Innovation 2018

KBC: a primus inter pares

Digital banking services are commonplace in Belgium these days. Four out of every five Belgians use them for doing their routine banking, and a quarter of those say they'd be prepared to also go digital for more complex banking transactions. Computers are still the most used device, though mobile apps are gaining ground.
Now, in the first survey of its kind to include Belgium in its purview, individual banks have been scored on their digital offering and their customers' digital journey. It's the work of the French research agency D-Rating. They looked at more than 400 indicators allowing conclusions to be drawn as to levels of digitisation, the efficiency of channels for digital communication and the quality of the customer journey.
For their digital customer experience, Belgium's high street banks score fairly to very well. The survey could therefore show that Belgium has less allure for new entrants into the market. But its results do find KBC to be the primus inter pares (a first among equals, one might say). Only N26 can take a lead on KBC. N26 is a German direct bank operating with a limited range of services in a selection of European countries. And N26 is one of the most successful of the new banks. It operates purely online and has quickly amassed a European clientele topping the million mark. However, as far as Belgium's concerned, it's not in commercial contention.

High street banks buoyant
The survey gives scores of fairly to very good to the four largest Belgian banks (BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC, Belfius and ING Belgium). KBC puts in an exceptionally strong showing. KBC is – and the survey confirms it – clearly the leader of the digital pack among Belgium's conventional banks.
Belfius and ING Belgium are next behind KBC, albeit trailing by quite a distance.

Better armed
The finding that the high street banks are the most digital in Belgium is far from a given. In France, where D-Rating previously carried out a similar survey, the picture's the exact opposite. So, ultimately, it seems Belgian high street banks are better armed than their French counterparts to repel a potential invasion by new players. It's certainly a view that D-Rating endorses: ‘If the Belgian banks continue to invest in their digital transformation and press on with joint initiatives like Bancontact, Payconiq and Itsme, new market entrants could have a pretty tough time attracting Belgian account holders over to them. Belgium's market appears to have less appeal than elsewhere in Europe for potential newcomers.’

Read more.

Unique in the Czech Republic: The ČSOB info line can now communicate with the hearing-impaired

People with hearing difficulties can now communicate with the ČSOB info line. These clients will be supported by simultaneous online transcription which removes the barrier between them and the line operator. The service can also be used by foreigners who only partially master the Czech language and for whom written text is easier to understand.
The concept is simple: the client will find an ear pictogram on the top bar of the ČSOB homepage, which is a link to “Online transcription of the client line for the deaf or hard of hearing”. Brief information about the service is offered and the client is given the opportunity to enter his phone number and to press the “call me button”. At this point, a transcript window opens and automatically, the client will be called. In the transcription window, the client waits for the transcriber’s written instruction to start responding. From the moment the client starts responding, the phone call takes place in the standard manner. The only difference is that the reply of the info line operator appears in the transcription window.

KBC* customers are now able to buy Belgian train tickets through Olympus Mobility right from their KBC Mobile app

From now on KBC customers in Belgium will be able to use their KBC Mobile app to easily buy train tickets through Olympus Mobility (the price of tickets bought by senior citizens, young people or weekend travellers is automatically adjusted to the applicable rate). Customers can also use KBC Mobile to check SNCB train services online and in real time
No need to install a new app with the service built into KBC Mobile 
*KBC, CBC and KBC Brussels customers

Read more.

A thousand customers set to trial contactless wearable payments

 A thousand KBC customers will be the first people in Belgium to try out making contactless payments with wearables. Wearables are fashion accessories that use the same NFC (Near Field Communication) technology as contactless payment cards, except the chip behind it all is built into a ring, watch, bracelet, key ring or other accessory instead of a plastic card.

KBC customers were already the first in Belgium to be able to make contactless debit card payments (launched in 2015).

‘We aim to fully respond to our customers’ demand for user-friendly services, including their everyday payments. Contactless payments are no longer limited to payment cards and smartphones. This trial is all about personal banking. Contactless payments by wearable is an innovative way to pay that we’d like to explore with our customers.’ says Karin Van Hoecke, KBC’s general manager for digital transformation:

The trial runs from 1 December 2018 until 31 December 2019.

