Banks need to have an open mind when evaluating disruptive mobile technologies and the developers behind them, says Sergi Herrero, the vice president of business development, payments and mobile finance at BNP Paribas and CEO of its L'Atelier North America division.
"Back in the day nobody knew who Jack Dorsey was. He was just a shy guy talking about Twitter," he said during the July 18 Payvest conference, presented by PaymentsSource, American Banker and NYPAY in New York City. "Its the guys in the hoodie and shorts that you don't take seriously who could be the next person to change the banking industry."
Herrero's team regularly monitors the social fundraising website Kickstarter to help discover the latest and greatest innovator.
"It used to be that banks were like assembly lines, they'd make one product for everyone. Now, everything's changed," Herrero says. "Customers demand things that are tailored to their needs."
To make his point that banks can learn from innovative disruptors, Herrero compared the market value of successful startups like Pinterest ($2.5 billion) and Yelp ($1.93 billion) to legacy companies like The New York Times ($1.9 billion) and Yellow Pages ($1 billion).
The banking industry initially greeted Jack Dorsey's mobile-payments company Square with skepticism. Payments professionals questioned Square's pricing, its approach to risk and its potential audience. Square swiftly overcame those concerns, leaving many larger companies playing catch-up. Last year, American Banker named Dorsey its innovator of the year.
Banks like BNP Paribas are looking to invest in the next big thing that can enhance consumer experiences, Herrero says.
"We're trying to find the next 'Gangnam Style' for the financial industry," he says, referencing the viral pop songthat inspired a massive fan base online.
The analogy stands even if "Gangnam" singer Psy turns out to be a one-hit wonder, he adds.
"One big hit at the beginning is enough, but of course we'd like to have a long-term relationship that creates multiple hits," Herrero says. "The company that wins this game is someone who can do multiple things."
BNP Paribas also adapts innovations in the retail and restaurant industries for banking purposes.
Using the example of popup retail stores that open for a brief period of time and typically offer only a few items, "why not create temporary branches to serve the specific needs of the customers in a particular zone?" he says.
He cited another example in restaurants, like a mobile app that lets consumers order drinks without going up to the bar.
"Why go to a branch if the paperwork's not ready? And why can't we notify you when it's ready and whether the bank is really busy and it would be better to come by 30 minutes later?" Herrero says.