Orange has admitted it needs to speed up customer acquisition at its mobile banking service in Poland, as it prepares to launch a bank in France.

The operator got the green light from regulators last month to begin offering financial services in its home market from January next year.

It had been bullish about its prospects, talking up its chances of being one of the biggest players in France.

Orange aims to convert two million mobile subscribers, or around seven percent of its French base, to mobile banking as it looks to generate €400 million of revenues at Group level from financial services by 2018.

It will have to do better than it is currently doing in Poland, where it is two years into its Orange Finanse venture with partner mBank.

The operator said 345,000 customers have “used” the service in the past two years, including 165,000 who have applied for credit and 85,000 who have set up a savings account.

This equates to just 2.1 percent of Orange Poland’s 16.4 million mobile customer base.

Jean-Francois Fallacher, CEO of Orange Poland, admitted the figures were “not impressive”.

Speaking at a press and analyst day in London on Thursday, Fallacher said: “Growth is OK, of course we could dream of higher growth.

“We should accelerate but these are fresh new services.

“Let’s remind ourselves that we’ve been in mobile for 20 years and fixed for any time you can think of.”

Gervais Pellissier, Deputy CEO in charge of European operations, was keen to pick up this point.

“Consider the French market,” he said. “BNP Paribas has biggest share of banking market in France with 12 percent.

“Our market share in mobile is 40 percent.

“We have to consider that when we are entering new fields we will compete against other players and our market share will not be the oligopoly market share in telecoms.”

That is certainly true, but the only people comparing banking to telecoms were the Orange execs themselves.

Even taking that comparison out of the equation, the numbers are very small.

The figures served to highlight just what a tough job operators are having as they look to expand beyond their core services.

Alongside mobile banking, Orange Poland is also offering a smart home solution and is reselling energy as it looks to return to growth.

But the operator is struggling to gain traction in these markets too.

Three years after launching smart home services, Orange Poland has sold a paltry 8,000 kits.

A year after offering energy, just 15,000 customers have been billed.

Like-for-like revenues at Orange Poland were down 3.9 percent to €1.96 billion in the nine months to September.

Despite the efforts to move into new areas, it would appear to be reliant on selling more traditional services to get back on track.

Orange is betting that being the only converged operator in Poland will propel it back to growth, and is focused on rolling out fibre to 1.5 million premises by the end of the year.

Fallacher described fibre as the company’s “offensive weapon” given the number of subscribers has grown from 271,000 to 436,000 in the past 12 months.

When compared to the progress of the new sectors Orange Poland has entered, the cap fits.

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