Home Banking Interview with Mr. Johan Thijs, Group Chief Executive Officer, KBC Group

Interview with Mr. Johan Thijs, Group Chief Executive Officer, KBC Group

by internationalbanker

KBC Group, based in Belgium but with a wide reach that encompasses core countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Ireland and a selective presence in the British Isles, North America and Southeast Asia, has been one of Europe’s top bank-insurers since 1998 when it was created through the merger of two banks and one insurer. KBC’s commitment to empowering and safeguarding customers has been a model of integrated bancassurance success. This universal financial provider offers a range of services to its 13 million clients—including retail banking, investment management, corporate banking, insurance—through multiple channels, with an increasing emphasis on digital innovation. KBC’s values exemplify three Rs: respectful, responsive and results-driven interaction with customers. Committed to sustainability, KBC strives to create shared value with all of its stakeholders.

Group CEO Johan Thijs recently joined International Banker to discuss KBC’s progress in ushering its customers through an uncertain but exciting future in both banking and insurance.

Mr. Thijs, welcome, and thank you for your time today….

What do you consider to have been the most challenging aspect for KBC to date in dealing with COVID-19? And how have you endeavoured to overcome this challenge?

We had a lot of challenges, obviously. You had the ability to work from home remotely. For KBC, that was taken care of in a very swift way. We already had standards of working from home, at least two days a week, before the COVID crisis. So, we were quite used to remote working. Now, the difference is that we switched to 95 percent of staff working from home, five days a week. It was not an issue whatsoever. But the real challenge that we ultimately faced was the fact that customers, after a while, started to request to come, whenever they intended, to the bank branches. That was obviously not possible because of the restrictions of the lockdown. Occasionally, this gave some issues because we were open only by appointment. Obviously, we do have a lot of other challenges that haven’t surfaced yet. That is, amongst others, what I call the technical side of the COVID crisis, or the economic COVID impact. Because of the loan-repayment moratoriums to customers, banks have less control over how many of those customers are facing issues with, for instance, the payback of their loans. This is the challenge that will materialize over time, let’s say, by the end of quarter four or the beginning of next year.

How has COVID-19 impacted the nature of work for your employees, especially in terms of working at offices versus working at homes? Would you say their jobs have been significantly impacted by the lockdowns, and have they still managed to provide KBC’s full range of banking and insurance offerings to customers during this time?

Let me start with the good news. I’ll give you an example. We did a release of a full IT platform in Ireland without having people on the premises. All was done fully remotely. If you had asked me before the crisis, “Is that possible?” I would have said, “Yes, perhaps it’s possible, but let’s not take the risk.” Now, we just did it. Because we had to. So, yes, we were able to deliver. But, on the other side, the most significant impact surfaced only after two, three months of lockdown. People were used to working from home two days a week but not the entire week for a long period. It’s become clear now that our employees were starting to miss social contacts with their colleagues. In the end, we got requests from staff, and not just a couple, “Could you please allow us to come back to the office? We want to see our colleagues, have a chat with them, get back to a normal way of working. Interchange is much easier when you have everyone physically gathered around the table. So allow us to do that again.”  I think the long-term impact of lockdown and remote working still has to be investigated properly.

You mentioned that necessity meant that you rolled out something positive. Are there any other positives to take in this current situation in terms of COVID and what it has generated?

I know it’s awkward to say that in a crisis, which impacts the health of human beings significantly, that you have positives, but unfortunately, it is the case. As a matter of fact, it is now quite clear that digitization has become a fundamental cornerstone of our society. I said society; I did not say bancassurance. And it is now also clear that the impact of digitization is not going to be turned back tomorrow when we have the vaccine. The digitization that we have now seen is here to stay. And to say it differently, what a manager can do over a period of four years in terms of digital transformation, COVID has forced us to do in four months.

I was going to say that to you as well. When we’ve spoken in the past, we’ve always spoken about digitization. And I’m sure the timeline that you had in your mind was probably maybe five, six years in terms of when this would really be fundamental to everyone. But COVID has made this crystal clear now. And anyone who hasn’t put in the groundwork that you’ve put in over the past few years is in a sticky situation at this point.

