Americans and Spaniards working together online; helicopters landing and taking off; different kinds of uniforms; and conversations in both languages or, sometimes, in Spanglish. That’s a snapshot of everyday life at the BBVA branch in Rota, south of Spain.
The manager of the BBVA branch in Rota, José Maria Nunez Asenjo, likes the NFL so much that one of the bank’s American customers gave him a jersey from his favorite team. That’s his only “strange” interest (American football is not a popular sport in Spain). He already showed his unique personality when he joined the bank 20 years ago: “I was the only lawyer among a ton of people with backgrounds in economics and finance,” he said, laughing.
José Maria has been serving military personnel for 16 of the last 20 years. He knows their expectations better than anyone. “The key is to put yourself in their shoes,” he said. “What they need is constant support. There is a big difference between customers who are in the military and those who aren’t because of the urgency involved. You have to be ready to meet those needs.”
His ability to understand the particular needs of such a unique group earned him the Cross of Naval Merit. “This decoration honors José Maria’s daily efforts to support the Navy. It is only awarded to one civilian a year in Spain, and it had never been given to a bank employee before,” said José Enrique Guardia de la Mora, Director of the Spanish Navy Fleet Training Center.
His ability to understand the particular needs of such a unique group earned him the Cross of Naval Merit
José Maria realized how extraordinary it was when he had to explain it at home. “My wife was confused. She said: ‘Who did you save? Was one of your customers drowning?" José Maria and his team feel proud. “This award recognizes our collaboration, as well as the help and service we’ve provided over these many years,” he said. “I’m very honored to receive this medal, personally and as an employee of BBVA.” It also implies a challenge. “Now comes the toughest part, which is maintaining our high customer service scores,” he said.
Although most of the branch’s customers are Spaniards and Americans, you can find people from other countries, too. “In the NATO group, there are people from all over: the UK, France, Italy, Portugal, and Greece,” José Maria said. Each has their own particular needs. “Broadly speaking, Americans want everything to be made clear from the beginning. The Italians and the Portuguese are very similar to us. The Germans and the British are colder. You have to know how to give the right answer to each nationality.”
"The key is to put yourself in their shoes
They don’t want the same things, either. “The Americans want an account to pay their bills in Spain and send money to the U.S., or maybe a small loan to buy a car. The Spaniards acquire their products from any branch they want to.”
This diversity also gives rise to some strange situations. “When we open for a customer we share with Compass, we tell them they won’t be able to access the channels in the U.S. through BBVA Spain’s channels. At first they don’t seem to understand the situation very well, but they catch on very quickly.”
Name: José María Núñez Asenjo
Position: Manager of Rota Base branch [BBVA España]
Function: Give the best possible service, through any channel possible and in the easiest way possible
Hobby: basketball and art history
Dream: Health for as long as possible for everyone around me
That drive to offer the best service to everyone in the most personalized way possible led José Maria and his team to propose changing the branch’s business hours. “The U.S. military got in touch with us to tell us what the soldiers needed. We made a proposal, but they wanted an additional change: they wanted banking services outside our usual business hours and something apart from digital channels. Now we are opening the branch office a few afternoons a week. The response has been great, and we are very pleased.”
"Now comes the toughest part, which is maintaining our high customer service scores
It is even more difficult for those who come from the United States. “Our American customers ask for service that lasts three to four years,” José Maria said. That means continuously attracting and retaining U.S. customers. “Some even leave their accounts open because they plan on returning.”