The way smart cities look and operate is going to depend on how citizens, businesses and public authorities fit together. One of the crucial drivers all these three have in common are banks.
The techno-economic challenges facing cities are huge, with multiple issues linked to the financing of capital investments, the shape of the markets, industrial restructuring, future employment, innovation, and the way major cities relate to the wider world. We see for example how a highly active interconnected urban network of entrepreneurial ecosystems is being forged, San Francisco, Seoul, Paris, Shenzhen and Tel Aviv being leading examples. Will this hamper the development of newer cities, or lead to the decline of cities that are less active on the networking front?
Social issues are also key here. We are likely to see new urban lifestyles, growing inequality and, further down the line, types of society that are very different from those we know today. You only need to compare the lifestyle of a young Silicon Valley engineer with that of a retired person in Vienna to see how digital tools and systems can unite people in terms of the way they do things, but may very well divide them as regards cultural norms and generational codes. And at the end of the day, the climate and wider environmental issues are simply inescapable. We are going to need a complete reworking of our economic models and systems, which are to a very large extent a legacy of the last industrial revolution. For each of these major challenges the banks have a key role to play.
The banking sector: traditional partner to cities
Capital and liquidity flows between socio-economic players underpin human initiatives, financing basic infrastructure and development programmes and thus helping to set up the urban ecosystems we tend to take for granted today. The financial world and its epitome – the bank – are interwoven with all strata of society and all geographical levels: cities, countries, regions and transnational spaces. The banking sector is one of the major counterparts to cities and their component entities, from individual people to companies to the community as a whole. Banks finance, lend, support and also assess; they are closely bound up with progress. They operate at the heart of the urban space and are relationship-enablers in a similar way to the post office, the town hall, the café and the pub.
In parallel, banks are stepping up their digital capabilities in response to increasing demands in western countries for efficiency and convenience, and for greater inclusiveness and access to financing in the emerging countries. Banks are now seeing the constant advent of new means of financing and risk management – including for instance crowdfunding and a trend towards ‘green financing’ – and are working to integrate them into their existing business models. Moreover, they help their customers and partners to follow the same path, bridging the gap between people’s and companies’ new needs and the technology that can provide solutions.
Only one role now for banks in the city?
Banks have a history of being strategic partners to sovereign states, companies, entrepreneurs and private citizens. By definition and by vocation, banks have always played a part in promoting ventures in a variety of fields such as infrastructure development, energy, education and healthcare. However, they now appear to have been straitjacketed into the single, limited role of being a provider of funds. It is striking to see that in cities today banks are usually viewed in their narrow function of financier, or sometimes perhaps a rather irritating or fractious risk manager for people’s individual or collective projects. But their range is wider than that. Now that we are rethinking our urban spaces, we could certainly make more use of the range of skills possessed by banks when it comes to planning, business intelligence, data analysis, and as an enabler of social links in neighbourhoods. Banks need to think about how they can optimise their skills in the urban space, combining their traditional strengths of transparency, pragmatism and rational planning.
Banking + data in the service of the urban space
With its millions of banking records, a financial institution is very much a part of the economic life of a city. A bank would for example be in a position to draw up a set of indicators on local merchants’ offerings – which would be very useful information for consumers – footfall statistics, the housing market, or even job vacancies. As financial intermediaries, banks could also become leading observatories for all kinds of business transactions, reporting on the relationships and ‘balance of power’ between various local players and entities and drawing up detailed maps for residents, elected representatives and companies that have set up in its area. This is in fact a priority field for the global digital giants, especially the Silicon Valley firms. And banks have traditionally enjoyed an enviable strategic advantage in this regard.
… but first and foremost, to serve citizens
Now that digital technology is transforming the way we live, is it perhaps time to talk about the city of the future in terms of a smart, digital space? Beyond the terminological spats, we should now be putting all these technologies and techniques at the service of people, the very point where the worlds of digital technology and information converge. Under this paradigm, banks will be able to supply citizens with high-quality information to the benefit of both individuals and communities.
