Digital Proposition of Retail Banks in France (Part 1 of Digital Customer Experience)

Updated: May 6, 2020

Study and ranking of 21 retail banks operating on the French market, based on 420 indicators measuring the level of digitization of the offer, the effectiveness of digital communication channels and the performance of customer journeys linked to day-to-day banking.


Since 2017 and the launch of neo-banks (N26, Revolut, Orange Bank) on the French market, established retail banking players have had to face an increase in digital challenges. D-Rating's 2017 and 2018 studies had visualized the significant gap in terms of digital proposition and customer experience that existed at the time between new digital entrants and network banks and other first-generation online banks.

2019 ranking: Orange Bank, best digital proposal for the 2nd consecutive year; strong growth for BNP Paribas.

For the second year in a row, Orange Bank stands out with the highest score of Proposition Digitale. After a laborious launch in 2017, the online bank has now more than 300,000 customers. It has maintained its position thanks to efficient journeys and a high score in the contact channels.

BNP Paribas moves from 5th place in 2018 to 2nd place in 2019, with a strong increase in the score on digital contact channels thanks to the addition of a chat. Performance on the quality of customer paths and associated functionalities is also improving, but at the same pace as the rest of the market.

N26 loses 5 points between 2018 and 2019 and a place in the ranking. With the exception of chat, and during the test period at least, N26 had closed its communication channels on Facebook, Twitter or via the contact form on the website. The growth of N26, which went from 600 000 customers reported in January 2019 to 900,000 in July, may be the reason for these closures.

Keys findings of the study:

This article summarizes three key findings from our 2019 study of the Digital Proposal for Retail Banking in France (see Annex for more information about the methodology) :

- Finding 1: None of the 21 brands evaluated outperforms the market in all areas of the Digital Proposal

- Finding 2: The relative gap between neo-banks and other market players is narrowing. The richness of digital functionalities, and the digital proposition of some historical players are globally comparable to neo-banks.

- Finding 3: The confrontation of differentiated acquisition models


Finding 1: None of the 21 brands evaluated outperforms the market in all areas of the Digital Proposal

The "Digital Proposal" score consists of 3 groups of indicators: customer paths, contact channels, offers and functionalities.

- Neo-banks maintain their leadership in Customer Journeys-

The effectiveness of customer journeys is a key element of the customer experience.

When it comes to day-to-day banking (account opening, transfers, etc.), N26, Orange Bank and Revolut still dominate the market thanks to the speed and fluidity of their journeys.

They significantly move ahead the leading online banks in this field: Boursorama Banque and Fortuneo Banque.

- Contact channel performance is not specific to a category of actors -

The diversification of contact channels and the possibility for the customer to choose the right channel remain key. Several banks are differentiating themselves by implementing new and efficient contact channels:

- Hello Bank! made significant progress in helping to solve problems independently, with the introduction of a chatbot and a community forum.

- Opening of a chat and contact form on the public website for BNP Paribas.

- Caisse d'Epargne (IdF) is becoming the only bank on the market to offer its customers 4 different contact channels.

In fifth place in this domain, however, N26 appears to be well behind in terms of score, with in particular the impossibility of reaching customer service on the social networks Facebook and Twitter. The unavailability of the new bank on these channels is a direct consequence of the difficulty of customer service to adapt to rapid growth (N26 now claims 900,000 French customers[1] ).

- Digital offers and functionalities are becoming the area of excellence of established bank -

In terms of digital offers and functionalities, the outperformers in 2019 are first-generation online banks and network banks.

The enhancement of functionalities offered by these banks has had the effect of pushing neo-banks beyond 5th place of the ranking. In 2018, N26 was in second place on this criterion.

In the end, none of the 21 brands evaluated outperformed the market in all areas of the Digital Proposal. In a context of increased competition and cost reduction, banks are prioritizing their digital investments However, excellence in customer experience requires a certain consistency of performance across the various components of the digital proposition. The best journeys combined with limited contact channels can generate frustration for customers. Functional richness carried by inefficient journeys may not generate the expected level of use and satisfaction.


Finding 2: The gap between neo-banks and other market players is narrowing

The narrowing of the hierarchy is first and foremost linked to the progress made by several online and network banks in making digital proposals.

These advances are reflected in particular in a significant increase, between 2018 and 2019, in the functionalities offered - particularly to customers - on the web and on mobile applications. On a comparable basis, we note a +26% increase in the average functionalities coverage rate between 2018 and 2019, a significant acceleration compared to the +13% measured between 2017 and 2018.

This has caused neo-banks to lose some of their competitive advantages and, consequently, some elements of differentiation. However, the opening of an account in less than a day or the availability of a temporary virtual card for immediate use remains exclusively offered today by neo-banks.

