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Finance> Financial system> Digital banking Updated: 25 Oct 2019

Onur Genç: “Now is the time to use digitization to stimulate business and acquire new customers”

BBVA CEO Onur Genç cited the bank’s collaboration with startups as a contributing factor to the bank’s hitting its growth and efficiency targets. He made his comments at Open Summit, where he presented the grand prize for this year’s international Open Talent competition to the winning startup, Cobee. The BBVA CEO also referred to the Group’s challenges, saying, “Our goal is to monetize the technological advances we’ve made from our investment in digital transformation.”


BBVA’s CEO explained how the bank is addressing the future, both its challenges and opportunities. He called on the entrepreneurial community for their assistance. “All you innovators, you can help us move forward with our digital transformation process,” Genç told the audience at Open Summit, the annual BBVA event dedicated to the fintech ecosystem and innovation.

Genç pointed out that, at present, the bank’s main challenge is to ensure its digital transformation translates into organic growth. He explained that in recent years the bank has been working on digitizing its customer base, an effort that has proved successful as attested by the fact that more than half of the bank's customers use digital channels. He alluded to BBVA's focus on digital products and services as part of its strategy to gain market share: “Now is the time to use digitization to increase our business activity and grow with new customers.”

Operational efficiency is another significant challenge that BBVA is addressing, and as Genç emphasized, it is a strategic priority for the bank. “Any competitor can digitize the various processes banks manage. We have to create more value for our customers so they see us as a trusted partner that watches out for their well-being,” Genç explained. “To achieve this, we have to be involved at a day-to-day transaction level and provide relevant and personalized financial advice,” Onur Genç added.

The final challenge Onur Genç mentioned was sustainability, a challenge where “BBVA is able to assume a much more intense role, not only as it pertains to the environment, but also in the areas of social and economic sustainability,” he said.

BBVA views collaboration with innovative ecosystems — like startups — as an essential component to tackling these challenges. "Our responsibility, as a corporation, is to create and support the conditions that are necessary to promote entrepreneurship. This is precisely what we do with our open innovation initiatives. This is our way of connecting with the fintech and entrepreneurship ecosystems. We believe that working with external ecosystems is key to accelerating the rate of change," Genç insisted. The BBVA CEO was also on hand to announce the global winner of this year’s BBVA Open Talent competition and present the prize, which went to Spanish startup, Cobee.

Likewise, he presented the Australian startup, Agunity, with a Sustainability award, a recognition especially created this year for Open Talent. Agunity provides financial services to small farmers and ranchers.

BBVA CEO Onur Genç, in the annual BBVA event dedicated to the fintech ecosystem and innovation.

Cobee, international winner of BBVA Open Talent 2019

Cobee competed against two other startups (Pineapple and Slyp) during the competition's final round. More than 750 companies from 95 different countries had participated in the challenge. The panel of judges, composed of BBVA senior executives, delivered their decision after listening to the three companies present their business ‘pitch.’ The winner, Cobee, had been Spain’s fintech winner in the national competition.

Cobee has developed a digital platform that helps organizations conveniently contract staff and manage employee compensation plans. Thanks to its technology, each employee has a Visa card and an app where they can automatically manage how they use the fringe benefits that come as part of their flexible compensation plan (perks such as health insurance, company-covered transportation, and child-care). The process is simple and can be tailored to the specific needs of each employee. Furthermore, the platform’s users can pay for services included in the company’s flexible compensation plan directly from their gross salary, thus providing an added savings.

"The platform helps users optimize their money, simply and automatically. This is a vision that is very much aligned to the BBVA strategy,” the jurists agreed. By adopting Cobee’s Software-as-a-Service, companies and employees alike are able to track consumption on a daily basis and see the savings achieved with each payment.

“The ease with which employees can sign up for flexible compensation benefits and use them with a simple card and app, is a significant value proposition for human resource departments when it comes to managing benefits,” the jury added.

As part of the winning prize, Cobee will receive a €100,000 investment from the BBVA’s venture creation studio, which will also provide the company with a strategic assessment plan, access to experts, and other resources that will help the startup continue on its path to growth.

Cobee also now qualifies for access to the 2019 Open Talent Acceleration Program, from which it will receive support from the bank’s lines of business and experts in entrepreneurship. This program, designed in conjunction with the Instituto de Empresa (IE) business school and the Financial Times, includes 12 online training sessions, a week of on-site training in Madrid, culminating in a session where participants, in the hopes of finding financing or partners for collaborative projects, present to potential partner investors and BBVA lines of business.