I couldn’t agree more. And that’s also what we see with some of our corporate and SME customers. Some have prepared for the digital society very well. But we also see some others who are insufficiently or even not prepared at all.  They entered into the lockdown period with the conclusion, “I need to have a digital frontend for my sales, but I do not have it. So, let’s try to fix that.” The easy part of the job is the frontend. But digitization doesn’t stop there. The difficult part is the backend and, especially, the flawless connection between these two layers. Without that flawlessly connected backend, having only a frontend is like putting lipstick on a bulldog. It looks nice, but it will bite you at the end.

As CEO, what would you say has been the most important lesson to date that the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have taught you about leading KBC in this challenging time? Do you think your approach to leadership will change much in the post-COVID-19 era?

Mr. Johan Thijs, Group Chief Executive Officer, KBC Group

You learn a lot of things in each and every crisis. For me, this COVID crisis is a confirmation of what we saw in 2008. That is, you cannot predict the future at 100 percent. At the beginning of this year, we were wishing each other a great new year; we were certainly not wishing for what we are experiencing nowadays. That’s the repeat of the lesson of 2008. As a consequence, as a manager, you always try to anticipate the uncertain future. When that future hits and kicks in, in the form of a crisis, you need to act swiftly. KBC has been working hard for many years to anticipate a digital disruption. The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the digital wave in the financial industry significantly. Fortunately, we are well prepared, and we can now shift one gear up. As a matter of fact, you could say in general that a crisis triggers an event, making you act swiftly. I also experienced again that there’s a big difference between managers responding to a crisis situation. Some will really blossom in a crisis like this; their managerial skills come to the surface. Others will completely block. And that’s also something I saw back in 2008 in a different setting. For me, that’s quite crucial: to have a very diversified pack of managers.

One of the cornerstones of Differently: the Next Level” is placing particular importance on operational efficiency. Can you name the most significant way in which KBC plans to improve operational efficiency going forward? And how much of a role does replacing legacy infrastructure play in achieving this goal?

The “Differently: the Next Level” strategy is actually triggered by customer demand. We want to anticipate customer needs. And, therefore, we work out solutions. People tend to forget that this not only applies to a great frontend that the customer is confronted with, it’s also quite important to have a solid backend. The customer is not only demanding to have a good product, a good servicing, but he clearly wants a hassle- and friction-free processing of his request. And, you know, banks and insurance companies over the last 25 years have not been excelling on that side. So, as a consequence, a lot of banks were having analog processes for which they made a digital frontend, which is like putting lipstick on a bulldog. To be really successful in the 21st century, you have to redesign both the back- and the frontend processes and be sure that they are seamlessly integrated. Obviously, in doing so, every bank will be confronted with their legacy infrastructure. At KBC, we already started to redesign our legacy infrastructure in 2014. And the redesign of the backend systems is, compared with the design of the frontend, indeed the big job.

As far as KBC’s recent digital offerings are concerned, there seems to be a significant emphasis on AI (artificial intelligence)-based solutions, such as Kate and Matti. What are some of the biggest advantages of adopting this strategy, particularly in terms of maximising the customer experience? And do you see any potential drawbacks or challenges from using AI?

You’ve rightfully pointed out that we want to maximize the customer experience. And, therefore, much more than we did in the past, we use AI-based solutions. Now, there is a big fundamental difference between Kate and Matti. Matti is more product-driven and is more related to a particular investment product. While Kate is actually more a philosophy, encompassing the entire customer interaction and relationship with KBC and beyond, ultimately translated into an algorithm. What I mean with “and beyond” is that we also encompass services that are linked to things that are part of the daily life of our customers, for instance, buying train tickets, bus tickets, fueling up your car, paying your house-cleaning staff. We facilitate all the financial transactions that are linked to that daily life that I just described. So, compared to Matti, Kate is a completely different setting.

The big advantage of using AI is that we can tailor our solutions to the individual. We have about 12 to 13 million customers; it is impossible to tailor all the solutions that we provide to customers individually by only interacting with human beings in banking outlets. With AI, we can provide a customized solution to each and every client based on their data, which translates their behaviors, patterns and preferences. Deep-learning tools allow us to learn from data and, over time, understand each individual better. And a machine, let’s face it, is always available as well. 24/7. You know, when we asked our customers what they really wanted, their answers were straightforward: “Know me”, “Know your business”, “Make it secure” and “Make it simple”. That’s precisely where we can use our AI applications. Of course, there are a couple of drawbacks as well. Because you have to be aware that by using only machines, you may lose the human touch. And you can then become a cold bank or a cold insurer. Which we don’t want to be. Therefore, when we are setting our AI solutions in place and are connecting them with the processes that interact with our customers, we always link them with a human interaction. In this way, the AI tool is giving the customer the possibility to choose either a digital solution and/or go to the human solution.