In terms of innovation, the proportion of banks offering a chat and a chatbot also increased significantly between 2018 and 2019. D-Rating tests show that many of the implemented chatbots have the ability to effectively answer the questions asked and offer a complementary and highly available contact channel. Beyond a possible fashion trend, chatbots, when effective, can improve customer service productivity, reduce operational costs and increase the responsiveness of processing customer requests.

The most notable progress observed concerns mainly network banks:

- Crédit du Nord significantly improved its score. While this was not the case in 2018, the bank now offers, for example, the possibility to activate or deactivate contactless payments and to make an appointment from the mobile application.

- Nickel now offers a fully digitalized and efficient account opening, without having to go through a tobacco store.

- CIC gains a place in the ranking thanks to the implementation of a chat for its customers on the web. The functionalities offered have also been enhanced with, for example, the aggregation of external accounts and the categorization of expenses.

- Caisse d'Epargne (Ile-de-France) now offers diversified digital contact channels and the possibility of making an appointment by videoconference.

- Banque Populaire (BPRI) offers simulation tools for personal loans and mortgage loans on the application, and has integrated the possibility of disabling online payment and international payments.

On the other hand:

- N26 loses one place in the ranking, due to the unavailability of its social networks (Facebook and Twitter).

- ING France has increased its number of current account opening steps to include a confirmation call of the subscription. Several functionalities have also been lost between the old and the new platform that the bank offers to its customers.


Finding 3: The confrontation of differentiated acquisition models

Between 2017 and 2018, we had observed very significant progress in digitizing the process of opening the current account; this subject made very little progress in 2019.

Except some network banks that prioritize branch relationships, this status quo raises questions about the acquisition priorities of retail banks.

Conversely, the efficiency of the account opening process is a fundamental component of the acquisition process for new banks. The latter often have only a limited range of products. Their ability to sell, develop technical infrastructure and serve customers at lower costs is therefore essential to assume a strategy focused on a low-income product per customer.

For other banks, home loans are often the flagship product for attracting and retaining customers. Promoting access to mortgage credit through digital channels is therefore an essential element in supporting acquisition objectives.

The matrix below shows the positioning of the 21 brands studied in relation to these two acquisition levers:

It can be observed that neo-banks, which do not currently benefit from mortgage leverage, nevertheless have a very strong acquisition dynamic.

First-generation online banks, most of which have a much weaker acquisition dynamic, nevertheless exploit both levers.

To be effective, mortgage loan leverage certainly requires the support of a branch channel and effective “phygital” integration.


Disclaimer: This study is carried out using a "full outside-in" approach, without collecting internal information from the companies studied. It therefore does not take into account the banks' internal priorities and strategic choices.

This analysis will be supplemented by the study "Level of use of digital channels" available at the end of September for the retail banking sector in France. This study will provide a complementary view on the level of use and performance of digital channels (Web, Mobile Applications and Social Network Accounts) in the context of interactions with customers and prospects, and the levels of satisfaction generated.


About D-Rating

Created in early 2017 with the support of BPI France, D Rating is the leading rating agency for companies' digital performance.

The impact of digital technology on the economy has been the subject of numerous studies, all of which highlight the importance for companies to transform themselves in depth and adapt to the new uses and challenges of the digitalization of the economy.

D-Rating aims to contribute to accelerating the digital transformation of European companies by providing a shared reference framework for all market players and by equipping companies to better understand their transformation and optimize the allocation of capital according to digital performance criteria.


Annex : The "Digital Proposal" study

For the third consecutive year, D-Rating has implemented the "Digital Proposal" study, previously called "Digital Customer Experience: Offers & Paths".

The 2019 study covers a panel of 20 banks and 1 payment institution. The 21 brands were compared by analyzing the level of digitization of their offer, their use of new digital communication channels and three online customer paths: opening a current account with a bank card, bank transfer to a third party and making appointments online.

Changes in the panel of banks studied between 2018 and 2019

  • Adding BforBank as an online bank

  • Modification of the status of Revolut from "Payment Service" to "Neo-bank" (and therefore integrated in averages and publications

The study is based on a total of 420 indicators and produces, using a proprietary algorithm, a Digital Proposal score.

All tests were carried out in April and May 2019.

Subscription to the platform provides access to all the scores of all the banks studied.

Methodological developments between 2018 and 2019

The main methodological changes are as follows:

  • Grouping of indicators by product and not by product type ("Loans" divided into "personal loan" and "Mortgage loan")

  • Rules for taking into account transparency and the existence of a stricter online subscription

  • Removal of indicators on contract signing procedures

  • 12 new indicators on functionalities, 10 deleted

  • Consideration of "secondary" apps for available functionalities (The application must be at the bank's brand)

  • Creation of the sub-domain "Scope of the offer"

  • 12 new indicators (FAQs and internet calls)

  • The scores on the response times of the after-sales service by email (or form) are set at 100 for a delay of less than 1 hour (versus 1 minute)

  • Increased weight on the indicator "Possibility to open a current account via a mobile application"

  • Addition of the "Consumer credit" path to be validated within one month