Photo: Franck Vignard-Rosez, CEO of BNP Paribas Personal Finance in Spain. Credits: BNP Paribas Personal Finance.

In 1997, the Cetelem Observatory, the research and forecasting unit of BNP Paribas Personal Finance, worked with telephone and fax diaries. Considerable progress has been made since those analog days, but more than 25 years later its objective remains the same: to analyze current events and place the most important trends into the mainstream. As a benchmark for information, it offers a range of content that reflects current events and what is expected in the purchase and consumption habits of the consumer of the future.

Franck Vignard-Rosez, CEO of BNP Paribas Personal Finance Spain (Cetelem), has been part of the French bank for more than a decade and says that the observatory has helped them to listen and understand the needs of their clients and consumers. He also tells MIT Technology Review in Spanish how COVID-19 has pushed people to have more responsible and sustainable habits and how its business model has positioned the circular economy as a goal.

Cetelem has positioned sustainability as a strategic priority, what measures have you taken to promote it? Do you consider that sustainability is also having an impact on the priorities of the general public?

We committed to sustainability very early on, but today we see that it is really starting to become a powerful driving force. In this sense, what we are growing the most is the financing of renewable energies and more sustainable transport, promoting, for example, bicycle leasing and vehicle electrification.

Clearly, it is having a huge impact because people are changing. The current situation and the surge in electricity prices have made the general public more aware of the environmental and cost savings. In the Cetelem Observatory we see that more people are now making sustainable purchasing decisions. This is starting to become a reality, especially among the younger population. Therefore, we must be more competitive and, from the Observatory, we help companies to raise awareness and give increased visibility to this aspect.

The circular economy is currently being integrated into the business models of many organizations. How is Cetelem adapting to this new model?

For us, the circular economy is not only a priority, but a goal at a global level. There has always been a strong desire to understand the needs of our partners and end customers. Therefore, our goal is to improve their quality of life and support their sustainable and responsible consumption.

In this regard, we have made an investment with the French fintech Evollis. This is a platform for leasing capital goods (smartphones, computer equipment, game consoles, etc.) and electric mobility (bicycles, scooters, etc.). Specifically in Spain, we have made agreements with the second-hand goods trading company Cash Converters in the bicycle sector, which is very important for us. Supporting this ecosystem is really strengthening a more circular economy.

Cetelem has a strong presence in the motor sector. How are you experiencing the boom in hybrid and electric vehicles?

Along with our partners and brands, we support the ecological transition by investing in electric and hybrid mobility. We offer financing to facilitate the renewal and acquisition of these types of vehicles. We believe that these cars will have an important market value in the future. Therefore, we want to make the transition affordable for society.

Banking has to trust in the future and, for this, we have to be a financial player that supports projects that are more environmentally friendly from an energy production and mobility standpoint. As a financial institution, we believe in this change.

According to MIT Technology Review, the new era of money is characterized by the transformation that cryptocurrencies are driving. How are traditional banks experiencing this revolution and is it an opportunity or a threat?

It is certainly an interesting technological option, but the insecurity and volatility of the markets related to cryptocurrencies make it an investment in which there have been people who have made a lot of money and people who have also lost a lot. It is a high-risk investment and we believe it is not recommended for people without an in-depth knowledge of cryptocurrencies. So, we don't see it as a threat.

But we know that the financial sector has an obligation to adapt to technological developments. From our point of view, for example, blockchain is a really exciting technology and it's something we would like to push forward. Banking will have to rely on it to continue to grow and generate business.

How do you see the economic landscape in general and the consumer sector in particular? How have customer consumption habits changed in a context where digitalization and technology take the lead?

Personally, I think instability has become the new normal. You have to get used to and be prepared for moments of volatility, which, like the COVID- 19 crisis, are the ones that have made us come out stronger.

From the Cetelem Observatory we have seen that the pandemic has radically changed consumption and has greatly accelerated digitalization, especially driven by remote working. As a bank we have a duty to facilitate access to technology, we want to promote not only the financial inclusion of people, but also digital inclusion.

Other factors that have increased are proximity commerce and the promotion of outdoor sports, reflected in a growth in the financing of bicycles and sports equipment.

These new habits are here to stay and, with the Cetelem Observatory, we are not only concerened with financing, but also with sustainability, because we believe that the future has to be sustainable and we can see that people are already more cosncientious of the change.