Read more.

A first for Belgium. KBC becomes first Belgian financial institution to offer payments using Garmin Pay

From now on, KBC, CBC and KBC Brussels customers with a paymentenabled Garmin sports watch will be able to use it to pay for purchases.  The move makes KBC the first financial institution in Belgium to offer Garmin Pay – a fast, secure, free and convenient contactless payment option for active customers. The launch adds weight to KBC’s role as pioneer in the field of payment methods and follows the bank’s introduction of Google Pay for Android users in 2017. KBC Ireland, meanwhile, is leading the way in the Irish market, where it is the only bank to offer its customers Apple Pay, Google Pay, FitBit Pay as well as Garmin Pay. 

‘The launch of Garmin Pay in Belgium is the ideal solution for KBC customers who lead an active life’, says Karin Van Hoecke, General Manager for Digital Transformation at KBC. ‘It allows a seamless connection between sport and payments: instead of having to carry cash or your bank card, your watch is all you need. There’s growing demand in Belgium for fast and secure payment solutions. People want to live efficiently, because time is precious and being able to pay easily, without fuss, really helps. So we’re delighted to be able to expand our range of innovative payment solutions with the launch of Garmin Pay.’         

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ČSOB wins ‘Best Internet Bank’ award – Czech Republic 2018

ČSOB recently won a prestigious 'Best Internet Bank' award. This competition was organised by Capital Finance International. The judging panel was unanimous in its decision to name ČSOB Best Internet Bank in the Czech Republic for 2018:

The ubiquitous nature of the Internet and mobile devices has created an opportunity for banks to transform their business model, moving away from the bricks-and-mortar staple of yesteryear to digital platforms and fintech services.

Československa Obchodni Banka (ČSOB) provides a triple-treat digital banking platform that allows customers to access, monitor and manage their finances. Through this banking platform, they can keep track of their accounts, as well as their investments, pension savings, mortgages, loans and credit card billing statements. Local or international payments can be scheduled online at a lower cost than a physical visit to the nearest branch would incur.

ČSOB's Smart Banking app brings the convenience of online transactions to mobile devices. Smart Banking allows customers to manage day-to-day transactions, ranging from credit cards to insurance. They can also create QR codes and can even get directions to the nearest ATM.

ČSOB's Smart Key app presents a convenient means of payment, and users can log on to online banking with a single user PIN or fingerprint instead of an SMS numerical code.

'For ČSOB Group, innovations are one of our main priorities and the way to enhance our services and customer satisfaction. In this era of smart solutions, the bank also needs to be a tech company.'

Marek Ditz, Member of ČSOB Board of Directors responsible for Transformation

4 in 10 tenants and landlords now arrange security deposits on their smartphone or tablet.

Increasingly more tenants and landlords who are customers at KBC/CBC or KBC Brussels are arranging security deposits for rented accommodation entirely online (via KBC Mobile on their smartphone or KBC Touch on their desktop or tablet).

  • In July 2018, 40% of all security deposits were arranged online whereas just 30% used this method at the start of the year.
  • On average, about 1500 security deposit accounts are opened online every month.
  • Since May 2018, the number of digital registrations have risen steadily

New: non-customers (tenants/landlords) can now also arrange a security deposit entirely online via the KBC website.

Read more.

KBC invited to Early Access Program for WhatsApp Business

Whatsapp and Sparkcentral announced the invitation of some selected companies to Early Access Program for WhatsApp Business. KBC is one of those selected companies. Sparkcentral is an official WhatsApp Business Solution Provider, one of the first to launch.

KBC can engage with Sparkcentral now to safely introduce customer care over WhatsApp at scale, to improve customer experience, reduce cost, and streamline customer care operations using one consolidated agent dashboard .

