Spain's BBVA is to invest $1.2 billion on technology projects in South America over the next two years as it looks to grow the number of customers using digital and mobile channels to access the bank.
BBVA claims almost 16 million clients, 1600 branches and about 30,000 employees across seven South American countries. Over the past year, the bank has increased the number of online customers in the region by 30% to reach three million and tripled the number of clients using mobile platforms, totaling over one million.
BBVA's president and chief operating officer, Ángel Cano, says the bank has already invested $800 million in South America as part of the $2.5 billion investment plan for the region announced last year. Forty percent of the investment will go to technological projects with the remaining 60% allocated to projects focused on growth in infrastructures and distribution networks.
Cano says that in South America there is still a lot of scope for the traditional business to attract new clients from the region's vast unbanked sector.
"For this reason, we keep opening new branches and installing ATMs at the same time as we develop new mobile solutions", he says.
But it is not just about opening new channels, but also about redesigning banks products to fit the digital agenda: "This is about developing products from a digital perspective, conceived in different ways, just as a digital native would image them: less data, more interaction and with solutions for social media."
As examples, he points to the development of SMS Banking in Peru for clients with basic phones, and BBVA Link in Chile, the first Facebook bank account in Latin America.
He says that nowadays more than 90% of financial translations are completed outside the branches thanks to service digitisation and the new branch model.
The segment of digital clients has actually shown the biggest growth and BBVA has consequently revised its objectives up as it pours more investment into technology. "We will reach six million digital clients in the region in 2016," forecasts Cano.