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Technology> Digital processing Updated: 20 Aug 2020

Alberto Cano: “Mobile usage in SMEs has changed from residual and mostly consultation to growing at annual rates of more than 25%"

Alberto Cano (Oviedo, 1974) is Head of SMEs at BBVA Spain. Previously, he has been Area Manager of Commercial Banking in different regions of Spain and has undertaken various business-related positions within management of the Eastern Territory.

SMEs have always been a priority line of business for BBVA. The department Alberto leads is key in supporting this sector, which increasingly demands simple and agile processes that facilitate business management and help companies make better decisions to grow.

Q: Spain is a very entrepreneurial country in which many businesses are set up, however, many of them do not survive. From your knowledge of this sector, what do you think the problem is?

A: SMEs represent practically the entirety of our business fabric; 99% of companies are SMEs. Although this level is very similar to the European average, in the case of Spain, micro-enterprises, those which have fewer than 10 employees, represent around 93% of the total, lying above said average. The smaller size makes our companies less competitive.

Productivity is particularly related to the size of companies. A more productive enterprise has higher levels of human capital, lower business-cycle volatility, and a lower percentage of temporary employment. Your chances of survival are increased as a result. This means that growth is the first challenge faced by Spanish SMEs. Digitization is a key element in achieving such growth.

Q: Is funding still the main concern for Spanish SMEs?

A: There is no doubt that what an SME needs is peace of mind, and this is linked heavily to funding. When you're tackling a new project or encountering a problem, you need to know that you have the support you need. For this reason, we at BBVA have evolved in the way that we meet that very need. The traditional model gave rise to very long processes, leaving clients feeling uneasy and often leading them to refrain from engaging in projects due to not having secured financial support. Thanks to big data, we have managed to turn this around. We are now able to offer credit limits to companies, customers and non-customers, even before they make a request.

This allows us to tell SMEs that BBVA is willing to support them with their projects in the form of specific short- and long-term financing. This step is yet to be taken by any other financial institution in Spain, and it has been made possible thanks to our process of transformation. To put it into figures, we have made credit limits totaling over €35 billion available to more than 200,000 companies.

We have made credit limits totaling over €35 billion available to more than 200,000 companies

However, SMEs are increasingly aware that you can't grow without changing. In order to grow, you must transform, and this requires much more than simply digitizing. You should always be thinking about how to provide your customers with a better service. Because if you don't, others will.

And here lies the good news: transformation is not only within the reach of big companies. Any small business now has access to the tools, practically free of charge, that allow it to do things in a similar way to the large corporations. New technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and data processing have democratized the use of technology. Transformation is no longer an option; it is a requirement and an opportunity to grow.

Alberto Cano, Head of SMEs at BBVA Spain

Q: So, are you detecting other needs beyond funding? How do you respond to those needs at BBVA?

A: In addition to funding, there is another very common request from all entrepreneurs. When we talk to them, they all agree that what they need is time to manage their businesses. In a small business, one person has a multitude of functions and entrepreneurs are unable to spend the time they would like on the things that really matter: managing clients and growing the business. A recent McKinsey study indicated that more than 50% of an entrepreneur's time is devoted to administrative tasks, essentially meaning tax obligations, payments, invoicing or banking.

Ultimately, SMEs require the same thing as individuals: to have simple, easy-to-use tools that speed up day-to-day tasks and help them make decisions with the maximum amount of information, and, above all, to be able to interact with us at any time and from anywhere. A year ago, we created the Transformation Factory. Composed of a multidisciplinary team of 300 professionals, it can put new products into the hands of customers within very short delivery times.

At BBVA we have various solutions that help our customers reduce their banking times. A clear example of this lies in the world of financing. With Click&Pay, companies can make drawdowns on a specific limit to cover their most common working-capital needs. At present, about 90% of all drawdowns are already digital.

In addition, we were the first financial entity to launch an intelligent aggregator for businesses. With BBVA One View, companies can save an average of two hours a day on financial management by being able to control all their national accounts, credit accounts, loans and cards in one place, in real time, and through any device. Since its launch, more than 80,000 SMEs have already signed up to the service.

Q: Today's consumers expect to have everything on their phones. Are SMEs ready to cope with these new forms of consumption?

A: When we talk about digital transformation, there have been many SME success stories. But if we look globally, Spanish SMEs are trailing far behind in the most advanced digitization processes. To quote the data, some studies indicate that only 5% of companies with fewer than 10 employees allow customers to make orders or reservations online.

Our challenge is to make SMEs, which are sometimes very small businesses, understand that transformation is a necessity. Each and every one of the entrepreneurs we talk to has this concern at the forefront of their mind. What is not on their mind, however, is the belief that they are capable of doing it. We have to be able to communicate that, thanks to technology, any SME has the ability to compete with larger companies, and we must show them the way to do so.

Thanks to technology, any SME has the ability to compete with larger companies, and we must show them the way to do so

Q: You have just been recognized for the third consecutive year as the best mobile bank in Europe. Are you also a leader in mobile banking for companies? 

A: Our customers increasingly expect to have everything on their phones. Mobile usage in SMEs has changed from residual and mostly consultation to growing at annual rates of more than 25%. The business app, BBVA Net cash, is one of the most valued in the market because it enables you, via a smartphone, to carry out tasks such as signing a pending order, accessing a loan and checking the status of accounts.

In addition, SMEs have at their disposal a specialized manager who can assist them remotely. The client can complete any task without leaving the office and without losing the personal touch of one of our managers. The combination of both worlds, digital and human, makes our business app unbeatable and gives SMEs more time to grow their business.

Q: What new developments are you working on for SMEs?

A: We have many solutions to help companies with the day-to-day, but we want to go further and also help them anticipate their needs and make better financial decisions according to their specific context and situation. In this regard, the manager plays a vital role. Our plans involve combining the manager's advisory work with the digital world to help our customers make better decisions to grow their businesses sustainably.