Emphasizing customer engagement at ING

Efma’s Boris Plantier spoke with Frédéric Niel, Head of the ING Retail Bank in France, about how the bank is prioritizing customer engagement and continuously adding to its suite of digital tools and offerings.

Emphasizing customer engagement at ING

Could you present your bank’s free offer and the premium offer? And the customer profile targeted by each?

At ING in France, our daily banking clients can choose between two offers: a premium “Offre Intégrale” (Integral Offer) and a no-fee “Offre Essentielle” (Essential Offer).

The Integral Offer is the heart of our range. It includes a current account with a Gold Mastercard card with immediate or differed debit, a checkbook, high spending limits and €1,000 overdraft limit. And since September 1st, 2020 it also includes no fees on all payments and withdrawals abroad, regardless of the country or currency, as well as an “emergency cash” option for clients who have lost their card or had it stolen. They can benefit from cash anywhere on the planet in less than 2 hours. The Integral Offer is available free of charge to those who deposit €1,200 per month on their accounts. Without conditions, it is charged €10 per month.

However, some clients do not want or need a current account with so many options. They may have irregular incomes or want to fully control their budget. It is to meet all these expectations that we have created the Essential Offer. Clients of our “Offre Essentielle” benefit from a current account and a Standard Mastercard with immediate debit, no overdraft, and no checkbook. It is available for free and with no conditions. Since we launched it a year ago, half of our new clients have chosen the Essential Offer.

The two offers includes many options of card personalization (PIN code, blocking and unblocking, etc.) and free access to the customer service center at no cost.

You recently said in an interview that you are focusing on customer engagement rather than on customer acquisition. What are your keys to customer engagement? How do you acquire engaged customers or how do you transform your existing customers into engaged customers?

Our strategy in France is to become leaders in terms of customer engagement. We want our clients to use the bank, to use our products and our services. Our target is to make them satisfied with the experience they have with ING.

Today, 25% of our clients use ING as their primary bank: they use their bank card almost every day, they go on our website or on our mobile app daily, and they have a high level of monthly deposits. To increase client engagement, we have expanded our range of products and services to meet most of their financial needs.

If I go back to the beginning of our retail activity in France, ING launched in 2000 with a single product: a savings account called Livret d’Epargne Orange. We then diversified our offer with current accounts, investment products (brokerage and “assurance-vie”) and more recently with home loans, customer loans, and insurance products. This enabled us to attract more and more “engaged” customers as we were able to meet customer needs more fully.

Also, we worked on improving customer experience by simplifying customer journeys and accelerating on mobile to deliver a high-quality experience on all devices. As an illustration: over the last few months, we have completely reviewed the user experience of our mobile apps. We first updated our iOS application and three months we also shipped the update on Android. Both are now among the best rated on the market.

What impact has the Covid-19 crisis had on a bank like ING France that has already made significant investments in remote offerings?

In terms of organization, our agile way of working enabled us to equip 95% of all employees with the necessary tools to work from home within one week, including advisors from the customer service center. This adaptation was seamless for our clients and enabled us to ensure full business continuity throughout the lockdown period.

In terms of business, we decided quite rapidly to take very concrete measures in order to support our clients during the crisis. It was essential for us, as a bank who wants to lead in terms of customer engagement, to live up to our status of trusted partner and help our clients cope with the crisis.

We offered our clients who suffered from a decline in revenues the possibility to postpone their monthly home loans payments for up to 6 months. We also reimbursed the fees charged after rejecting a payment or money transfer due to lack of funds for three months.

Finally, we launched an operation with the Secours Populaire, an association that helps people in precarious and isolated situations across France. We doubled any donation made to their “Coronavirus Emergency” fund and eventually raised more than €350,000 for the association.

With COVID-19, some are declaring "the end of cash." What is your plan in terms of mobile payments and other IoT payments?

I became head of the ING online bank in France a year ago and integrating mobile payment into our offering was the first decision I made. We will be launching Apple Pay soon and launch Google Pay shortly thereafter.

Two very trendy concepts in digital banking are linked to AI and data: personalization and financial wellness. What do you offer in terms of personalization and financial wellness? Do you see these trends continuing to become more prominent in financial services?

We have invested a lot these last few months in terms of AI, data, and personalization. As an example, the share of personalized communication we provide to clients was multiplied by 15 over the last 6 months to reach 87% of customer communications today.

To be efficient, we need the right customer data in real time: we need to make sure it’s up-to-date, secure, and that we can use it in a way that will unlock the potential of these personalized communications and help us meet our objective of clients engagement. We made huge progress and our roadmap is still full of improvements to deliver for our customers.

On the financial wellness side, we are working on new functionalities to help our clients manage their money in a smart way.

We are witnessing the emergence of super apps that go beyond banking. What is your point of view on this new trend? Are banks trying to do too much with their apps or the bigger the better? And will ING France move in the direction of becoming a one-stop-shop app?

At ING, we believe in platforms and I, myself, am a true advocate of platforms and open banking. We are currently working on an international platform that will enable us to scale up our customer experience. More to come soon!


Customer acquisition Customer service Bank Products & Services API/Open banking Workforce management Covid-19 Digital/Mobile channels Digital payments/Wallet AI/Robotics Big data Business strategy/Model


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