It is difficult to summarize everything that has happened at BBVA since 1996 when Francisco González took the reigns as chairman of Argentaria, which would be come BBVA almost four years later, after the merger with BBV. For more than 20 years the Group has stood out thanks to the chairman’s unique approach, an unwavering commitment to values and responsible banking, and the giant leap he initiated to transform the Group into a leading 21st century bank. Ultimately, his tenure as chairman has been marked by values, people, and innovation.
BBVA has developed a business model that fosters a certain prescience about significant technological and social changes of the day; a customer-focused business model, based on diversification; making optimal use of resources through careful risk management, and the pursuit of constant productivity improvements and efficiency through innovation.
Its business model has enabled BBVA to operate with determination, even in the worst times of the international crisis that broke out in 2008. BBVA was able to stand up to the intense financial crisis without government support, without putting dividend payments on hold, and without having to report losses at any time. BBVA has paid a dividend each fiscal year since 2000 until today; it has improved its capital ratios and has comfortably passed the European Banking Authority's successive stress tests.
In these two decades, BBVA has carried out an intense international expansion and today it is present in more than 30 countries. In front of the 16,000 employees that Argentaria had when Francisco González acceded to the chairmanship, today the Group has more than 126,000 all over the world.
Since Francisco González became chairman, social responsibility and corporate governance have been fundamental pillars to BBVA's day-to-day operations: starting with the adoption of a corporate governance system adapted from international standards in 2002 and moving to the adoption of a Group-wide environmental policy in 2003, the creation of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation in 2007, a firm commitment to financial education, and in 2018, the launch of Pledge 2025, the Group's climate change and sustainable development strategy.
“Our shareholders, customers, employees are people; and all of them make up a part of the communities BBVA serves,” the chairman pointed out in his 2003 Letter to the Shareholders. That is the year the vision of the Group's corporate culture was reviewed and redesigned: “We work for a brighter future for everyone.”
In 2017, the bank added a new concept to its mission: “To bring the age of opportunity to everyone.” People continued to be of paramount importance, but technology –of which Francisco González has been a standard-bearer throughout his time at BBVA– became the way to help them with their everyday activities. “We want our customers to benefit from the technological revolution we are experiencing,” the chairman said in the Letter to the Shareholders that year.
It is indisputable that a commitment to innovation has characterized Francisco González’s term as BBVA chairman. From the 2000 launch of Unoe, Spain’s leading internet banking provider to the first blockchain-powered corporate loans in 2018, BBVA has always been on the cutting edge of global banking. It is this process of profound transformation that has impacted every aspect of the bank: from its way of working to the way the customers interact with the bank and to its relationship with the world of fintech and the global giants of the technology industry.
Who would have said in 2000 that almost 20 years later, 50 percent of the bank’s customers would interact with the bank through digital channels, or that BBVA would be a bank focused on the use of data whose main competitors are increasingly tech giants like Google and Amazon.