And quite apart from the valuable guidance – on getting around, consumption patterns, etc. – that data and the algorithms used to process them provide, people living in cities are increasingly keen to live different lives – unplanned, less regulated, in-the-moment lives. Convenience and the experience are key here. And here once again, banks have a role to play.
Banks already enjoy a culture of trust, confidentiality, compliance and experience in handling and processing data in a highly-regulated environment. It will be to everyone’s benefit, bearing in mind the need for responsible conduct and sharing of resources, if banks take a fresh look at their – already major – involvement in the ever-accelerating changes taking place in the urban space.
Source: L’Atelier BNP Paribas
How can the blue economy make a difference?
What if the future of sustainable business is at the bottom of the ocean for once? Marine biodiversity contains resources that can meet the environmental challenges of many sectors. Perhaps yours, too. Find out more during an online event about the promising blue economy on 11 March 2021.
Blue is the new green
71% of our planet consists of water. Seas and oceans play a crucial role in our climate, and coastal areas can capture up to five times more CO2 than tropical forests. The blue economy wants to benefit from all these advantages to improve both the environment and our well-being,
With local being the keyword. And that's where the difference lies with the green economy, which also focuses on the environment and health, but not always in such a sustainable and smart way. Eating organically grown quinoa from Ecuador, for example, is healthy and eco-friendly, but transporting it here is expensive and creates high amounts of pollution.
What does the underwater world have to offer that can be reused, recycled or converted into new sustainable products? A lot, it turns out, as the unique properties of organisms such as algae, starfish, jellyfish or sea cucumbers can be transformed into sustainable products with high added value. This is a process that requires creativity and innovation, and is already with us today.
For your sector, too
The blue economy is expanding rapidly and could bring about a revolution in a wide range of sectors such as healthcare, food, the plastics industry, cosmetics, energy and even aerospace. It is fully capable of helping companies transform their traditional activities into a sustainable model. And in Belgium's ports, the country already has a huge advantage and excellent access to coastal and offshore areas.
Another scoop of microalgae?
Microalgae, for example, offer a lot of promise, as they can renew themselves and thrive both in the desert and in the ocean. They contain many healthy components, such as proteins, that can be used to develop food products.
When discussing the oceans, the plastic problem is never far away. Human beings are producing more and more plastic as the world's population grows, yet the problem with the existing plastic is that it's nigh on impossible to recycle as its components are hard to separate. By making a completely different type of plastic from biomass, its recycling is already considered at the design stage. A large amount of biomass remains unused in the oceans, and using smart, natural polymers could revolutionise plastic production, for example. These polymers are capable of self-renewal and can adapt to their environment.
Who will pay for it?
Great ideas, you think, but who will pay for them? The financial sector certainly wants to play a role in this revolution and is prepared to take risks and invest in new technologies, production systems and R&D.
This commitment was formalised in various ways during the climate week in New York at the end of September 2020. BNP Paribas signed the Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB) and joined the UNEP FI's Collective Commitment to Climate Action, a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme and the financial sector. In terms of the maritime sector, the Bank committed to working with customers to preserve and sustain the oceans. Read more about this commitment here (only available in French).
Would you like to find out whether the blue economy could make a difference to your sector?
Sign up here for a free online event on this subject on 11 March 2021 (in English only), organised by BNP Paribas Fortis Transport, Logistics and Ports Chair.
What is the future for mobility post-coronavirus?
The health and economic crisis has affected all aspects of every sector. Among them, mobility, for both private individuals and for companies.
Mobility is evolving every day. And it has been driven further as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Many people have been locked down and working from home has been widespread in many parts of the world.
The coronavirus crisis has changed concerns about transport
We are no longer moving around in the same way. And concerns are no longer the same. According to a BCG Consulting report, social distancing and vehicle cleanliness are the most important aspects for 41% and 39% of respondents, respectively, when choosing a mode of transport. There is also pre- and post-Covid mobility, with respondents being more likely to choose walking, their own bicycle or scooter, or their car than before the crisis.
Sustainable and alternative mobility in the years to come
Mobility has not necessarily waited for the coronavirus crisis in order to evolve. And, according to the same report, the share of more environmentally-friendly vehicles will continue to increase. By 2035, more than 35% of new vehicles will be electric cars, becoming the predominant form of motorised transport worldwide. Autonomous cars will also become more common, with 10% of vehicles being level 4 vehicles (able to travel without a driver, for example), and 65% level 2 or higher.
