FUTURING. How to embolden a cultural connected brand?

How does a brand create long-term value for its customers when conditions shift constantly? The first flagship of BNP Paribas Fortis in Ghent (Belgium), with its phygital mindset and community centered approach, makes for a promising answer. 

pictures by Yann Bertrand

Is it a bank? It definitely is. But the BNP Paribas Fortis Flagship is also much more. It is a community center supporting local business with free co-working spaces, a financial hub where customers can easily drop by for a range of banking services, and a phygital hotspot showcasing the newest tech innovations.

"The concept of the flagship is rather unique", says Michael Anseeuw, head of retail banking at BNP Paribas Fortis. "We're experimenting how we can digitalise our agencies, while at the same time humanising our digital channels. Our consumers adapt a hybrid and phygital mindset, and we're happy to oblige." 

The cutting-edge building blocks of the BNP Paribas Fortis Flagship are: an innovation wall, a T-shirt design booth, a coffee corner, robot toys, a financial type indicator, a digital graffiti wall, an innovation library, meeting rooms, a local business spotlight and a book&work app.  


The concept of the flagship store has been developed by Trendwolves, in close partnership with the teams of BNP Paribas Fortis, and our friends BumpBeyond, Planet Interior and Livemile. Both trend team and marketing team were involved in the process, from the gathering of insights to the implementation and final execution of the flagship store.

WHY A FLAGSHIP? Let's talk cultural change

It ain’t easy to anticipate change. Definitely not when everything moves so fast, and in a zillion different directions. How can we develop concepts that are future-proof, such as the BNP Paribas Fortis flagship? Because we observe culture.

How we love, what health means to us, how we trust, what we laugh about and how we learn. These are the elements that shape society, and it's what we’re researching constantly.

Culture is exhaustively human. It's people that love, trust, laugh and learn. So they’re the ones we’re focussing on. For that matter, change is exhaustively human as well. Disruptive ideas are conceived by people, and actualized by people. We're not talking one individual - Einstein excluded :-) -, but a group of likeminded individuals. That’s why, in order to create valuable products and concepts, we focalise on communities of people. One important community is first and foremost BNP Paribas Fortis' customers, the ones that have grown up with BNP Paribas Fortis at their side and the ones that do so today. The innovation wall shows their stories and successes. "And secondly, The BNP Paribas Fortis Flagship has been tailored to the needs of the local community of entrepreneurs", Trendwolves chief Maarten Leyts explains, "because they’re a driving force for change in the city and beyond." 

Maarten Leyts: "By enforcing this community (whithout asking for anything in return), BNP Paribas Fortis links itself to change, and to an influential network of ambassadors. Thus we connect the brand with individuals, creating value for all parties involved. " 

HOW TO CONNECT A BRAND WITH ITS CUSTOMERS? Let's talk community building

Today's customers don’t exactly need a physical branch any more for their financial services, since they can do all of it online. But they do value the personalised, human interaction in a physical branch. We broadened the scope of human interaction in the flagship. So people could meet, learn from each other, bundle their forces and co-create. We designed the flagship to be a state-of-the-art and at the same time cosy meeting point for local entrepreneurs, a place where they can (co-)work and learn from each other.

There is the innovation library with tools to enhance your entrepreneunal skills, there are the meet & work spaces for up to eight people that you can book through the book&work app, the workshop and lectures that will be organised in the facility, the coffee corner to facilitate encounters, and the innovation wall on which both new and established local businesses are being showcased. With this focus on local entrepreneurs, the flagship becomes a community center rather than a bank.

The role it adopts is a supporting one, one that kickstarts customers by facilitating connections, skills and growth. That makes this concept rather unique in the banking world.

WHAT'S PHYGITAL HAS TO DO WITH IT? Let's talk experience

Backbone of the flagship concept is the embedding of phygital elements (connecting the online and the offline world) and cutting-edge innovations such as the latest 3D-printers and robots, a grandiose innovation wall, serious games, apps and etc.


We’ve been succesfully experimenting with new technologies and phygital elements in the Hello bank! pop-up stores for the last two years. We opted for technology that would enable and enhance the building of a community, because they draw people to the flagship, they get people talking and sharing, and they provide the technical support that make all the experiences whithin the flagship smooth and effortless. 

The flagship is a perfect showcase of Trendwolves’ functioning. We kicked off this project with the insights drawn from youth trends and youth culture, which we rendered into a solid concept for BNP Paribas Fortis. Finally, we made it real with the help of our partners. Please note that the Trendwolves’ teams were involved in managing the whole project to the smallest details. 

You’re very welcome to find out for yourself. Drop by the flagship (Kouter 6, 9000 Gent) and grab a coffee whilst discovering the inns and out of the concept. 

Thanks to all of our trendwolves for actualising a concept that has never been realised before. Thanks to the amazing people at BNP Paribas Fortis for making it happen. And BIG Thanks to all of the contractors, contributors and people that have worked their asses off to complete the project right on schedule. Muchas 

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