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BBVADesign Updated: 21 Oct 2021

How did a bank manage to win a national design award?

In the last six years, BBVA’s original team of less than ten designers has bloomed into a community of more than 500. This year the bank earned a special mention at the Spanish National Design Awards. In the meantime, design became a strategic driver of its transformation process, allowing customers to play a leading role by determining the design of its products. BBVA is facing the future trying to scale up its products by globally with efficiency, integrating data into design and exploring new user experience features, such as voice-enabled navigation.

Vanessa Pombo Nartallo (BBVA Creative)

On June 10, Margarita Barrera, Global Head of Design at BBVA, attended the National Design Awards to receive the special mention awarded by the Spanish Government to the bank in the National Design Awards. “Usually, these awards recognize companies that focus on this discipline as part of their core economic activity, such as design studios or companies that manufacture industrial products,” she explained. “This is the first time that the awards recognize the design integration as a strategic driver in an organization where it is not a core activity.”

BBVA has incorporated this previously non-existing function as a differentiating element and competitive advantage. By fully integrating this capability into its digital factories it has been able to radically transform the user experience, especially in its digital and mobile channels. “The best experience is undoubtedly the one that purposefully designed,” says Barrera.

“This is the first time that the awards recognize the design integration as a strategic driver in an organization where it is not a core activity.”

But this award also recognizes designers as agents of change, for supporting BBVA's cultural transformation and, in addition, working from the perspective of people and with people, not only in the preliminary research stages, but also throughout the entire product and service creation development phases. “Our solutions should not come from a committee of wise men, but cater to the needs, expectations and realities of the users who are going to use the service,” continued Barrera. “The design team has implemented processes within the digital factories to guarantee exploration, testing and validation with people during the different phases of creation.”

Thus, customers become key players in the development of the technological solutions they will use. Their voice permeates conversations, internal discussions, and business decision making processes. “From the beginning of this journey, we embraced the idea of disseminating design within the organization to showcase the importance of keeping customers at the center. Today the business and technology teams share this vision, and user research or the use of typical design tools such as co-creation and prototyping have become part of the daily grind at our digital factories.”

This joint work has resulted in the increased user-friendliness of our digital processes and the transformation of sales funnels, making them simpler, usable and effective. This new way of relating to the client has had a positive impact on key metrics such as NPS, our Net Promoter Score.

A strategy scaled up over time

The Design area's greatest challenge has been scaling up its capabilities, both in terms of human resources and talent, as well as in the standardization of solutions, to deliver on its aspiration of becoming global while remaining efficient.

Six years ago, the team consisted of less than ten designers from across the globe focusing mainly on developing web interfaces. “We outsourced projects very often, which meant that we lost our investments in knowledge, because we failed to both keep it inside the Group and capitalize on it internally,” says Barrera.

In 2015, BBVA decided to turn user experience as one of its strategic priorities. The Group invested heavily and brought in new specialized talent to drive this growth strategy. In early 2016, Margarita Barrera joined BBVA to lead the global user experience team.

“We started working under the inspiration of a triangle that integrates design, business and technology. It was then that our area left behind its purely operational focus to becomes a strategic resource.”

The change of motto, from 'Forward' to 'Creating opportunities'; its app’s award-winning redesign; or the creation of a corporate brand in 2019, adapted to digital realities, are just a few examples of the importance that the design function has acquired over these six years as part of BBVA's global strategy.

Today, this original team of less than ten members, has blossomed into a community of 500+ designers working coordinately under a shared culture, shared methodologies and a shared philosophy.

The BBVA Experience system gives them access to the same technological tools irrespective of their location they are, ensuring that results are consistent, stable and efficient. For Barrera, this is a clear example of the efficiency of a distributed and real-time co-creation community: “Through a Design Federation that takes into account all local realities and needs, new emerging needs are analyzed to assess whether they can develop into a globally-used component. The goal is to implement the same digital services that succeed in one country in others.”

In addition, the Design Ambassadors Program offers training in 'design thinking' to the remainder of BBVA's workforce. A total of 5,000 employees have already completed this program.  “To change our user experience, we felt it was also essential to accompany driving a cultural shift in the bank,” continued Barrera. Design is not restricted to displays and digital products: it can be a transformative lever in all kinds of projects.

The challenge of designing voice navigation

Going forward, the team faces the integration of data into the business-technology-design triangle. The ongoing use of digital products and services generates huge swaths of data, which can potentially be harnessed to anticipate our users' needs. Understanding what is most relevant to them and using it improve user experience is one of the key lines of work in data-driven design for the coming years.

Design has helped turn potential opportunities and needs into solutions, thanks to a structured approach to work and a team of professionals capable of connecting and leveraging different areas of knowledge in benefit of people. Today, these methodologies can help understand and look into future alternatives based on our understanding of the past and the present.

Barrera also points out at the challenge of creating a design that integrates other types of navigation technologies, beyond touch. “It is hard to guess how digital interfaces will evolve in the coming years, but what’s certain is that many things will be simplified and automated. Voice will become more prevalent compared touch, especially in tasks where talking comes more naturally than browsing. It will allow us to amplify relational, conversational aspects, over those that are purely transactional ”. Barrera believes that it will be an excellent opportunity to convey emotions and the personality of the brand. “But, without a doubt, the universe of new interactions that lies ahead of us will require new profiles that we are already bringing into the house - such as content and narrative/UX designers - and amplify our work up towards acoustic and 'sonification' design [a cutting edge field that uses sound as the means to convey and interpret information], if we want to deliver memorable and immersive experiences.”

In addition, a more automated design enabled by machine learning technologies will allow team members to focus on creating new ideas, strategies and solutions. In times of uncertainty like the present, design thinking can be instrumental in figuring out potential future outcomes.

In any case, the next steps will be directed at doubling-down on the bank’s commitment to this discipline as a key lever in of its transformation journey, integrating areas where is yet to be implemented.