The banking sector reflects social and technological changes. In the 1960s, information technology started to play a major role in the organisation of banks. With the development of the Minitel, telematics represented a new phase. Right at the start of the 1980s, BNP and Cetelem engaged in this process. The bank came into French homes.
From information technology to telematics
In the space of one century, the bank modified its organisation to improve efficiency. After the mechanisation of administrative tasks, information technology revolutionised operations: in 1960, IBM computers were adopted and computer tools became widespread. After the creation of the Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) in 1966, a banking information centre was opened at 49, avenue des Champs Elysées in 1970. For the first time ever, visitors were given free access to a Honeywell-Bull computer terminal where they could obtain a response to real-estate financing questions. This link between computers and private individuals increased with the development of automated teller machines (ATMs). In 1978, a symposium on Information Technology and Society launched the term “telematics”. A new phase took shape. Supported by government decisions, the Teletel was a new channel of communication offered to professionals and the general public.
The Minitel gamble
The Teletel was developed in the early 1980s. In 1982, the first Minitel terminals were given to the public. All telephone subscribers could adopt this innovation at their local France Telecom agency. The banking sector recognised this tool’s potential. Cetelem soon decided to try it out in different stores. First of all, the stores’ employees had to be trained, starting with keyboard operations. But the benefits were clear, both for Cetelem and salespersons, because customers at these stores could obtain a response to their request for credit within just a few minutes – and then make their purchases immediately. In 1984, 3,000 storekeepers were connected to Cetelem by Minitel. BNP also invested in telematics and integrated this into its sales strategy.
Creating remote banking
In 1984, BNP offered its professional customers and then its individual customers the interactive Teleservice B. This service allowed them to manage their cash flow in real time. The Minitel allowed BNP to secure customer loyalty and improve the quality of service at its branches which no longer had to deal with queues because customers could consult their bank from home. With 3616 BNPTEL, customers’ need for speed and efficiency was fulfilled. In 1994, BNP offered its individual customers the chance to subscribe to Panorama, a service available by Minitel or telephone. They could manage their accounts directly, consult their assets, make stock exchange orders and keep up with economic developments from their home. Customers adopted the Minitel on a large scale. The World Wide Web would soon take over. But remote banking had already been born.