You’ve covered some of the most appealing features about Kate. Obviously, it becomes smarter over time. But how confident are you that Kate will always get customers’ requests right, and what happens if “she” gets them wrong?

Actually, I can summarize Kate’s way of working, or the philosophy behind it, in one sentence. It’s all about proactive fulfillment of customer needs in a digital-first way. Every word in that sentence has its meaning. Proactive means you really anticipate. Fulfillment means you give them hassle-free solutions. And digital-first means that the processes behind it are completely redesigned to facilitate the digital potential. That means that it is 100 percent customized to the individual and that the delivery of the solution to the customer can happen in a straight-through, processed way. In principle, without human interference and for sure without hassle or friction for the customer. Moreover, there is always a link to the network. For instance, as a customer, you enter into a conversation with Kate. If you come to the conclusion that Kate’s answer is not up to what you expected, you can always link to somebody in the branch network who can provide you with a customized solution. So, yes, there will certainly be moments when the solution provided by Kate is not entirely accurate because, for instance, she’s only had you as a customer for a few months and hasn’t had enough opportunity to interpret all the details of your data. But when this happens, you can always reach out to your branch staff. Over time, the machine learns better and better how to understand you, your preferences, your profile and can tailor its response better.

KBC tightened its existing energy policy—and introduced a new biodiversity policy—which, among other things, involves implementing a stricter evaluation process for customer relationships. The energy policy aims to implement a zero-tolerance policy by 2030 for the financing and insurance of coal activities. While this is certainly an improvement, it still leaves a 10-year window before it comes into effect. Why is this the case?

Let me update you on this matter. First of all, in the majority of our current countries where we are present, we already apply zero-tolerance today, definitely for the financing and insurance of direct coal exposure. There is, however, a caveat in the Czech Republic, where a lot of coal-fired power plants provide electricity to municipalities, electricity that is used by central heating systems in the municipality. Of course, we don’t want to put those people in the cold in the wintertime. We worked out a transitional period. On November 12, we announced that this transitional period is due to end in 2021. At the same time, we also announced our plan to substantially raise the bar for our climate-related ambitions. We want to further reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent by 2030 and achieve full climate neutrality by the end of 2021.

With regard to several of KBC’s sustainability policies, it seems that you are happy to use guidance from the United Nations (and other international organisations to a lesser extent) to determine with whom you should engage in business transactions. For example, the UN Global Compact Worst Offenders List was heavily used in the creation of the KBC Blacklist; and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights plays a major role in KBC’s commitment to meeting its responsibilities in respecting human rights. Are such organisations the only guidance you use, or is there also a further internal process within KBC to decide the final list of entities with whom you can do business?

KBC Group Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium

It’s indeed both. It’s a combination of external and internal guidelines and external and internal entities that are involved. The reason why we use external references is quite obvious. It is very difficult to find common standards in terms of sustainability. If you look at, for instance, only environmental targets or environmental standards, it is even more difficult. Now, by using the external entities you just referred to, you actually use their standards as a kind of reference. Internal steering boards, which are composed of the top management of the KBC Group, put their input on top of those external references, which we use as kind of a minimum standard. The output of the internal steering committees is assessed by the External Sustainability Board, which is, as the word says, a board under the umbrella of KBC but composed of professors, experts in their domains, which are not linked to KBC. They are a fully, and it’s guaranteed, fully independent body, which acts on the back of KBC’s request and only for KBC, dealing with questions which are related to sustainability. Their advice is used in order to drive our sustainability policy, and that advice is taken into account by the internal sustainability board. This ensures that when we take a decision on sustainability matters, it is implemented across the whole Group in a uniform manner.

How much emphasis is KBC placing on developing collaborative relationships with third-party entities such as Proximus and TreasurUp? Can we expect to see a lot more of such partnerships being formed in the coming months and years, and if so, how do you see such partnerships changing the fundamental role of KBC in the future?