“Since 6 February this year, KBC customers have been able to message with KBC via WhatsApp,” says Karin Van Hoecke, General Manager for Mass Retail at KBC’s Belgium Business Unit. “Our customers make enthusiastic use of this opportunity and appreciate the fact that we help and speak to them through their favorite channel. To now scale and offer WhatsApp Business to all our customers, we are pleased to work with Sparkcentral and their enterprise messaging customer service platform. That WhatsApp welcomes us to be among the first to set up a pilot with WhatsApp Business demonstrates once again that we are a leader in our sector in terms of offering innovative and customer-focused solutions.”

Read more.

First commercial trades completed on blockchain platform

On 3 July 2018, confirmed that the first live trades have taken place on the platform. These trades signify the first commercially viable open account trades harnessing blockchain technology.

Many banks and companies are looking for a more efficient and cost-effective way to trade internationally. The solution, built on the IBM Blockchain Platform, powered by Hyperledger Fabric, offers customers access to a simple user-interface, leveraging innovative Smart Contracts and opens up potential new trading opportunities. was established by Deutsche Bank, HSBC, KBC, Natixis, Nordea, Rabobank, Santander, Société Générale and UniCredit to address the expectations of their customers to make cross-border trade more straightforward. The consortium has succeeded in meeting each banks internal governance and procedures requirements to make this innovation a reality.

Hubert Benoot, general manager trade finance KBC Group, echoed the sentiment, saying, “These trade(s) represents a great example of traditional banks innovating to meet their clients’ needs by working with Our bank wants to make cutting edge technology available to our customers when it comes to trading globally. is a trading solution that our customers need.”

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KBC Bank Ireland first Irish bank to bring Garmin Pay to customers, who can already use Apple Pay, Google Pay, FitBit Pay

In the latest in a number of innovations, KBC Bank Ireland has launched Garmin Pay for its customers in Ireland. KBC is the only bank in Ireland to offer digital wallets from four of the world’s leading technology companies; Apple Pay, Google Pay, FitBit Pay and now Garmin Pay. The latest development builds on KBC’s drive to transform banking in response to customer demand for easy, secure, digitally-led solutions.

This newest contactless payment solution from popular sports device company Garmin will see KBC Bank Current Account and Credit Card customers able to pay for goods and services on the move using their Garmin smart watch, with both the Forerunner 645 and Vivoactive 3 models compatible. The Garmin Pay technology works at any point of sale terminal where contactless payment is available. The customer simply selects their KBC card from their digital wallet, taps the watch face against the payment terminal in store and verifies the transaction using a four-digit code.
Garmin Pay is powered by FitBit Pay, one of the digital wallets already available to KBC customers. Read more.

DINO Housing Policy wins EFMA Innovation award for best disruptive product/service

KBC is committed to the digital transformation of products and services.  The digital KBC Housing Policy was launched in 2017 and has quickly become a success story.
DINO (digitisation of Non Life) ensures that customers can take out their home policy quickly, easily and digitally by means of three questions. This EFMA award recognizes the innovative vision that underlies it.

Video self-interview – Simplifying the recruitment process

As one of the first companies in Hungary, K&H Group Hungary introduced a video self-interview function in the recruitment process. Soon after the launch in April 2018, the first results were very promising. The tool provides a faster, more comfortable and time effective hiring process for every participant.

With the GEEG video self-interview mobile application the first phase of the recruitment process becomes more efficient: the recruiter invites the selected candidates for the video self-interview. The candidate can record the answers anytime-anywhere with the smartphone. It is possible to delete and start-over until completely satisfied with the result. The recruiter and the hiring manager watch these max. 3-minute-long video introductions and decide who they want to meet in person. This method provides a deeper insight in the candidate’s experiences, skills and knowledge than their CV. The function is fully integrated in the K&H career portal so the recruiter can manage the whole process easily using only one IT system.

The first reactions are very positive: this technological innovation turns the hiring process into  a more flexible, faster and comfortable experience for candidates, recruiters and managers.

