How the right mindset gives innovation wings
It’s hard to predict what the world will look like a hundred years from now. However, it is possible to identify a number of megatrends that are radically and structurally changing our society. It’s here that the interesting investment opportunities lie, according to Jürgen Verschaeve, Chief Investment Officer at KBC Asset Management, and Karin Van Hoecke, Director of Transformation and Data at KBC Group.
The world of investments offers both direct and indirect opportunities. 'The immediate opportunities obviously lie in investing in the trends of the moment’, explains Jürgen Verschaeve. 'But the indirect opportunities are also important for us as asset managers. We use trends to help us build better portfolios for our clients. We try to balance those two elements.'
A trend is not the same thing as a hype. 'A trend is a longer-term vision that you have to grasp. Smart city, for example, is a buzzword: how should we reinvent our cities? To answer that, you need technology, and you can see which companies are offering that today. We are also looking at technology, and especially artificial intelligence, to help us in our task as asset managers. 'How can we keep even better track of huge amounts of data? We currently track more than 10 000 bonds and 5 000 stocks,' says Verschaeve.
Karin Van Hoecke agrees on the importance of grasping trends. 'Every day we experiment, learn and adapt. At all times, we put the customer at the heart of what we do. Is the customer ready for the next step? How can we guide them? To be successful, you have to keep innovating. That's in our DNA.'
'Take the energy crisis, for example. We are not only there to provide our customers with banking and insurance services, but also to help them in their daily lives. For example, we work with My Energy and encourage our customers to look at their energy contracts to see where they can make savings. This year we will also be producing ‘energy insights’ for our customers: What activities use a lot of energy? Can you do anything to reduce that consumption? And that approach can also be applied to our business customers.'
'Taking away the worry,' Verschaeve calls it, and he homes in on the investment side. 'The customer no longer needs to come to the branch to get accurate day-to-day advice; they can get that info on their phone. Eventually, they’ll also be able to just ask Kate, our digital assistant. We are building our ecosystem so that customers can manage all their important affairs digitally and their own convenience. Moreover, since people always have their phones with them, they can take action quickly if something happens.'
We are building our ecosystem so that customers can manage all their important affairs digitally and their own convenience.
Jürgen Verschaeve, Chief Investment Officer at KBC Asset Management
Power of machines
A digital assistant like Kate operates using artificial intelligence, and this is one of the trends observed by Verschaeve. 'The world in which we work is becoming increasingly complex,' concludes Verschaeve. 'And as a result, we are all having to process more and more information. There’s a clear sense that it’s too much to cope with using our limited human resources. Technology allows us to pull together information and let the engine look for causal links that will allow us to make better predictions. Moreover, it allows us to be much more objective than previously. That’s undoubtedly the power of machine learning.'
If you can use technology to solve a customer's problem, then magic happens: you can develop a customer-centric process.
Karin Van Hoecke, Director of Transformation and Data at KBC Group
'Out of all the many trends, the trick is to spot which ones are relevant to us,' says Van Hoecke. 'What are the potential benefits for us and for the customer? If you can use technology to solve a customer’s problem, then magic happens: you can develop a customer-centric process. Obviously, it’s vital to carry out sufficient testing first, and even then you have to continually keep fine-tuning. Continuous improvement never stops. You could compare it to a computer game; If you win a level, you will be faced with another one, which brings new monsters or challenges.'
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The information contained in this webinar is for information purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice.