BBVA board alights in San Francisco

BBVA board alights in San Francisco

Reinforcing its commitment to digital transformation, Spain's BBVA is holding a four-day board meeting in San Francisco, connecting with staff, startups and academics as it charts a path for banking in the 21st century.

The Spanish bank opened its office in San Francisco in 2011 with just two staffers. Now 90 people are employed at the hub, which helps guide the executive committee on the latest innovations in technology.

BBVA chairman Francisco Gonzalez says the bank has rolled out 230 new technology initiatives over the past year as part of a group-wide digital programme which is dubbed "the revolution of small things".

"The response from customers has been spectacular, both in terms of growth and in use of channels," he says. "We have 17.2 million digital customers - 20% more than a year ago - 11 million of them use their smartphones for their transactions, an increase of 41%. In the U.S., 19.5% of sales take place on digital channels, compared to 9.3% in 2015. In Spain, this percentage has reached 16.5%, in Mexico it’s 15.4%, 15% in South America and 25.2% in Turkey."

BBVA has shown an aggressive streak in the M&A space, investing in a host of neo-banking startups, including Holvi in Finland, the UK's Atom Bank, and Simple, as well as firms operating on the cutting edge of user experience design and big data, such as Spring Studios and Madiva.

Gonzalez says acquisitions will continue to play a role in its future strategy. "At the end of the day, those investments are options that provide us with knowledge and experience, and we also help those companies," he says. "Change is accelerating everywhere and we gain more knowledge as time goes by, so of course we will continue to be very active in the startup world. Not only with fintechs, but also with companies that can cater to our customers’ needs."

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