiative, remain very accessible to our startups and do excellent promotional work. I believe we have a coherent and coordinated approach. What the Luxembourg ecosystem must absolutely still develop further is its image abroad. We must better position Luxembourg as a dynamic startup hub.
To read the whole article from Silicon Mag March 2016, click here:
Silicon Mag_201603-Karin Schintgen