Nathalie Duchêne's interview | Kwiper


Innovation Insider with Nathalie Duchêne, co-founder of Kwiper | Mathieu Vedrenne, Head of SG Private Banking | Didier Lallemand, SG Ventures

This November we’re celebrating the first anniversary of a major milestone for Kwiper, the wealth management software provider that began life in our internal start-up programme. Last year Kwiper began commercial sales of its innovative platform and the service has already been adopted by Societe Generale’s Private Bank in France and a number of other third party professional platforms.

Kwiper is another fantastic example of the deep pool of talent we have at Societe Generale and the bank’s enviable heritage of building new and innovative products itself. It’s a great example of innovation at work and underscores how our fintech strategy complements the strong internal competencies that we have at the bank. 

Recently I caught up with Kwiper Founder and CEO Nathalie Duchêne as well as Mathieu Vedrenne, Head of Societe Generale Private Banking France, to talk about how Kwiper is reinventing the wealth management advisory model and delivering a better service to customers.

Welcome Nathalie and Mathieu!

Nathalie, please tell us what Kwiper offers?

Kwiper is an online wealth management platform for financial advisers. It doesn’t recommend or sell financial products. We enable clients to bring greater value to their customers by building bespoke wealth planning strategies using our tools. Our innovation is to open up the market for wealth management advisory services – to democratise it - by making it easier to provide this advice. We only operate in France, since the French legal and tax environment is already quite complicated. Our platform’s intelligence keep pace with the new rules as they change.

We offer three products that are fast, easy to access and user-friendly:

1) A tool to analyse an individual’s overall financial position. This takes less than eight minutes to complete, whereas it would take several hours for an accountant to compile it manually.

2) A toolkit to provide strategic advice. It’s personalised to achieve the financial goals of the end customers and itemised with all the supporting figures to illustrate the benefits of a particular strategy over others. This allows the adviser to demonstrate the value of their advice. For example, if a client wants to transfer ownership of their company to a family member, our platform simulates the tax impact with concrete numbers to demonstrate the right strategy. This takes about an hour because we have built the models and factored in the variables, whereas starting from scratch with a manual approach would take a whole day.

3) Kwiper’s library of materials allow clients to train their teams. This provides the foundations for clients to frame and sell their wealth management services better.

How does Kwiper help clients?

Kwiper is for professional advisers and not for individual “retail” investors. We’re looking at creating value in the advice provided by a professional adviser. This advice is securely protected and the best on the market for addressing clients’ customer needs.

I spent 15 years in strategic wealth management planning at different private banks, latterly Societe Generale’s. I saw how regulated professionals – accountants, lawyers, notaries, independent financial advisers - were advising their clients on their personal finances as an add-on to their existing services and weren’t billing for it correctly. It was an after-thought, whereas their customers needed a holistic package of support.

For independent financial advisers in France, advice generates only about 5% of their turnover. Kwiper allows them to attach a value to this advice, charge for it accordingly and grow this revenue stream. Accountants in particular have seen their fees decline as the digitalisation of bank accounts has commoditised their traditional services, so they need to offer new value-add services. The interest is in selling customers advice rather than flogging them financial products. 

What makes Kwiper different from what’s available on the market?

Kwiper was conceived as the platform I would have wanted when I was working as a strategic wealth management planner. Yes, there are established software products on the market, but they are too complicated to use and incomprehensible for the uninitiated. Our clients need a simple to use tool that allows them to move quickly and understand what they need to deliver to their customer.

We have converted the thinking and the approach of a wealth management planner into a digital form. It’s very technical and complex, so you need to have worked in the industry to understand the intricacies of the French tax system. Kwiper provides users with a clear pathway. You don’t need to be an expert to provide advice using it and that’s our innovation.

How did Societe Generale help you start Kwiper?

Societe Generale launched an internal start-up call in 2018. It was good timing because the previous year I had decided I wanted to create a start-up to address the gap in the market I had spotted. I found a business partner, Thibaut Delavenne, who also worked at Societe Generale’s Private Bank, and the proposal we presented was accepted. We joined an incubator in Lyons and in early 2019 the bank approved the viability of the idea. For the rest of the year and most of 2020 we worked on a proof of concept and then in developing the platform. We began commercialising it in November 2020.

Societe Generale financed the project from the very beginning, allowing us to work with a group of professional IT contractors, who bought into the project, enabled us to develop the platform and who remain very committed to it.

What is your business model?

It’s a subscription service. When we started, Kwiper was designed for professional firms, but we started receiving expressions of interest from digital platforms, such as digital account keeping services, which also wanted to develop their own wealth management solutions.

Now we are selling Kwiper as software as a service (SaaS) through application programming interfaces (APIs) to these large platforms. The other client audience is the large platforms – banks, insurers and accounting services. Instead of targeting one type of client, we have three different categories, which is really great.

Has your relationship with Societe Generale evolved?

The relationship with the bank has changed since we started selling our services commercially. We have the contract with Societe Generale’s French private bank for its 450 advisers. We aren’t limited in our sales prospects by Societe Generale. We hope to be able to sell Kwiper services not only to other parts of the bank but to other large banking groups as well as the third party platforms I described earlier.

Each quarter things change. The product is constantly evolving and it means being agile to adapt. As a start-up you have to listen closely and respond to clients, see the opportunities and to modify the services. Societe Generale shares our vision about the opportunity that lies ahead and is fully supportive of our development.

What does the future hold?

France lags behind countries like the UK, where accountancy firms, lawyers and independent financial advisers already sell wealth management advisory services where they bill customers a fair price because of the demonstrable value their advice delivers. It’s a new workstream that is under-developed in France. Kwiper will enable these regulated professional firms to integrate wealth management planning services as a fully-fledged offering. We want Kwiper, therefore, to be in the hands of all wealth management advisers in France. 

Mathieu, how has your business benefited from Kwiper?

We can already see how it is bringing major efficiencies to colleagues and allowing them to deliver our customers a better and more personalised service, so Kwiper is squarely aligned with two of the strategic pillars of the bank’s innovation strategy.

Kwiper is a success story of our internal innovation capabilities since Nathalie is one of our own – she came from the French private banking team. It’s not a proprietary tool but one that has much broader applications as a catalyst to grow the market for wealth management advisory services in France. We’re delighted to be at the vanguard of its deployment, which is enabling us to provide top notch advice but also allowing our teams to be more creative in how they implement the strategies framed by Kwiper.