More than ever, innovation is at the heart of change to respond to COVID-19

18 aprilie 2020

an article written by Claire Calmejane – Chief Innovation Officer @ SocGen

Since mid-March, like a large part of our planet, all of the Societe Generale group’s innovators, data scientists and digital leaders are on lockdown to help fight the spread of COVID-19.  Despite this, drawing on agile teams with a flat hierarchy, collective intelligence has been rapidly deployed to respond to a sharp acceleration in our employees and clients’ digital practices. Innovation issues have already emerged at the pinnacle of strategic issues to provide a response to these new practices. And this will undoubtedly be followed by an acceleration in disruptive business models: new platform business models, acceleration in data-first organisational models, adoption of new ways of working, etc.

We look back at the last three weeks, which have seen the deployment of the power of collective intelligence and the implementation of new team rituals.

The goal is to find back our open space codes, but remotely. When all is said and done, one of the main difficulties with remote working is organising ourselves, especially when the conditions in which we have to implement it are far from ideal. In a single day, 100% of the innovation teams had to move to remote working under a lockdown, and of course we had to make sure nobody was left behind. Following some initial glitches, we found our rhythm and our rituals!

Each day begins with a short “check-in”. Collaborative tools enables us to create conversations and celebrate staff members’ successes. Later on in the day, at 4pm, there’s a “Tea Time & Learn” session via videoconference to learn more about a topic. Once a week, the entire team logs on to our “weekly stand-up” to review the progress made by the team’s results towards our long-term mission of “creating the conditions for Societe Generale’s success to anticipate and respond to societal expectations”. Despite the tense and sometimes anxiety-provoking context, I have seen that the team’s sense of humour is still intact. Learning and benevolence are our key strength during this crisis but – in the long term – I firmly believe that efficiency and team unity will also end up being strengthened.  

At leadership team level, other rituals have been added: each day, at the tip of our mobile devices, we share our positive results but also our failures. Three minutes a day allows us to build resilience but also to help each other and create solidarity #TeamSpirit. I am convinced that some rituals, some of these practices, will remain and grow after the crisis.

We cannot slack off; we need to be all hands on deck to help our business lines and the ecosystem. Some projects have been prioritised, others mothballed and the teams restaffed, taking into account individual requirements. For example, in just a few days we managed to set up an observatory of new digital practices resulting from the crisis (the “COVID-19 Trends Observatory: observations in customer experience & digital usages, new ways of working and competitive landscape”) for our CEOs. 

And our open-innovation and Societe Generale Ventures teams are forming bridges with the ecosystem’s startups. Regarding Societe Generale startups, 100% of TREEZOR’s staff moved to remote working overnight, and the same is true of PRISMEA while in the middle of testing the beta version of our neobank aimed at professional clienteles.

In the same way, clients’ practices are changing rapidly: downloads and usage of our mobile apps are skyrocketing, contactless payments are becoming the norm in the retail sector, people are paying less and less by cash… issues on which Societe Generale had already established a leadership position thanks to its work with startup FORGE. This widespread adoption of digital practices by our individual and corporate clients will of course persist and confirm certain initiatives, in the image of our neobank, PRISMEA. In banking, digital sales and self-care will develop even further, notably on mobile. The surge in these digital practices is already going hand in hand with new requirements, in particular in the field of cybersecurity: here, our OPPENS startup’s offer is proving its relevance.

Disruptions already underway in recent years will accelerate. Players such as Amazon, Deliveroo and Microsoft are harnessing the lion’s share of client experiences in the midst of this crisis. Certain new businesses like Epicery (which delivers fresh produce from local shops) also offer to onboard retailers on digital platforms for free to enable them to continue trading during the lockdown. Venture capitalists are also present during the pandemic via, for example, Indexventure, which has announced a $2 billion fund. I recently logged in to the FT Partners webinar to listen to some of my favourite investors confirm that they would honour term-sheets that have already been signed. Our Societe Generale Ventures teams are also continuing the deployment of our in-house ventures and the integration of our external ventures.

It is too early to foresee the extent of the coming changes, but it is fair to presume that, with the surge in Cloud services, digital sovereignty and data security issues will remain at the very heart of people’s concerns for a long time to come. Interest in crypto-assets and virtual currencies could also intensify. As for the issue of individual and family protection, it will be more relevant than ever…  

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Adrian Vasilescu – consilier de strategie al guvernatorului BNR

„O singură provizie am făcut, de card, pentru că nu mai umblu cu banii în buzunar. Banii sunt cei mai periculoși când este vorba de răspândirea unei molimi. Am renunțat la cash. În rest, este o prostie să faci provizii. Dacă vine o molimă și nici nu știi când va ajunge, dacă ar fi să se întindă, pe cât timp să poți să faci provizii? Faci provizii pe trei săptămâni, pe patru săptămâni și mai departe?”, a spus consultantul.


In 23 septembrie 2019, BNR a anuntat infiintarea unui Fintech Innovation Hub pentru a sustine inovatia in domeniul serviciilor financiare si de plata. In acest sens, care credeti ca ar trebui sa fie urmatorul pas al bancii centrale in 2020?