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Digital banking 27 Dec 2018

Banking, as Francisco González imagined it would be

“Knowing how to give customers advice, to provide them the services they want, anytime and wherever they are: this is the key to differentiation.”

Francisco González, 1999

In 1999, the digital world traveled at 56 Kbps, whereas currently, home connection speeds can reach 300,000 Kbps. The launch of the iPhone – considered to be the first smartphone, a device that would revolutionize communications –  was still eight years away. The democratization of the Internet was still merely a vision, with home penetration reaching only 4.6 percent of the globe, according to the World Bank.

Given the statistics about the state of technology of the day, Francisco González’s speech at BBVA’s 1999 Annual General Meeting in Bilbao has proven to be nothing less than visionary. “The scale and capacity of technology is available to many. But it will only be those banks with teams of people who understand this change – who define and implement appropriate strategies in order to be prepared, to move forward, to plan ahead at the right time – it will be these banks that will be successful, that will be the prominent industry leaders of the 21st century,” BBVA’s executive chairman asserted. Francisco González also spelled out some of the keys that would result in BBVA having the world’s best mobile banking app in 2018 for the second consecutive year: “Knowing how to give customers advice, to provide them the services they want, anytime and wherever they are: this is the key to differentiation.”

Today, BBVA’s app allows customers to sign up for financial products and offers an extensive catalog of services, including financial assessment and advice, an online home property search using augmented reality, a holistic view of all bank accounts and even assistance with financial planning for a new member of the family. During the 1999 Annual General Meeting, Francisco González also stressed the importance of the catalog of products and services: “In this changing world where boundaries are blurring and barriers are disappearing, banking can position itself to offer a wider range of products and services by using its large customer base and its reputation for quality and trust.”

Francisco González’s vision isn’t just that of a banker, who graduated with a degree in Economics and Business, but it’s also the vision of an IBM 1401 programmer. In 1964, BBVA’s executive chairman set out on a career in information technology: “This job made it abundantly clear to me that technology is not merely thrilling in and of itself, but also because of its enormous potential to impact lives from on a social and economic level,” he stated in ‘Deep Talks’. Banking, as Francisco González imagined it, began to take shape when he realized tabulators would be replaced by computers. His passion for technology has been one of the keys to success for BBVA’s vision.

Full speech by Francisco González, BBVA executive chairman, during the 1999 Annual General Meeting in Bilbao

We are in times of profound extremely profound change. The technological revolution undoubtedly advances at different paces in different sectors. But the financial sector has been the most impacted by this transformation, and it is also the sector that has the most to gain, if it can plan ahead and make timely decisions.

This is the very nature of the financial business, which is based on enormous numbers of transactions, drawn from a wealth – a real wealth – of complex data about millions of customers. In this changing world where boundaries are blurring and barriers are disappearing, banking can position itself to offer a wider range of products and services by using its large customer base and its reputation for quality and trust.

Knowing how to give customers advice, to provide them the services they want, anytime and wherever they are: this is the key to differentiation.

Managing such a complex process of transformation, defining and implementing appropriate strategies in a dramatically changing world is, of course, not a simple task.

The scale and capacity of technology is available to many. But it will only be those banks with teams of people who understand this change – who define and implement appropriate strategies in order to be prepared, to move forward, to plan ahead at the right time – it will be these banks that will be successful, that will be the prominent industry leaders of the 21st century.

And the best way to achieve this is to be a major proponent for this change. To lead the charge. To understand, support, and put ourselves at the forefront of change. This is BBVA’s resolve. A competitive position vis-à-vis traditional banks, vis-à-vis the so-called startups.

This is what I would like to express: I insist that at BBVA we are going to lead this change. I know we can because, as I said before, we are starting from a privileged position. Because the endeavor is clear; the project we’ve set ourselves is well defined. It entails knowing how to connect the present with the future, the physical networks with the virtual, and technology with people, and it is therefore people who will be, as they already are, the key to BBVA’s success.

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