“We have to be as efficient as the newcomers,” BBVA Executive Chairman Francisco González said at an event organized by MIT Technology Review and BBVA in San Francisco, when describing the transformation process underway at BBVA to turn a conventional bank into a digital house. The process will allow BBVA to be part of the future competitive landscape in financial services, that will be formed by “some banks including BBVA, probably some startups and definitely some big digital players,” Francisco González said.

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Francisco González joined experts from the fintech sector, startups, large corporations and investors at the seminar “Designing the Future of Finance: Perspectives from Champions of the Coming Revolution,” which was held at the World Economic Forum offices. Participants shared their ideas and thoughts around major issues affecting the financial industry.

In an interview with MIT Technology Review’s San Francisco bureau chief Martin Giles, Francisco González recalled that BBVA began its digital journey 10 years ago. The transformation is a multidisciplinary effort that involves both technological platforms, as well as new processes, new people and talent, a new corporate culture and new products and services. “We have to be prepared to compete with the digital giants,” the BBVA Executive Chairman said.

As for competition from the new entrants, Francisco González welcomed their inroads in financial services. “We love competition. If as a sector we try to hold up competition, that is the death of the banking sector,” he said. BBVA wants innovative ideas to enter the arena and compete, so long as there is a level playing field. Regulators have to strike the right balance, with a regulation that does not stifle innovation while protecting the consumer, Francisco Gonzalez said. “We ask for same service, same risk, same regulation,” he said.

Francisco González recalled that BBVA began its digital journey 10 years ago

Working with new initiatives and startups is part of BBVA’s transformation process. BBVA has acquired and invested in different disruptive startups, and continues to develop in-house new initiatives. BBVA works increasing with the fintech ecosystem in an open way to provide an enriched customer experience. “Five years from now the bulk of the products and services we offer will come from the outside world and will be packaged in a personalized way for our customers,” he said.

Regarding San Francisco, Martin Giles drew a comparison between BBVA, with 110 people based locally working on different initiatives, and the Silicon Valley outposts of other banks that only have two or three people.

“Five years from now the bulk of the products and services we offer will come from the outside world and will be packaged in a personalized way for our customers,” Francisco González said.

BBVA’s Group Executive Chairman also focused on two exponential technologies that are having a dramatic impact on banking and financial industries: blockchain and AI. According to Francisco González, blockchain has an enormous potential in the financial business, making it possible to automate many banking process. As for AI, he noted that this family of cognitive technologies offers a wide variety of different uses – from improving the efficiency of routine tasks to drastically changing how banking is done in more complex tasks.

At the event, Francisco González recalled that all exponential technologies that are currently reaching the banking industry have already revolutionized other sectors. BBVA’s Group Executive Chairman feels that it is important for people to be aware of the economic, social, environmental and ethical implications of these transformations. This is precisely why BBVA launched the OpenMind project (www.bbvaopenmind.com). The digital community of knowledge provides free access to essays, articles, interviews and infographics in order to help people understand the phenomena that are transforming our lives and shaping our future.

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BBVA’s Group Executive Chairman, Francisco González, at the event MIT in San Francisco

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