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Learning from the best - The Propel Venture Partner CEO Summit

Some of the senior leaders from BBVA this week attended the Propel Venture Partners CEO summit in San Francisco.

The yearly summit is a chance for the businesses that Propel invests in, on behalf of BBVA, to meet with key decision makers at the bank and update them on the progress their business has been making.

More than that, though, it is a vital opportunity for BBVA to experience first hand the disruption that is taking place on the edges of the financial services sector – and to see where the future of the industry is heading.

This is often a chance to hear both the positive coming out of the sector, and the negative and ways in which that can be transformed. Equally, its a chance for thought leaders in sectors across the financial services industry to share their thinking on where the sector is going, and how well it is serving both businesses and consumers alike.

One of those taking part was a senior member of the White House staff, who was there to discuss the role politics can play in creating a more innovative and engaging financial services sector. For example, ensuring that things like regulation doesn’t impinge on the ability for startups to start to work, while still protecting people assets.


Derek White, Global Head of Customer Solutions, during his intervention in Propel Summit.

For the speaker, they said that the work goes both ways though, with one of the other key learnings from the sector being how to manage disruptive change. For the Government, and the businesses they support, this means moving from a fear of automation and the impact that has on people’s jobs, to one where the impetus becomes finding new roles for people.

The speaker said that here politicians can play a part by promoting different types of education, like cyberskills and programming, or ensuring that the skillsets businesses need in an era of increased digital working are properly met by those training people for the future.

The digitasion of trust

Another discussion saw the CEOs of two banks describe how for them, a bank’s value proposition starts with trust. As banking moves increasingly to digital platforms, the digitisation of trust - and how banks move to protect the digital assets of their clients, while building out trust by supporting people to make better decisions, was vital.

One of the CEO’s, a start-up, outlined how for them, 75% of their new customers come from social media referrals, showing just how valuable this channel can be for both growing a business and using the trust and positive customer sentiment to acquire new customers.

The discussion then turned to the technology that underpins digital banking, with another of the CEOs present saying that, for them, technology is also an enabler of trust.

About responsability

Noting the recent troubles of Facebook - who’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was being interviewed by the US Congress even as the summit in Sausalito was taking place yesterday - the point was made that strong tech infrastructure can promote trust.


Speakers from different startups joined the event in San Francisco.

The CEO added that there was an analogy between social networks and banking. Thirty years ago banks didn't have much responsibility for what criminals might be doing with illicit money via their technology platforms.

Now, though, it’s clear that a bank’s responsibility is to prevent criminal activity and to carefully monitor those systems they use to run their business for the wider protection of society. This is an approach that has really changed in the past three decades. Its help reduce criminality, and increased accountability and stability. The CEO’s suggested that maybe the same regulations and obligations now need to be applied to big tech.

Another big topic on the day was the impact AI will make on the financial services sector. One of the biggest challenges the industry faces is reducing the complexity of the huge volumes of data the industry has. This is where the power of machine learning algorithms can really deliver value from the data.

Secondly, it needs to really deliver on human experience, to understand natural human behaviours, and to develop solutions that add to human experience, yet still seem ‘magical’.

Lastly, into the future, AI needs to work seamlessly with people’s lives - that for example, implants that people might have in the future to enable AI engagement are designed to extend their thinking and support their acquisition of knowledge - not just gimmicks.

Ultimately, the ideas being posited by the CEOs present during the day all related to better serving customers and clients, to improving decision making, and to adding value by using data in smarter ways.

The summit itself is conducted under Chatham House rules, to allow for greater freedom of conversation, so it means that only the themes that emerge can be shared.