Over the last 10 years, and certainly in the last five, six years, KBC has been working quite a lot with third parties. These third parties can be incumbents in their industry or can be fintechs, for instance. This is a crucial part of our strategy. In essence, I can split up KBC’s activity into three parts: the core activities, such as lending and insurance; the non-core business, such as accounting, marketing, etc.; and our peripheral activities, which are financial services we provide to our customers to ease their lives but are not necessarily banking or insurance activities.  Regarding our core business,  the craftsmanship of collecting deposits and transforming them into lending products, underwriting insurance contracts, settling insurance claims—that core activity of banking insurance is something that we will always keep in our own hands. We will, in principle, not outsource these activities partially or in full to third parties.

For activities that are linked to the core activities but not part of them—for instance, the invoice administration, accounting system, marketing, etc.,  what I call non-core activities—those are businesses that we can easily outsource partially or in full. The peripheral activities are, in principle, all bound to be outsourced or part of a third-party “collaborationship”. Let me give you an example.  We collaborate with a fintech that is making energy-price comparisons for our customers. This is not our core business, of course, but it deals with the financial transactions of our customers, which is our core business. Having access to the data of those transactions, we can generate added value for our customers by analysing and proposing better solutions. This relates to it because we execute the financial transactions for our customers.  Anyway, for the three types of activities we follow the same philosophy:  We need to be able to deliver top-notch services and products. And, therefore, as a consequence, those third parties need to be experts in their domains in order to guarantee the quality that we request.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, KBC’s customer loans and customer deposits increased in the second quarter year-on-year in all of its core markets (Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Ireland). To what do you specifically attribute this impressive growth?

Let me go back two years in time. Both in 2018 and 2019, KBC was delivering quite a strong growth on the deposit side and on the lending side of our book. KBC has, from that perspective, always been a very strong contender in the bank-insurance environment in the countries where we are active. When COVID came in, obviously you have a supplementary effect to that. People started to get nervous because of the impact of the COVID crisis, when countries went into lockdowns. And they also got concerned about, for instance, the stability of financial institutions. From that perspective, KBC has a solid reputation and is for many people a safe haven. Next to that, we continue to play our role in society. And that role in society is granting loans and also securely handling the deposits of our customers as if they were our own. That role in society we have continued to play as well during the COVID crisis, as we are doing today. So, consequently, we have seen strong growth, because the combination of the two—being a safe haven for our customers and playing our role in society—has indeed boosted our growth on both the lending, deposit side and on the insurance side.

With COVID threatening to seriously dent liquidity and capital thresholds across much of Europe’s banking sector, how do you ensure KBC continues to keep sufficient buffers in place whilst not being forced to scale down its business operations?

Once again, anticipating your future is key. As part of our strategy,  we want to be amongst the best-performing, best-capitalized, most liquid financial institutions in Europe. This ambition we have realized in the meanwhile. Today, without being complacent or arrogant, we are pretty sure that we have sufficient buffers to weather the COVID-19 crisis. In terms of capital, we have a buffer of more than 7 percent on our common equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio, the core capital ratio. In monetary terms, this means a buffer of more than seven billion euros, which is a significant amount of money. And if I add the transitional measures taken by the ECB (European Central Bank), we have a buffer of 9 percent in common equity Tier 1. That’s nine billion euros. To give you a reference, when the financial crisis hit KBC badly in 2008, we consumed seven billion in capital. The Group’s risk profile at that time was far riskier than our current risk profile, and the balance sheet was about 20 percent bigger than today’s. In that respect, the current capital buffer allows me to say quite confidently that we can weather this COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, we already provisioned in the second quarter all impairments that are related to COVID-19 for the full year—which again comes down to anticipating the future.  That’s part of our way of working. It’s part of our business philosophy.

In March, KBC announced that, in line with the European Central Bank recommendation, no dividends would be paid out until October 1, 2020 (which was subsequently extended to November as stated in the second-quarter presentation), and no irrevocable commitment to pay out dividends would be undertaken by the credit institutions for the financial years 2019 and 2020. Does this policy remain in place, and as of now, when do you anticipate the resumption of dividends?

