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BBVA moves to get more out of fintech partnerships

BBVA moves to get more out of fintech partnerships

BBVA is tweaking its Open Talent competition for startups as part of a wider realignment of its relationship with the fast-maturing fintech sector.

For this year's competition, the Spanish giant will set specific challenges it wants to work with fintechs to solve. These challenges - things like regtech and personal finance management - come directly from the bank's business units in its core countries.

The winners in each country will get the chance to work through a proof-of-concept programme with BBVA in an effort to ensure there is a better chance of getting a usable product or service for the bank and real business for the startups.

The change is part of an evolution at BBVA's Open Innovation unit, which has spent a decade building and working with an ecosystem of fintech firms. Over that time, the relationship between the bank and statups has changed. Initially, fintechs were seen as a threat to be contained, then they were considered potentially useful allies to be helped get off the ground through accelerators and incubators.

Now, the bank is demanding that the Open Innovation unit brings it usable results. Says the unit's head Ainhoa Campo Nieto: "For the last year and a half we have focused on being closer to the bank. Open Innovation has been working for the past 10 years with the view to connecting with the ecosystem - but what we realised, and for a variety of reasons, is that we actually weren't close enough to the bank itself."

Now, the unit treats the bank as its client, meaning that it does not simply seek out interesting fintechs to work with, but tries to address specific challenges BBVA has. This is why the Open Talent competition is becoming more specialised and taking its lead from the bank's units.

The BBVA Open Marketplace, where the bank's business units can post 'needs' they hope fintechs could solve and fintechs can post their solutions, is also changing. Now, it will act as single point of entry for firms looking to work with the bank.

There will also be a greater emphasis on sustainability. Campo says the bank will "be looking increasingly for businesses that are building fintech tools focused on sustainability - whether that is around helping individuals and companies be more environmentally friendly, or that link financial performance to tackling climate change, or whether their solutions help support sustainability in communities."

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