Boursorama Banque: the old online bank that wants to stay “sexy”

Boursorama has been part of the French banking landscape since 1998 and can be dated by the neobanks which have been flourishing for a few years already. Benoît Grisoni, its managing director, takes stock of the strategy and its developments.

The neobanks are on the rise. There are currently around thirty on the French market: online establishments with a traditional approach, but also entirely new players (mobile banks, fintech, etc.) who have surfed the dynamics of smartphones. All seek to offer easy-to-use solutions with an optimized user experience. Boursorama Bank integrates this new trend, even if it is not new to this sector. With Société Générale as its shareholder, online banking integrates the selection of the 10 neobanks tested by Digital and hooly-news.com. Its managing director, Benoît Grisoni, reviews the offer, strategy, targets and projects of this e-financial establishment.

How did containment affect your business and that of your customers?

We have protected our employees and placed 90% of the workforce in remote work. All of our offerings – we have about 30 different products – worked during this period. Customers were able to place orders on the stock market or request credits. We recorded very strong activity on the Stock Exchange. A AMF study confirm it [selon l’agence, plus de 150 000 nouveaux investisseurs sont intervenus sur les valeurs appartenant à l’indice SBF120 durant le confinement, ndlr] There was a lot of volatility in the equity markets, so we recorded four times more orders than last year at the same time. Two-thirds of the transactions were buy orders. Likewise, we opened as many securities accounts in the first quarter as we did for a full year.

On the other hand, there was much less spending in March and April. We are seeing more deposits with growth in the customer base and less spending. Many of these deposits are made on booklets. We all hope that people will start consuming again. The average amount in proximity payment reached 50% of that of the pre-confinement period. Withdrawals were also down sharply with the cessation of travel and the closure of shops. In consumer and real estate loans, we also saw a sharp drop.

Benoît Grisoni, CEO of Boursorama Banque. © Boursorama Banque

Benoît Grisoni, CEO of Boursorama Banque. © Boursorama Banque

In a banking landscape shaken by neobanks, why should we choose Boursorama?

What sets us apart from our historic competitors [[Hello Bank, ING, Fortuneo, note], it’s first of all our strategy of strong growth. Now is where market share is building up. However, we benefit from a significant size, while our rivals are often on a single vertical. Boursorama is a complete bank: we have 33 billion in assets and our activity is well distributed: 20% in credits, 20% in passbooks, 20% in deposits, 20% in life insurance and 20% in the stock market. Our goal is to provide additional and efficient services. Half of the 540,000 new customers registered in 2019 are under the age of 30. When we wanted to accelerate in 2015, we decided to open accounts with no minimum deposit in order to reach as many people as possible. We charge 10 € / year of fees [pour un compte simple, ndlr], when traditional banks are between 150 and 200 €. We offer checkbooks, consumer and real estate loans, securities accounts, and overdraft is a request from the French. We provide all of these services, unlike other neobanks.

Haven’t you gotten old with the N26, Revolut and other neobanks?

The bank has to be sexy. We work to make courses in all dimensions; this is not obvious in regulatory terms, in terms of risks too. We have developed each of the needs. As for us, we try to draw inspiration from the good things of new market players. This makes the mobile app better. We were poorly rated two years ago and we have done a lot of work. We launched the virtual card during containment [dès la souscription de la carte bancaire, le client reçoit sur son espace client de l’application sa carte virtuelle et peut ensuite l’enrôler dans un portefeuille virtuel (Apple Pay ou Google Pay) pour des paiements mobiles chez les commerçants équipés, ndlr]. For new customers, it’s nice to have their card immediately. The competition therefore leaves Boursorama Banque awake. We have strongly strengthened our positions: we represent a third of the market and a third of flows. There is no magic bullet, you have to be competitive and humble.

How many Boursorama customers?

We currently have 2.3 million customers. Since 2016, we have tripled our customer base.

In 2019, Boursorama posted losses of 50 million euros compared to 35 million a year earlier. Online banking was still profitable a few years ago. How do you explain this turnaround? Is this the price of your customer acquisition policy?

We were profitable from 2003 to 2013. Boursorama is more profitable than a “hard” model. From the end of 2015, Boursorama, which then had 700,000 customers, told its shareholder Société Générale that there was a need to accelerate. We choose to grow faster. We have since tripled the number of our customers and doubled the outstanding amount. We have also rejuvenated our base. Card payments at Boursorama increased by 44% in 2019, while the customer base only increased by 27% over the same period. Our customers are increasingly using the bank.

Regarding profitability, we have identified 1.5 million net customers over four years, but we have not amortized our acquisition cost. But overall, Boursorama has always had the capacity to become profitable overnight. In other words, it is a choice, it is not structural. We have made an assumed choice to grow quickly, and this comes at a cost. That said, we have to become profitable again. It’s an everyday subject. The acquisition strategy should not be seen as generating losses. If you look at Fortuneo, which it is profitable, its strategy is different: it recruited between 50 and 70,000 customers in 2019.

Do the 3 million customers in 2021 constitute a plateau?

Difficult to answer this question. To reach this objective set by our shareholder, we have one year. We’re not bad at the moment. The crisis confirms our model. We are 100% online and 100% private. We have refocused on France, but there is still potential.

What is the typical profile of the Boursorama Banque client?

Our customers start by opening an account with a small amount to test us. After a month or two, they transfer direct debits and wages, then open a booklet, a securities account. There is a very linear equipment curve. On the profile, we preferably have 30s – the average age is 37 years, against 41 years four years ago – rather urban. 37% of our customers are in Île-de-France; there are cities in the Paris region where the penetration rate is 10%. We are also trying to capture regions. The relationship to time is not the same, ditto for the attachment to agencies. There is real proximity.

In terms of security, isn’t the online model vulnerable? How do you respond to the challenges of IT security?

It’s a feeling that a lot of people have. But all the banks have been digitized for a long time. There is harmonization on this side. Our shareholder gives confidence, he reassures. There is no more difference with a conventional bank. We carry out numerous audits to be as safe as possible, even if 100% security does not exist.

Having Société Générale behind you, is this a plus despite what the subprime crisis has shown us on the exposure of traditional banks?

It’s reassuring for customers. If you want to have a long-term relationship, the client has to trust you. Our shareholder is known and provides deposit guarantees from other banks. Our model remains independent from our shareholder. But you have a pure player with the backup of a large group and its experts.

Technologically, what are the next developments planned to improve the customer experience?

We will communicate on a Wicount service to manage its budget more effectively. This will improve customer service to help them also save with Wicount Patrimoine. Regarding payments, there will be things to do. We have changed our web interface and our app. It’s the permanent race for ergonomics. On the products, it is necessary to improve the courses, on the decisional in particular. 80% of the things we do cannot be seen. Being present on the Google Home connected speaker is very nice, but what is useful for us is the chatbot that we have developed.

Characteristics

Website https://www.hooly-news.com-banque.com/
Switchboard opening hours Monday to Saturday / 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. except Saturday 8:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Contact Email, Telephone
Account opening times 8 days)
Welcome bonus € 80
Necessary documents Identity document, Proof of address, RIB, 3 Last payslips
Services Bank card, Withdrawals, Payment outside the euro zone, RIB, Checkbook, Mortgage, Savings, Transfer
Overdraft Yes, up to € 100
Cash deposits No
Check deposits Yes
Mobile payment Apple Pay, Google Pay, Paylib, Samsung Pay
Mobile app Android, iOS
Initial deposit € 500
Youth / student formula Yes