Thesis Defence
Incumbents' response strategies to category emergence in the digital platform age. The case of European retail banking (2013-2023)

Valéry Antoine Plancade

Matilde Guilhon, PhD candidate will publicly defend her thesis in Management Sciences.

21 June 2024
2 p.m. (CET - GMT+1)

Attend the defence
(on campus or online)


This thesis examines the responses of incumbents to the emergence of new categories facilitated by digital platforms.

As a new form of organization, digital platforms mediate interactions between producers and audiences, thus influencing how offerings are perceived and valued. As they emerge in most sectors, digital platforms often challenge incumbents and the categories to which they belong. However, existing research is limited in capturing the impact of digital platforms on the categorization process and existing categories. Moreover, we lack an understanding of how incumbents resist or adapt to these exogenous changes in categorical systems.

The first essay of this thesis proposes a theoretical model that shows how digital platforms promote the emergence of new categories and influence the evolution of existing ones. Empirically, I study how incumbents respond strategically to the emergence of platform banking in the European banking sector over the decade 2013-2023.

The second essay argues that category emergence is not only a threat, but also an opportunity for incumbents to create new categories that allow them to achieve a balance of optimal distinctiveness.

The third essay shows how incumbents simultaneously promote category creation and emphasize their distinctiveness through parallel identity claims. This thesis contributes to the literatures on category dynamics and optimal distinctiveness.

Keywords: Categories, Retail banking, Digital platforms, Incumbents, Category formation, Optimal distinctiveness



  • Prof. Régis Coeurderoy
    Professor, ESCP Business School

Referees & Suffragants:

  • Prof. Pinar Ozcan,
    Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
  • Prof. Thomas Roulet,
    Cambridge Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
  • Prof. Rodolphe Durand,
    HEC Paris
  • Prof. Maral Muratbekova-Touron,
    ESCP Business School
  • Prof. Diego Zunino,
    SKEMA Business School
  • Dr. David Alcaud,
    Square Research Center, Square Management