Banking and Open Data: Interview with Pierre-Philippe Cormeraie

Data Stories Banking & Insurance

September 03, 2019

Reading time: 6 min




Groupe BPCE is France's second largest banking group. It is also the first to launch its very own open data portal. We organized an interview with the group's chief digital evangelist to learn more about the project.

Can you tell us more about how the data sharing project came about at Groupe BPCE, France’s second largest banking group? What kind of objectives did you first have in mind? 

Our decision to launch an open data portal was directly linked to our digital transformation strategy, which really aims to make life simple for our customers, our staff and our partners. We wanted to create the right conditions for an open, simple relationship with our partners. This is when we came across Opendatasoft and we were quickly convinced by the value proposition of its data publication platform and how it could help us reach our goals. 

Our open data project has two important lines of work: one internal and one external. The internal objective is to familiarize the various business entities at BPCE with open data and reflect on what it encompasses, both in terms of challenges and opportunities. Our external objective is to embrace the larger open data ecosystem in France, which is strikingly dynamic and open to collaborative projects as well as to the exchange of best practices. A number of local authorities and companies in sectors such as transport, manufacturing, weather forecasting and energy are already very active in this open data movement. We recently teamed up with some of these organizations so that we can all work together to come up with new work models.

What is the nature of the data you share? Has it changed much since the early years of your initiative? 

Of course there is no personal or business-sensitive data on the group's open data portal. We only make Groupe BPCE's public data accessible in formats that are easy for everyone to reuse. The dataset catalogue is dynamic and comprises structured, dependable, centralized data, updated by team members responsible for the data and its reliability. Data is available in the shape of tables, graphs, interactive maps and even calendars. 

All of this data is not provided by one single business unit. For instance, the dataset "permanent hires by age range" is published by the HR department, the group's financial results are published by the finance department, and the Banque Populaire and Caisses d’Epargne banks provide the list of their branches and cash dispensers along with their GPS coordinates. Some institutions publish their community initiatives supporting the most vulnerable people, and the research department issues analyzes based on data that then becomes easy to reuse. 

Very recently, the Fédération Nationale des Banques Populaires and Natixis Payment published in open data a study of local payments made by foreign tourists in the various regions of the country. This was a unique initiative in France, and is a brand new way of analyzing economic activity in the regions.

Some sectors are adopting an open data approach to meet specific regulatory requirements. Is this the case for the banking and insurance sector? 

Our initiative is not a response to a regulatory requirement and we were the first bank in France to adopt a proper open data approach. It's a deliberate strategy on our part, and one that is consistent with our digital and data strategy. I note that some of our peers are taking an increasing interest in our initiative and we hope that we will be joined by other players in the sector before too long. That will enable the banking and insurance sector to add value within the French open data ecosystem.

I imagine that data governance is a key issue in your sector. How do you manage it at Groupe BPCE? 

Data governance is one of the most important issues facing the department tasked with our digital and data initiatives, led by Yves Tyrode, Groupe BPCE's Chief Digital Officer. Ludovic Favarette has also just joined the General Management Committee as Head of Data Governance and Democratization, responsible for developing and deploying data governance and culture across the group. 

As you know, our business is Privacy by Design. Our customers' banking data is their property; it does not belong to us. Our customers trust us to keep their data secure and to manage it as part of a relationship of trust and banking secrecy. When it comes to open data, we therefore only share public data specific to our companies and studies. Any group entity that so wishes can publish its public data on the group's portal.

Who are the main beneficiaries of Groupe BPCE's data sharing project? 

The main users of the data we make available are analysts, journalists, researchers, teachers, students, other open data players, local authorities, chambers of commerce, transport organizations, startups, and even our own staff who find it convenient to use this channel to access types of public data. As you can see, there are plenty of beneficiaries already.

If you had to convince an organization in your sector to adopt an open data or data sharing approach, what would you tell them? 

I would probably tell them that, in my view, it is an urgent and necessary initiative that is in line with the tide of history. We are making our company's public data available so that as many people as possible can access it and create value by actively using it. All business sectors will sooner or later, and this is still my opinion, have to adopt open data either by their own initiative or because the regulation will require it. So you might as well prepare for it as soon as possible - you always gain by innovating.

Two years after your portal launched, what benefits has it brought? There have been numerous benefits. 

From an external point of view, our initiative has been applauded by the community and acknowledged by numerous experts as a long-term approach that needs to be nurtured regularly, month by month. We also regularly meet stakeholders from the open data ecosystem and play an active part in meetups where we discuss our datasets and develop original models enabling us to create value. This gives our data experts opportunities to share best practices with their peers and come up with new ideas. 

Internally, we have tried to build a stronger data culture. We have made sure to explain what open data is and what it is not. Several group companies have followed suit and adopted the approach successfully. In terms of figures, to date we have published more than 110 datasets and some twenty group companies contribute regularly to the open data approach.

How is the data sharing project at Groupe BPCE likely to evolve in the coming years? 

We are just at the beginning of the open data era and it is an extremely exciting project with much to look for. We take it step by step so to make the process as smooth as possible and to tie it with our cooperative DNA and our close relationships with the actors who count in the regions. On top of that, open data plays a full role in our digital and data strategy and enables everyone to go one step further by creating value internally and externally. All in all, it will be an interesting story to follow as it further develops!


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