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Digital banking Updated: 25 May 2018

BBVA Compass’ Pepe Olalla talks digital transformation through the lens of Business Development

At BBVA Compass, digital transformation has been taking place across the bank from Engineering to Talent & Culture. Leading the charge for the transformation of the bank’s products and services has been the bank’s Business Development unit, under the leadership of Pepe Olalla.


What is the responsibility of Business Development?

Olalla: Business Development is a unit that can be found across BBVA’s global footprint, so we have a global mission and vision, which is to create amazing experiences for customers, clients and colleagues to accelerate the transformation and ensure profitable growth.

The three words that I always highlight are:

  • Amazing - Quality is important to us. Everything we do, everything we create should be the best.
  • Transformation - Our team makes the impossible possible. It’s our job to find ways to do what has never been done before.
  • Profitable Growth - If we are doing our job correctly and using technology to the benefit of our customers, consumers should be responding and profitable growth should be the end result. For us, this is about unleashing new revenue pools through the amazing products we conceive and develop, and then using the processes we’ve learned to improve productivity and efficiency, which ultimately improves customer experience and the bank’s bottom line.

How does Business Development contribute to BBVA Compass’ digital transformation?

Olalla: The term digital transformation has been so broadly used that I’m not sure if there is a common understanding of what it means, so let me describe what it means to me. For me, digital transformation is about living our purpose, which is to bring the age of opportunity to everybody. It is about making our customers’ lives easier when they have to make financial decisions and deal with their money.

Part of our work in Business Development consists of using technology to build the solutions that will help make our customers’ lives easier. The flagship example is our award-winning mobile app. But it is not just about building the solutions, it is also important that the solutions are known to and used by our customers. We call this ‘digital engagement’ and it is also a significant part of our work.

To summarize, I would say that Business Development’s role in digital transformation is to use technology to build the products and solutions that make customers’ lives easier

To summarize, I would say that Business Development’s role in digital transformation is to use technology to build the products and solutions that make customers’ lives easier, and then make sure that our customers know those products and solutions are available to them.

BBVA Compass Head of Business Development Pepe Olalla

You’ve been at BBVA Compass since late 2015. What have been some of the biggest digital milestones during that time?

Olalla: This is a good question, but a hard one to answer. So many things have happened in two and a half years that it’s not an easy task to pick just a few.

Some of the things that come to mind include new products being made available to customers and non-customers digitally - credit cards and the Express Personal Loan are the most recent examples of this - being the first country among the 30 that make up the BBVA group to adopt the new brand look and feel for, consistently receiving awards for having the best mobile app and mobile functionality in the U.S., and so many others.

All of these are wonderful achievements, but what makes me most proud, and this is more an ongoing effort than a milestone, is the amazing job that the branch network is doing is helping our customers adopt digital. Without the branches efforts in ‘digital onboarding,’  our digital transformation would be nothing more than a buzzword.

Why is mobile banking so important to BBVA and BBVA Compass?

Olalla: I believe the invention of the iPhone by Apple in 2007 is the most relevant event of the 21st century so far. The smartphone has completely transformed our lives, from the way we interact with others, to the way we expect to receive service from companies, and even the way we organize our lives. We are used to having everything available at our fingertips twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It’s all about convenience. And the smartphone has brought convenience to a new level.

This is true for banking as well. Customers expect to be able to bank via their smartphone. So much so, that recently ‘leading mobile and online solutions’ was mentioned as the primary reason to choose a bank in the USA for the first time, surpassing ‘proximity to a branch.’ So, mobile banking is an imperative for any bank that intends to remain in business.

At BBVA Compass, mobile takes on even more importance. Our growth ambition is big - we want to serve more customers and mobile banking plays a critical role in this strategy, as it gives us the opportunity to scale faster and more easily. With a powerful mobile banking app, we can serve millions of customers, which is why having one of the best in the market will always be our goal.

BBVA Compass recently launched the digital version of Express Personal Loan to customers and prospects across its footprint. What does the launch of this product say for the future of BBVA Compass?

Olalla: The launch of the digital version of Express Personal Loan (EPL) meant so much to me because so much work - from teams across the entire bank - went into it.

The launch of EPL proves that the impossible is possible. When we started the journey in 2016, very few people believed that we could be where we are today - offering a fully digital lending solution for customers and non-customers, running campaigns of seven million pieces of direct mail monthly and producing almost $150 million in EPL production in just one month. I’m here to tell you today those impossibilities are today’s realities. The lesson? Never be scared when facing what seems like an impossible challenge.

Ultimately, EPL represented a great business opportunity to disrupt a $1 trillion market that has traditionally been served by credit cards charging high APRs. Fintechs have been trying to address this market, but they have limited access to low cost funding, face high acquisition costs and lack brand awareness, so they will struggle to survive. Big banks will be reluctant to enter this market to avoid cannibalization. We see this is as a great opportunity to grow in a ‘new’ market, which is not easy to find in a mature market as the U.S.

We’ll leverage data to make our interactions with customers and clients smarter

How will Business Development continue contributing to BBVA Compass digital transformation in the future?

Olalla: There is still much to be done and our goals for digital engagement and digital sales will not slow down. To boost these metrics, we’ll spend more time on three additional priorities.

The first we call clients, which are small medium enterprises and commercial clients. In the past, most of the effort has been devoted to customers, which are the individual consumers of our products.

The second priority is data. We’ll leverage data to make our interactions with customers and clients smarter. For instance, based on data, we can begin to offer them value added services, like a financial health score.

Our third priority is to leverage our global connections so that we are better positioned to adopt the efforts and initiatives being developed in the rest of the BBVA group.

In your opinion, what is the future of banking?

Olalla: I think the future of banking has to do with the number one stress people face, which is making good financial decisions. Of course, banks have always been there to help and will continue to be. But the way they go about it may change. Let me explain.

In the past, banks were focused on providing the infrastructure to deal with money, so storing  money in a secure way, moving money, making payments, etc.

In the future, successful banks will be involved in helping people making the right financial decisions, even making some of the decisions on their own, almost like a self-driven car, but a bank.

This can’t happen though without the smart use of data. Value added services based on data will require access to customer data both inside and outside the bank, and this will require obtaining consent from customers who trust their bank because of the quality of services they are provided.

It’s this circle of trust - data, services, consent and back to data - that will be a critical skill for banks to have future success.