First of all, our dividend policy has not changed. We still have the intention to pay out at least 50 percent of our profit, including an interim dividend. And when we have surplus capital, which we cannot use in doing business, we are also going to distribute that surplus capital back to our shareholders. That’s the dividend policy as it was and as it still stands today. Because of the strong recommendations of the ECB, that dividend policy has been postponed until further notice. It has not been canceled. That’s the crucial difference. Of course, I understand the view of the supervisor. It’s obvious that in an unprecedented crisis, they want most of the capital kept in the banks to keep them stable and to keep them safe to weather the impact. But given the position of KBC, which is a very strong, capitalized bank with very strong profitability and thus capital-generating power, I do regret the fact that the authorities have taken a blanket decision on the dividend. I think it’s possible to take a bank-specific decision on dividends.

I would prefer the ECB to apply the current rules, which are based on MDA (Maximum Distributable Amount) targets. If you drop below the MDA target, you are not allowed to pay a dividend. The ECB can still request a buffer on top of the MDA, but at least allow individual banks that are strongly capitalized—or that are very profitable, even in circumstances like the current one—to distribute capital to shareholders via dividends, via share buybacks. I fear that the long-term effect of not allowing European banks to distribute capital will be to weaken the European banking sector and will also hamper the consolidation within the European banking domain.

It was announced in April that KBC would spin out its wealthtech business into a new startup called “everyoneINVESTED”. For what main reason was this decision taken?

everyoneINVESTED is a bit more than a startup; it is a strategy, a full-grown vision of how we want to elaborate our asset-management activities, taking into account the trends that we observe in the world. The starting position is the fact that we want everybody to be invested, and not only wealthy or rich people. Investments, given the long-term low interest rates, are something we have to offer to all of our customers. Depending on the money they have available, this will be accomplished in different manners. We want to foster people to go into investments that are secure, that are safe.

In that respect, we do a lot of product development. For instance, we have launched an activity where we said to our clients, “If you go shopping, you always have spare change. Our solution allows you to invest that spare change into an asset-management product. It’s quite simple, quite basic, and it allows you to easily invest.” The second target is that once they are invested, we want to keep them invested. And the third one is, obviously, give them value for their money. Here we use a lot of AI applications. And that AI application is going to monitor the outside world and bring in new insights for customers on an individual, customized basis. Which, again, is something that you cannot do by human beings alone.

Now, to come back to the word startup you used in your question,  everyoneINVESTED is indeed set up as a separate business activity, which we can outsource to third parties. Two weeks ago, we announced our first deal from that perspective. everyoneINVESTED and Objectway, which is a leading international player in digital wealth and asset-management software, have entered into a partnership agreement. Objectway will offer everyoneINVESTED’s Profiler to the international market, a solution built around a fast and user-friendly app for creating digital investor profiles. If you want to buy asset-management products, the law obliges a bank to know the customer, to make a full risk-profile analysis, and then on the back of that proposal, offer a tailored solution. We have put that complex process into a patented AI solution. And Objectway is the first one that is going to use and distribute it onto the international market beyond KBC’s core markets.

As I understand, KBC Bank Ireland recently launched a new digital pension product, marking its first foray into the Irish insurance market. What was the motivation behind making this move? And can you briefly explain the appeal of this product’s “self-serve capability”?

The reason why we did this is quite straightforward. KBC is a bancassurance group. We had a third-party collaboration agreement on the life and nonlife business in Ireland because we didn’t have an insurance company over there. So, we developed our own life-insurance company, which is going to provide pension products to Irish customers. And that’s, actually, a fulfillment of being a bancassurer, a straightforward implementation of our business philosophy. The big thing, and the appeal to customers, is that it’s done in a fully digital way. It’s a full digital-first pension product application and the first one in Ireland. Because it’s full digital, we have completely redesigned this pension product in order to make it eligible for digital sales. It’s simple, it’s hassle-free, and it provides the customised solution to the customer. It’s unique in its kind in Ireland, as the pension market is dominated by pension advisers. In two years’ time, I will be able to tell you if we were, indeed, a frontrunner, a successful frontrunner, or that it was a little bit too early to launch it because the market is dominated by advisers, human advisers.

Would you classify KBC as a data-driven decision-maker? What are the key areas of the Group that are most significantly employing big data and data analytics to make more informed decisions?

We switched four years ago into a data-driven organization, meaning that we use a lot of data to take and underpin decisions and to steer processes. It started with the business side with the aim of better understanding the data, better understanding who the customer is in order to facilitate the right decision-taking. But it goes beyond that. Meanwhile, we have shifted to include non-commercial activities. For instance, our compliance department is constantly using entirely AI-driven solutions to make assessments of all transactions. “Know your customer, know your transaction”—the requests from the regulators. KBC has five full-time AI engineers working for compliance, which says a lot.

