Pioneer in online banking
For the last thirty years, Societe Generale has used the most efficient technological tools to improve its relationship with its customers. From the Minitel to the Web 2.0, it has always shown an ability to make full use of the resources provided by digital technology and new communication tools, thus putting its promise of innovation and proximity into practice.
On the eve of its privatisation, Societe Generale took an ambitious gamble: to reinvent customer relations in the banking sector by making the most of the new opportunities provided by the latest technological innovations in communications. It initially focussed its efforts on the Minitel. It aimed to provide customers with three major types of services from their homes and 24 hours a day: access to customised and secure information through the checking of bank balances and statements, availability of information on products and services, supplemented by simulations and reservations, and the execution of transactions (payments and transfers between a client's existing accounts). This platform also allowed customers, if they so wished, to ask their bank branch to book them an appointment, answer a specific question or reserve products.
Following a conclusive trial in August 1984, the Logitel service was officially launched the following spring. Available via the address "36 14 SG", Logitel was a major success. It was designed as an interactive tool, a loyalty-enhancing instrument and a way of grouping together the assets of clients who often used a number of different banks. Notably, the site was also enhanced with new offers: launched in May 1986, "Logitel Titres" gradually provided the following services: valuation of securities accounts as of the previous evening's stock market prices, information on securities' life cycles, characteristics of the stock held and a continually-updated daily economic and financial newsletter. Other major developments were then added to enhance Logitel: external wire payments enabling transfers to be made to another branch or to a third-party account, with the possibility of programming a pre-defined date, as well as telematic revolving credit. Societe Generale was somewhat ahead of its competitors in this respect. From December 1987, Logitel was the world No.1 in the field of fee-charging telematic services, with more than 105,000 subscribers (individuals, professionals and businesses). So in many ways, this was a kind of precursor to the future use of the Internet...
In November 1992, Societe Generale supplemented its remote-banking setup by adding telephony. It launched "Vocalia", a new free service for checking one's accounts 24/7 via a simple phone call. Logitel and Vocalia were complementary: they made it easier for customers to obtain information whilst allowing bank staff to devote more time to services with higher value added. Again, this was a success, with an average of more than a million calls every month. In 1994, the bank with the red and black logo further expanded Vocalia's features to include standing orders, one-off transfers, stop payments, possibility of paying bills, etc. Four years later, it reached another milestone when it launched "Vocalia Bourse", a platform allowing customers to contact call centre staff for matters concerning their securities accounts, to obtain the latest financial and stock market information and to place orders for trades involving securities and UCITS.
2000's: Visualia & Expresso loan
However, the speed of technological progress and changes in customers' requirements forced Societe Generale to head in a new direction. With the arrival of Internet, customer relations via Minitel became obsolete. In June 2000, the bank moved into the television universe with Visualia, a new service available to Canal Satellite subscribers allowing users to check their bank balance, savings accounts, life insurance contracts and bank and credit card statements. But it was the Web that resulted in the most success for Societe Generale. In 1999, the group's financial and banking services were put online. The particuliers www.societegenerale.fr portal allows customers to carry out all sorts of banking transactions and loan simulations and to receive various offers from the bank, and also allows the bank to carry out direct marketing operations. As email use developed, it also became accessible to prospective customers, who can directly search for documentation and contact the bank. New products available online, such as the Expresso loan implemented in 2006, confirm the bank's growing importance at home and online.
Today: bank 2.0
As well as more straightforward services such as checking your account balance, making a transfer and taking out a loan, the Internet has also allowed Societe Generale to reach a new milestone in terms of customer relations. In 1995, it created Fimatex, a company that is now called Boursorama and is France's leading online bank with more than 900,000 customers. To put it simply, the Group has totally adapted to the multichannel banking era. This is illustrated through its involvement in and commitment to digital technology, the increasing development of its mobile applications and its expertise in digital banking solutions, notably thanks to its @SG_etVous Twitter account, launched in March 2011 and which has become the benchmark in customer relations in the banking and insurance sector. This approach can already be seen to be working well and, given the rapid tecnological advances, is set to be an ongoing challenge that suits the Bank's ambition to embody the "bank of tomorrow".