“At KBC, we believe we have a role to fulfil in society”
KBC Bank & Insurance has been one of the driving forces behind Start it @KBC from the very beginning. As a founding partner, KBC remains closely connected to the Start it @KBC community. Digital transformation manager Karin Van Hoecke, who is also a member of the board of directors at Start it @KBC, explains where the company’s passion for innovation comes from and where it could guide them in the future.
With Steven Willems, founder of startup Happy Flights, in the role of interviewer, both sides of the Belgian startup scene met each other for an open and interesting talk on the importance of innovation.
A positive impact
When asked about the startup strategy of KBC, Karin tells Steven how the company has always had a close eye on the startup world. “We think it’s important to give entrepreneurship a boost. When the economy in Belgium is doing well, that has a positive impact on KBC as well”, she explains. “At KBC, we believe we have a role to fulfil in society. We want to do more than offer credit or insurance to starting entrepreneurs. Via Start it @KBC, we can support and protect them and help them grow.”
As a Start it @KBC alumnus, Steven knows all about the effect the community has on a young business. “Start it @KBC was a great opportunity for us”, he says. “The Start it @KBC network provides answers, offers a lot of information and gives valuable advice. From accountancy to digital marketing and communication, their expertise is extremely diverse.”
Innovate to stay relevant
Aside from supporting innovative businesses in Flanders, KBC also keeps a strong focus on internal innovation and digital transformation projects. “Our mobile platform currently has 1.1 million mobile users who log in daily, to check their balance or do transactions”, says Karin. “But we have to keep asking ourselves how we can stay relevant, today and tomorrow. We discovered that there are simple ways to take away customers’ cares. We already integrated services like the purchase of public transportation tickets by De Lijn or the parking service 4411. Those are just two of the many extra experiences we want to provide for our clients.”
Can those integrated services come from collaborations with Start it @KBC startups? “Absolutely”, Van Hoecke says, “but it’s not the main goal. Our starting point is to boost entrepreneurship. The big question always is: can we integrate a new, innovative service? We look for a match between the scale that we expect and the scale that the startup can offer.”
These integrated services fit in what KBC calls the OBI approach, which stands for Open and Beyond Banking. “I already mentioned a parking and transportation app, but integrating a service like Happy Flights is also a possibility. These are not fundamental banking activities, but there is a link. With Open and Beyond Banking, we want to be open and welcome third parties to our platform. We want to go beyond the traditional banking and insurance services.”