A snapshot of the 2018 Retail Banks digital customer experience and offerings – France edition


Part 1 : Offers & Journeys

Study and ranking of 20 French retail banks, based on 403 indicators measuring the digitization of offerings, the efficiency of contact channels and the performance of customers journeys.

In 2018, the competition level between French retail banks is incredibly high. In addition, the global economic context is not favorable, increasing the difficulty for traditional players to deliver expected financial results.

Intensification of the “tech-based” competition:

Since nearly four years now, the French financial market has seen a rising number of new entrants: the neo-banks. While we could have initially thought they would be deriving from traditional banks incentives and push for innovation and renewal, we realize now they are often independent, mainly tech-based and operate without branch or nearby agency. Some of them are Payment Service Providers (PSP) with a very focus offering, or niche, and not supporting the same legal constraints.

To the opposite of their elders (the first-generation online banks created in the 90’s or 2000’s), neo-banks achieve a strong client acquisition growth relatively quickly: N26 has already 1 million customers, Revolut 2 million (1).

Neo-banks main drivers for success involve:

  • Innovative “built-from-scratch” core systems and processes (no legacy)

  • A real pan-European approach

  • A low-cost structure enabling for new pricing models such as freemium

  • A soft market with decreasing customers’ loyalty to their traditional banks (2)

  • Sensational fundraisings/ICOs giving them the means to achieve their high ambitions

Meanwhile, a new form of competition is appearing: tech giants, such as WeChat and AntFinancial in Asia. The market is also expecting new initiatives from Amazon financial services.

More competitors are setting their hopes on the European market. Marcus by Goldman Sachs is a compelling example of a new entrant with an ambitious expansion plan. This platform-based technology should first be unveiled in the UK and Germany before eventually spreading throughout other European countries.


Finally, the PSD2 European directive on Payments brings down the barriers for new disruptive opportunities and the Open Banking era to flourish.

Pressure on traditional banks:

In 2017, largest French banks have shown the highest cost-income ratio in 6 years (3).

In total, their net banking profit have decreased by 1.5% in 2017 versus 2016 and their total net income by 5.7%.

This shift in the economy creates two major challenges for historical players:

  • Develop their Net Banking Income while interest rates are at an all-time low

  • Continue to cut costs by closing physical branches and reducing employee wages, while investing to comply with new regulations and users habits and digitally transform the current processes


The digital customer experience answers these concerns as a key driver to :

  • Increase the Net Banking Income by reducing the churn rate, acquiring new and/or young customers and developing cross-sales

  • Reduce cost with automated and high-achieving processes

Have all French retail banks named the digital customer experience as one of their top priority?

What are their current performance?

How are they differencing each other with an offering requiring to be both rich (offers and features) and effective (journeys and contact channel)?

“Digital CX Offers & Journeys” study

For the second year, D-Rating carried out the study “Digital CX Offers & Journeys”.


The 2018 study is covering 18 banks and 2 payments service providers. All brands have been compared by testing offerings digitization level, digital contact channels and three complete journeys: account opening (with payment card), money transfer and appointment scheduling.

The study is based on 403 indicators, on which is calculated a global score “Digital CX Offers & Journeys” using a proprietary algorithm.
All tests were done during April and May 2018.


The account opening process is more and more digitalized

Opening a current account is often the first step for customers in order to use theb= services of a new bank. Practices strongly evolved in one year. Since our last year findings, 100% digitalized subscriptions have become the most encountered method to open a current account through our studied brands. Only a few institutions are still requiring from their potential customers to stop by their branches to become new clients: Crédit du Nord, Crédit Mutuel et CIC. Compte Nickel, a payment service provider, also demands to go to a local vendor called “bureau de tabac” in France to buy and activate the account

(25000 neighborhood stores are licensed to sell tobacco, lottery tickets and candies).

For the digitalized subscription process, the number of fields to fill in forms online is stable. However, a new maximum has been reached with a bank asking 25 more fields than the average.


Regarding the elapsed time from filling the forms to obtain a fully functional current account with a payment card and the ability to make money transfer, we noticed an improvement of 15% compared to last year (for an identical set of banks). The traditional banks Crédit Mutuel and Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne time delays are now at a comparable level with Neo-banks.

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More features to manage payments and accounts

Over the 20 features for current account management and payments tested in 2017, we observed another noticeable improvement. The number of features (for an identical set of banks) increased by 12%. New features are appearing such as virtual payment card or dynamic crypto card.

In 2018, we have listed 54 features and checked their existence for every banks or PSP in our coverage list. BNP Paribas is ahead of others with 30 features available.