Discover virtual assistant Alexa and The Virtual Space at KBC

As from the end of June, KBC clients with access to virtual assistant Alexa will also be able to check the balances on their accounts using this technology. With this innovation, KBC will become the first bank in Europe to offer clients the option of using speech technology to do their banking. From today on, everyone can use The Virtual Space, a brand-new concept that illustrates the possibilities of 3D technology for the financial sector. A genuine virtual reality version will be unveiled later this year. Read more.

The iDalko story: how KBC sees the start-up as both investment and supplier.

KBC was quick to recognise iDalko’s attraction as an investment, producing as it does the innovative Exalate software tool that gets business teams working in unison. The low-down from Jeroen Renier of the KBC Start it Fund.

“KBC’s culture is very much centred on encouraging cooperation. So, investing in software to promote it accords fully with that core value. We know that teamwork today is a real challenge for global workforces; there can be no let-up in innovating tools to work effectively and get constituent parts to gel as a cohesive whole.”

The Exalate app synchronises project data across service desks and project management tools (“issue trackers”). It’s a productivity software tool that teams today can use to simply get jobs organised and get them done. Issues are prioritised and resolved; progress is tracked.

With Exalate as an issue tracker, teams suffer no tedious communication constraints. Francis Martens is the CEO at iDalko: “As a team expands, it and other teams work together but may use different issue trackers. The lack of real inter-connection means that e-mail and other outdated means get resorted to. Efficiency is compromised in a messy, chaotic environment where no one can say for sure at any given time what the state of play is. Take outsourced corporate IT support, for example: when company and contractor use different systems to track progress and resolve tasks, communications go manual, confusion ensues, data’s lost, and a whole lot of time gets wasted.”

Exalate is presently supported for integration in market-leader, HP ALM, and in  Jira issue sync. iDalko is at this time working on a build for integration in other tools, like ServiceNow and Salesforce.

KBC believes that this is an investment that’ll bridge gaps that hamper communication in global teams, across the globe. Initially, its assistance to iDalko took the form of funding Exalate’s development through a multi-year licensing arrangement; now, testing it internally has convinced it to upgrade to an equity holding. 


Innovative KBC game reveals emotional side of investing

KBC Asset Management in Belgium is trialling a new web-based application with selected customers. At first glance, it looks like a game for investors. However, underneath its hood is an innovative way to more clearly identify investor personality types. The new application follows the popular trend of gamification: using classic game-playing elements for other areas of activity. For the time being, the new app is only offered to a selection of customers. 

The game is scientifically backed by findings from behavioural economics. These show that two investors with the exact same traditional risk profile may nevertheless have different attitudes to drawdown risk. The game aims to chart precisely that sensitivity to interim increases and decreases. In the long run, such investor self-knowledge can add an extra dimension to investors’ risk profiles and help them gain better insights into their personal, more emotionally related ways of managing their investments in an accessible way. Read more. 

KBC scoops Best Online Banking Experience at the Awards.

KBC Bank Ireland has been awarded Best Online Banking Experience at the Awards. KBC beat off stiff competition at the ceremony in Dublin’s Mansion House.

KBC Bank Ireland’s Director of Innovation, Eddie Dillon, said: “We are delighted to receive this award for best online banking experience which acknowledges KBC’s market leading on-boarding app. Our revolutionary app allows customers to open a current account in five easy steps in five minutes and have instant access to a debit card and digital wallets. It’s never been easier to bank with us, 1 in 5 KBC Extra Current Accounts are now opened using the on-boarding app, and we’re excited for future developments to come.

“Our innovation hub in Dublin is the digital frontrunner for the KBC Group and we are continually developing innovative products that are first to market in response to our customer’s needs. In the past year, we were the first bank in Ireland to offer customers a suite of digital wallets with the launch of Apple Pay, Android Pay and Fitbit Pay.”, an independent price comparison website, celebrate excellence in customer value across 13 unique awards categories including banking, utilities, energy suppliers, broadband and TV suppliers. The awards recognise the quality, choice, and particularly the value of the products and services now available to Irish households.

Read more about KBC Ireland's mobile app.

