Intelligent Document Processing podcast – Episode #18, John Häfelfinger, CEO of BLKB

The banking sector has been undergoing a major digital transformation in recent years. The points of contact have diversified and digital has become more and more significant.

The following podcast episode features Alain Veuve interviewing BLKB’s CEO, John Häfelfinger, to discuss the changes banks are undergoing and how he is dealing with them.

What is BLKB?

BLKB Liestal

BLKB, or Basellandschaftliche Kantonalbank, is the largest bank in Basel and one of the leading banks in northwestern Switzerland. Currently, 879 people work here.

For more than 150 years, the bank has been the point of contact for private individuals, companies, municipalities and the canton and, through its responsible actions, contributes to the positive development of this region.

In addition to its 24 branches in the canton of Basel-Landschaft, it is also present in Breitenbach, Solothurn, the city of Basel and in the Frick valley with branches in Rheinfelden and Frick.

We have divided the exchange into five main parts. Feel free to click on each to get directly to the information you are interested in.

Part 1: Who is John Häfelfinger, CEO of BLKB?

Over the course of his career, John Häfelfinger has worked in the banking industry for over 35 years. In 2017, he joined BLKB, and he intends to revitalize the organization by modernizing and integrating it into a recent digital transformation.

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Part 2: « Dear banks it’s over »

In 2016, Alain Veuve wrote an article on his blog entitled “Dear banks, it’s over”.

At that time, the effects of digitalization had already begun to change customer behavior. Compared to what banks had known up to this point, the outlook for the future seemed quite different. They knew that people would still require the services of banks, but what about the banks themselves?

6 years later, banks are a lot and as powerful as ever. But what has really happened in all these years? Alain questions John Hafelfinger on this point.

According to him, there has definitely been a change. First, the banking world has experienced the disintermediation of the value chain with a lot of fintech moving in. In fact, convenience is a crucial factor, so banks started to integrate finance apps and became ecosystems. Also, they started to more and more specializing in different areas (financial advice, money management, investing).

As for the cantonal banks, which are known for operating on a fairly traditional model, we have to admit that there are now 3 or 4 clusters that are developing. They are also becoming ecosystems with a USP in their advice. They are building a portfolio of services that they assemble in a unique way to give more meaning to customers. Today, for example, BLKB is an ecosystem, which consists of core banking, which is real estate and corporate finance, and fund management for receivables. This is followed by wealth creation.

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Part 3: Is cash over?

Young people don’t judge a bank by its bricks and mortar. But for most people, a bank always has a face somewhere. That’s the difference between purely digital banks that can be anywhere and a bank like BLKB. For cantonal banks, meeting people is still very significant. But this is less and less the case. Indeed, money and cash used to be very significant. However, nowadays, only few people go to their banks or ATMs to withdraw cash.

This is the biggest changes banks are experiencing: the demand for cash, which has been steadily decreasing. Indeed, more and more people are using cards or even the iPhone to pay. We have seen even more of a difference since the Coronavirus crisis. People must have gotten used to not using cash anymore.

The main service that a bank can offer today is all about advice (How tthe customer should invest his money etc.).

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Part 4: Digital transformation, the end of physical banks?

When the digital transformation started, we all assumed that everything would be
done digitally, and then we realized that no, it’s hybrid, since in some situations people would rather interact digitally, while in other situations they would prefer to go to the bank directly.

Indeed, there are some services that are always better done physically, when it comes to giving financial education for example. These actions are quite personal and should be done with people you trust, who you can meet physically.

John Häfelfinger reminds us that the use of digital, in the world of banking, is not a criterion based on age. It is simply based on the fact that there are different customers with different projects and demands.

According to him, “As banks we have to offer services on all channels to meet all the needs and preferences of all customers. Be digital hybrid and physical. “

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Part 5: Radicant, a new kind of bank

For the past two years, John Häfelfinger and his team have been creating a new kind of bank called Radicant.

«We believe that sustainability will provide a high return for investors in the years to come. We want to build a company that is very strong on this and that covers not high net worth individuals but affluent clients. We need to create an organization that is fast-moving, that adapts to the latest technologies and that grows in this area of affluent clients, which is today underserved. It’s a collaborative, integrative and sustainable bank.»

Radical is not a Neobank, but an alternative bank, based on a sustainable approach.

A very friendzone family program was recently launched to promote the project. The first products are already on the market (investment funds and investment products). Once these receive encouraging reviews and general enthusiasm, Radicant will be fully offered to the market.

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Thanks to John Häfelfinger for sharing his experiences and insights on the topic.

Find the audio podcast now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Deezer.

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