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Some progress in the digitization of the subscriptions to complementary products

In addition to the journeys fully tested and completed, we studied the level of digitization for subscribing to other products that banks are offering: consumer credits, real estate mortgages, “Livret A” (French tax-free saving account), Life saving accounts and home insurance plans. Again, our study demonstrates an overall progress of French retail banks. Prospects and customers are not anymore lead to the “opening a current account” page area or bind to contact their personal advisors. They can now often start the subscription for these other products online. Banks with such processes can immediately gather valuable information on the visitors and transmit them to the sales team.

Consumer credits are the products that have progressed the most in one year: in 2017 about 16% of the panel was proposing to start the subscription online, while now it reaches up to 50%.

The 2018 report shows that traditional banks are still lagging behind online banks and neo-banks regarding features and offerings available in their mobile apps.

Surprisingly, on web pages, Neo-banks are caught up by traditional banks. For instance, neither Orange Bank nor N26 are proposing on their web-based client portal an online subscription for their consumer credit offers.

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Conspicuous changes in the 2018 rankings

  • “Digital CX Offers & Journeys” ranking is globally stable since 2017 :
    Neo-banks (Orange Bank and N26) are the reference in terms of richness and efficiency of their digital customer experience
  • First generation online banks and some historical banks (BNP Paribas, Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole and HSBC France) follow their leads as a close second group position that manage to catch up with neo-banks on certain indicators

  • The rest of the traditional banks are behind, especially Crédit du Nord.


Two significant changes in the 2018 rankings are observed:

  • Arrival of Orange Bank as the single best performer

After delaying its launch and solving the slowing down interface issues in the mobile app, Orange bank finishes first in our ranking seven months after its commercial launch, one point ahead of N26. Subscription process to a current account and money transfers are efficient and well-informed. Regarding contact channels, Orange Bank has, like most banks, enabled customer care and support through Facebook and Twitter. By implementing a chatbot, whom reliability is acceptable, Orange Bank manages to score a lot of points as only Boursorama Banque from the rest of the panel also displays a chatbot in French. Orange Bank’s main area of progress is the number of features available in the web private space and in the mobile application.

  • Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne joins the group of best performing traditional banks

The biggest rise since 2017 is for Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne (CM Arkéa Group). While considering the same list of banks, it climbs from the 14th place to the 8th. First, current account subscription process has been transformed from a branch-based experience to a fully digital one (although some issues were still found when executing this process). The elapsed time to obtain a fully functional current account is one of the shortest observed for a traditional bank. In addition, Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne has implemented a chat for both prospects and customers (in personal space). Moreover, new features have been laid out, such as accounts aggregation and contactless payment (Apple Pay and Google Pay).


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The 2017 study on French Retail Banks demonstrated that a “sweet spot” was left for competition based on digital new territories usage (mobile apps and social networks) and on journeys.

The 2018 “Digital CX Offers & Journeys” study shows the breakthroughs and improvements made by several banks to bridge these gaps. Reported evolutions emphasis different prioritization approaches adopted by bank when considering digital customer experience: improve journeys efficiency or expand offerings variety and features richness. Both are key to compete with Neo-banks.

This first report on Digital CX will be completed by a second study “Presence & Satisfaction” to be released in the end of September. It will add insights by analyzing customers usage of banks’ digital media (Web, Mobile apps and social networks) and their satisfaction.

Methodology improvements since 2017

Main methodological evolutions are:

  • All mobile apps are tested on Android phones

  • Number of features tested increased from 21 in 2017 to 53 in 2018

  • Digitalization of offerings has been broken down from 1 to 6 indicators

  • Indicators on community-based tools, search engines and chatbots have been added in the new “Autonomous troubleshooting” section

  • A new journey was added as Appointment scheduling

  • Payment Service Providers (Compte Nickel & Revolut) have been fully tested and scored for each indicator. However, we have decided to not communicate a global score nor rank them as retail banks because of their different legal obligations, a narrower offering and a more focused strategy as PSP players.

Coverage list evolution since 2017

The retail banks panel modifications include :

  • Inclusion of Orange Bank as a neo-bank

  • Inclusion of Revolut as a payment service provider

  • Exclusion of C-ZAM, BforBank and Monabanq


  1. N26 now has 1 million customers

  2. https://www.lesechos.fr/12/02/2018/lesechos.fr/0301258865806_les-banques-traditionnelles-peinent-a-attirer-de-nouveaux-clients.htm#formulaire_enrichi::bouton_google_inscription_article

  3. « Évaluation des risques du système financier français » – Banque de France – Juin 2018

  4. Study McKinsey France, december 2014

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