Chat with us using WhatsApp

As from 6 February 2018, KBC is the first financial institution in Belgium to offer its customers the ability to chat with their bank and insurer through WhatsApp. This will be using the number +32 9 331 78 16 and is part of our aim to be even more accessible to our customers.

The service is intended for quick, straightforward questions about our services. These will be answered by our KBC Live staff, just as quickly as if you called us. The service is available on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Karin van Hoecke, General Manager of Mobile First, explains: ‘Our customers have been able to chat with us for some time. WhatsApp is a very fast and easy to access chat app that’s already familiar and intuitive to many of our customers. Now that it’s technically possible to use it for business purposes, we’re proud to be the first to offer it to our customers so they get even better service and availability from us. We’re testing it first with our Dutch-speaking customers, before expanding to the other official languages in Belgium and English. We want to give our customers the ability to contact us in a variety of ways. From good-old-fashioned branch or insurance agency visits to contact through our website, Mobile and Touch apps or KBC Live for online banking, we want to be there for them. Messaging services like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp fit right in.’ Read more.

ČSOB Slovakia takes its SmartBanking app to new levels

ČSOB Slovakia has released an upgrade of its mobile banking app, introducing new ways to make banking with them even easier.

Moving house is a big event – and a big job. With all the packing and unpacking, the last thing you need is more paperwork. That said, you’ll still want to inform everyone of your new address as soon as possible. Your bank and insurer are no exception. Ensuring a smooth switch to contacting you using your new details is important. ČSOB now saves its customers a trip to their branch with a new feature in their SmartBanking app, letting customers change their address, phone number or e-mail address under ‘My profile’. ČSOB then confirms the updated details by e-mail.

Another new feature making everyday banking simpler to manage is the ability to apply for a credit card through the app. Customers with a pre-approved credit limit can apply in just a few taps. They simply choose the type of card, how to repay what they spend on it and any additional services (like card insurance). And that’s it. The bank then sends the card to the customer’s home address or branch, whichever is most convenient.

ČSOB launched its ČSOB SmartBanking app six years ago, regularly adding to its growing list of features since then. They continue to develop digital solutions for hassle-free banking.


Harry's giving HR a helping hand

Since last October, KBC staff have been able to go to Harry with questions they have on HR matters for which no complex answer is required. Harry's a chatbot created to give people a faster, improved service which in turn enhances the employee experience. The concept was tested from January to June last year by a hundred staff members who regularly put questions to Harry. The trial gave HR greater insight into what chatbots can do for us and what their limitations are, and the kinds of questions our staff like enough to ask through the chatbot medium. Harry is not the first chatbot that KBC has tried out. It has previously tested one for users of the K’Ching banking app aimed at young people.

Chatbots have the big advantage of being available night and day, and give you an answer immediately. And, Harry’s getting to grips with other subject areas, too. As well as HR, questions related to office facilities and straightforward IT matters are also supported and he'll ultimately be able to answer questions such as what all needs doing when a new staff member's expected to start work on Monday morning. Or, how you get to the venue if you're attending a training course. The aim is that Harry should get proactive and alert you if your remaining holiday allowance is on the high side of if one of your co-workers wants to hear what you think about working with them on a joint project of yours. All this is because, at some point, it'll integrate with our HR systems and be able to engage in more complex interaction. And it'll do all of that in the staff member's own language, so that taking a couple of days off before getting married will easily be recognised by Harry as what we call 'short leave of absence' at KBC.

Behind the scenes, there's a team at work making adjustments to Harry. Their goal is to shift the focus from replying to e-mails (in which it's often the same questions that come up, needing the same answers) to refining the chatbot en improving quality. Harry frees up time for HR staff to look into more complex issues like pensions and time credit, where personal contact still adds a great deal of value. 

A look at the future that's been mapped out tells you just how fast things are moving: staff will soon be able to connect remotely and it'll then be incorporated with the HR and Facility Services systems. Incidentally, Harry's got a brother in the Czech Republic: starting in 2018, the HR team at KBC’s Shared Service Centre in Brno will be getting on-the-job assistance from Bicky.