Customised mobility for employees, right now
The future of mobility is also relevant now, especially for businesses and the self-employed. The need for alternative modes of transport does not only concern private individuals, but also employees. There is no longer a single mode of transport for all situations, but a range of means depending on the need at a given moment. Electric cars, hybrid vehicles, electric bicycles, a public transport season ticket, car sharing, leasing, etc. These modes can take different forms and be combined in a mobility card, for example. There are benefits for the employees and managers of a company but also for the company itself through cost reduction, optimisation and fleet management.
Find out more about our tailor-made mobility solutions
The road to alternative mobility
Nowadays, responsible fleet management is built around sustainability. We're here to help you identify and realise your Corporate Social Responsibility ambitions.
Together we can cut your company's carbon footprint, improve employee mobility, and make sure these steps become a central pillar of your company's added value. In short, our aim is to have an alternative mobility policy.
We can help you make the switch to alternative mobility and new technologies to reduce your carbon footprint. Our SMaRT approach ensures your fleet has the best energy mix to match your strategy and driver profiles.
Alternative mobility needs new technologies to go hand in hand with new infrastructure. That's why we offer not only electric cars, but also the right charging solutions, too. As part of our integrated service provision we can determine how many charging points you need, install them, and manage how they are used both at the workplace and at the driver's home.
Modern mobility management is about more than just cars or vans. You need a 360-degree approach. We'll work with you to determine your mobility strategy and needs. Greener cars are just one of the options available. We have a number of mobility management solutions (such as the Mobility Card) and alternative mobility solutions (such as bicycle leasing) to inspire your organisation to offer a more flexible range.
Focus on employees
When you put your employees at the heart of your organisation, you're in a better position to find skilled employees, satisfy them, and retain them. Go a step further than just an alternative mobility solution: focus on their safety and let them play an active role in achieving your sustainability goals. Trust us to improve their safety and integrate new technologies.
Operational leasing is offered by Arval Belgium SA/NV, with the intervention of BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV – Montagne du Parc/Warandeberg 3, B-1000 Brussels, Brussels Register of Companies VAT BE0403.199.702.
Promotion only available from Thursday 21 January up to and including Wednesday 31 March 2021 and is only available to professional clients (self-employed, liberal professionals and SMEs) of BNP Paribas Fortis and Fintro.
The information provided here does not constitute an offer. An offer is made only after your file has been accepted and is always subject to Arval Belgium SA/NV's General Terms and Conditions.
Mobility, more than just four wheels
BNP Paribas Fortis offers complete mobility solutions. Sometimes a four-wheeled fleet is not enough for your mobility needs.
As a reliable partner, we can help you with every step – or pedal – of your mobility trajectory.
Mobility analysis and advice
Our mobility managers can work together with your relationship manager to develop a future-focused mobility strategy.
We start by listening to you: we want to understand your needs and concerns when it comes to mobility. This is our starting point for creating the best mobility solution for you and your company. We will build on this foundation with our expertise, while also taking Belgium's specific legal and fiscal ecosystem into account.
New mobility solutions
As well asfull-service leasing,we also offer our core product giving you access to our full mobility range, a wide range of basic services and added-value services such ascar parts,carpool management,bicycle leasingandmobility cards. All of our mobility services and their associated services such as parking, electric charging, fuel, tolls and car washing are within reach.
Managing your mobility budget
We'll help you and offer advice about implementing the federal mobility budget[VBK1] in your company. If that's too limited to meet your specific needs and aims, we can develop a personalised mobility budget solution to manage your mobility costs in line with the legal framework, just as we've done for a number of clients previously.
We've already implemented some tailored cost-neutral solutions, allowing our clients to combine lease cars with lease bicycles or other mobility solutions. This means the company can meet its goals while also making good on its promises and obligations.
Those ambitions might range from an ambitious CO2 agenda to a competitive offer to attract talent or a solution to solve your lack of car parking spaces.