A powerful co-branded credit card programme that goes beyond mere corporate identity

BNP Paribas Personal Finance helps their partners to further enhance and develop their businesses using effective and reliable financial solutions, which include credit cards. BNP Paribas offers Mastercards in the UK both under its own label, and in collaboration with partners. BNP Paribas and iO have been working together for 10 years to properly market the co-branded Mastercards with partners. One of the projects was a web and integration platform, including extensive customisation and configuration options for the co-branded credit card programmes, and a great deal of technical and marketing flexibility for partners. This project was expanded in 2019 with a native app. Two solutions that iO is continuously developing.

Header image BNP | iO

Client

BNP Paribas

Challenge

Placing co-branded Mastercards in the market

Solution

Web, app, API, and integration platform

Co-branded Mastercards provide incomparable propositions

BNP Paribas Personal Finance provides consumer credit cards in various ways, both under its own Creation brand and through co-branded credit card programmes with partners, such as the Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG). IHG is the parent company of several hotel chains, including Holiday Inn, Cadlewood Suites, Hotel Indigo, and Staybridge Suites. IHG owns over 5,500 hotels and provides nearly 900,000 rooms in 100 different countries.

In conjunction with its partners, BNP Paribas Personal Finance provides compelling propositions. Card holders enjoy the convenience and service offered by the BNP Paribas credit card, and alongside this they benefit from special partner offers, savings programmes and discounts.

BNP | iO

A multilevel, white-label platform

Following a technical/strategic reorientation, iO developed a modern web app, API and integration platform, including white-label configuration options for the extensive loyalty programmes provided by partners. In addition, investments were made in optimising credit card application processes and conversions, multi-channel and multi-brand self-service techniques. Access to the underlying card data and logic was incorporated in new APIs. The platform comprises four components:

  • Integrated, customised credit card application processes that comply with any applicable financial legislation and can be fully coordinated to suit the partner’s customer experience.

  • A white-label online service environment where credit card holders can easily manage their financial affairs and check their loyalty benefits with the card partner in real time. In 2019, this online service environment was also made available in a native Android and iOS app developed by iO.

  • A commercially driven cross and up-sell system, including detailed customer targeting options for personalised customer promotions as part of customer life-cycle management.

  • Back-end integrations to make the platform an integral part of the Mastercard ecosystem; consider processing payments, compiling account statements and loading and exchanging transaction data.

A converting credit card application process

Conversion – which involves specialised work in the case of complex financial products – was central to the development of the credit card application processes. Extensive user tests were carried out in collaboration with the Mastercard Usability Test Lab in Leeds (UK). A focus group used iO prototypes to examine the UX design, the legal context in the British market and the steps in the credit card application process.

Based on these results, it was decided to start the credit card application process with a quick and compact creditworthiness check. A prospective client enters some data and the linked credit rating agencies automatically check whether the applicant can successfully complete the rest of the application process. Thanks to the built-in ‘continue later’ functionality, users who do not immediately complete the application will receive a notification after 24 hours inviting them to complete the application process. The application process is naturally supported by a functional UI, which – together with the check and the ‘continue later’ functionality – targets the minimisation of the drop-out rate.

BNP | iOP

Web and app self-service environment

After onboarding a new credit card holder, whether or not via a partner, the card holder has access to BNP Paribas Personal Finance’s (co-branded) online self-service environment. In 2012, iO started developing a web portal that allows credit card holders to easily arrange financial affairs online and provides easy insight into accumulated loyalty benefits via the card partner. The web portal features functionalities such as online card activation, real-time push notifications, transaction overviews, increasing credit limits, transferring money, changing personal data and blocking the credit card.

Following a critical review of the existing web portal, in 2019 it was decided to make the functionalities of the web platform available in a native iOS and Android app. iO developed this new mobile experience using the latest API and native app technology. The basic principles included a secure full-service environment that allows credit card holders to easily manage their financial affairs and provides immediate insight using one-touch views. New functionalities were added in relation to the existing web portal, such as biometric identification using facial and fingerprint recognition, the option to temporarily freeze a credit card in the case of loss, and visual object detection which allows the easy addition of a credit card to the app. In short, an experience and functionalities that meet the modern expectations and requirements of credit card holders and which are fully prepared for 2020+ banking and personal finance.

Extensive user tests were carried out to create an effective UX and UI design for the app. Customer focus groups assessed iO prototypes for task logic, user-friendliness and other qualities. The app was designed and continuously improved, based on the results of repeated user tests.

Very satisfied app users

The investments in the UX and UI of the app deliver considerable pay back. An average app score of 4.5 stars (out of 5) demonstrates that users are very satisfied with it. The reviews demonstrate that users appreciate the distinctive simplicity of actions in the app, in which the UX and UI obviously play a significant role.

Although a good app score is important, user expectations and requirements are constantly changing. Insights in relation to user behaviour and app performance are obtained from Firebase analytics tooling. Based on this, user experience is continuously being developed and the app is updated according to the latest app standards.

Customised and integrated loyalty programmes

One particular feature of the co-branded credit card programmes concerns the extensive configuration options for the loyalty programmes. The partner credit cards have extensive, quite diverse loyalty programmes at their disposal. While the IHG Rewards Club Mastercard gives discounts on hotel stays within the IHG group, another partner may link any cashback that can be saved to an in-store cash register system as immediately usable cash. Both loyalty programmes require different functionalities from the co-branded credit card platform, and in some cases partners also wish to use the platform as a means to inform customers about seasonal offers. The configuration options have allowed for this variety in loyalty programmes to be deployed through the same white-label platform.

Co-branding goes far beyond corporate identity

Following the detailed development of each co-branded credit card program in conjunction with the partner, it is continuously being improved. After all, synergy benefits are achieved by providing the credit cards in unique propositions with partners. The entire flow, from credit card application to online service environment and loyalty programme, is mapped and provided with partner branding in addition to custom integrations that ensure the platform is fully adapted to the partner’s customer experience. This may, for example, require the flow of a credit card application process to be adjusted or specific system links to be developed to provide services required. Collaboration always comes down to customisation, resulting in a customer journey that is 100% in line with the conversion targets of both the partners and BNP Paribas Personal Finance.

APIs, middleware and security are important issues

A message bus, mainframe integrations and middleware based on Java and APIs were involved in the development of the web portal, the app and the underlying APIs. Through this integration layer, the web portal and app has been integrated with financial ERP and CRM (mainframe) systems, referred to as the ‘systems of record’. A REST API link was used to link with the front-end.

Security is an important point of concern in this project, in particular because it concerns credit cards, which are regulated financial products. Internal and external audits were carried out to guarantee security, and the applications were subjected to both blackbox and whitebox tests, and are regularly retested by independent specialists using (automated) PenTests.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is the security standard for the credit card payment industry and plays a pivotal role in the development of the entire platform. This included the credit card application process, the web, app and integration platform, the business rules-driven cross and up-sell system and the back-end integrations with the Mastercard ecosystem. Consider aspects such as Protected Storage of Cardholder Data and Encrypted Transmission of Cardholder Data. Encryption has been implemented in each and every layer, and OWASP guidelines have been observed. These security standards are mandatory in the credit card chain and they help BNP Paribas partners to confidently set up the necessary total customer value chains with customer data. BNP Paribas is thus involved as closely as possible and is essential to their core processes to ensure an optimal customer journey.

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