We also have been shifting massively for a couple of years now into applying data and data-driven AI solutions on operational processes to boost operational efficiency, to bring down operational risks. We started four years ago with robotic process automation, RPA. Now we are shifting into IPA, which is the intelligent version of RPA. The machine anticipates further evolution in the process because of the data it receives. So from that perspective, yes, we are a data-driven decision-maker. And yes, we are making progress every day.

Do you see technology and automation playing a major role over the coming years in replacing jobs within the banking industry? And with KBC increasingly welcoming digitally automated solutions such as Kate and Matti, what implications does this have for the total number of people employed by the Group?

Technology and automation will always play an important role, and that role will become more important going forward. We are an industry that is offering financial solutions to customers. Let’s face it, we do not offer tangible goods such as, for example, chairs or tables. We offer financial products, which are based on trust. Trust is something between human beings, and that’s why I think it cannot be entirely digitized. But everything else that we offer can be digitized. There is a fundamental difference between the automated solutions Kate and Matti, as I already explained. Matti is a robot built for one entire product and investment process for a particular group of customers, self-directed investment customers. And Matti is providing a solution for them, specifically tailored to that type of business. On the other hand, and this is far more encompassing, Kate is more an organizational concept that is customized to every individual customer for all their individual financial needs. And, therefore, it is, as I call it, an algorithm that steers the organization in order to make our customer service perfect and customized. So, whereas in the past, we had one and the same mobile-banking solution for all customers, we now have for all customers a solution, fully customized. And from that perspective, the algorithm Kate will be a major support to our staff and an added value for our customers. Kate will be able to analyze the individual data of each and every one of our 13 million customers in such a way that it can provide, always, 24/7, a tailored solution as requested. This is impossible to realise for human beings in bank branches in a stand-alone setting. As a consequence, we will make Kate and our employees work together. The output to the customer will be much better than it was in the past.

Will it replace jobs? Yes, it will. And it will take over the easy part; the cognitively repetitive jobs will be replaced by machines. These are jobs that have little added value for the customer or the employee. Will it replace all jobs, without having those people who were in those jobs doing something else? The answer is “no”. For sure, you will need other types of staff, that’s true. But we will retrain those people who were doing cognitively repetitive tasks, which were taken over by the machine. We will put them on tasks with added value for customers, like commercial contacts with clients, and, therefore, going back to what I said, the starting principle of Kate, being proactive fulfillment of customer needs. Ultimately, it’s always the customer who chooses. He can choose for the machine, or he can choose for the human being. And that will depend on the situation, on the product, on whatever. Sometimes the customer will go for the machine solution proposed by Kate because it’s much easier. And sometimes the customer will, rather, prefer the bank-branch network. Then he or she can do so. The customer always ultimately chooses.

How are you finding that generationally? Are you finding the preconceived idea that the younger generation would definitely feel happy always using digital and the older generation would more likely prefer face to face to be true? Are you finding that those preconceived ideas are borne out by reality, or are you finding that the younger generation still appreciates the face-to-face aspect?

That’s what people commonly think. But reality shows that it’s “unconscious bias”. I’m 55 years old. My unconscious bias is that—having grown up with interactions with human beings—I tend to prefer to have somebody, a human being, who will help me. The unconscious bias of young people is “Where is my phone?”—as they have been growing up with their mobile phones in their pockets, interacting via Facebook and WeChat and WhatsApp with their friends. That unconscious bias is shifting over time. And COVID-19 has kicked in in a significant way to speed up that blurring.

In terms of the fastest-growing population group in KBC, we see that—listen carefully—80-year-olds and older are the fastest-growing group in the use of digital applications. What’s more, 37 percent of our 80-plus-year-old people are using mobile applications for their basic transactions right away. When COVID-19 arrived in our society, it became clear that the elderly people, for instance, the 70- to 80-year-olds, are amongst the most vulnerable groups of people. Consequently, these people are no longer keen on going to the bank branch, and they look for COVID-proof alternatives. Their sons and daughters say, “Mom, Dad, look at this. You can do it as well via your phone.” And they’re massively stepping into the KBC app and starting to use it but, more importantly, starting to like it. Safe and sound.

Thank you very much for speaking with us today, Mr. Thijs.


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