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Banking 12 Dec 2017

Martin Zarich: "The moment is now, not in five years’ time"

BBVA Francés is fully immersed in its transformation to digital banking. This year, the bank moved into a modern tower in Buenos Aires, where it is growing as a company, both culturally and in terms of teamwork. Customer experience is setting the pace of change towards a mobile future. For CEO Martín Zarich, the customer experience sets the pace towards a changeable future. In his opinion: “the moment is now, not in five years’ time”.

Martín Ezequiel Zarich took over as executive chairman of BBVA Francés two years ago. He brings with him no less than 30 years of experience in a host of positions at the bank, including a stretch in Spain, where he headed the Engineering Department.

Zarich doesn´t feel at all like a rare species in the company, which he joined in 1987 as an economist at the Banco de Crédito Argentino (BCA). Ten years later, BCA merged with Banco Francés, which at that time was already part of the BBVA Group.

He points out that there were many executives of his generation with whom he shared successes in the past. Instead of making them complacent, this gave them a clear vision of why the culture they themselves helped create, now had to be transformed.

Zarich took charge of the Argentine subsidiary just as there was a change in the country’s government. His management of BBVA Francés began at the same time as the administration of President Mauricio Macri, which Zarich says created a favorable situation in the country and provided a context for the process of transforming the bank, not just the business itself.

Martín Zarich, executive chairman of BBVA Francés: "The moment is now, not in five years’ time"

He dismisses the notion that investors have appeared in Argentina just because of the change in government. Indeed, there are many economic problems that can only be resolved over time and with many reforms. Instead, he says that there are people who naturally are interested in profitable projects, where there is a degree of certainty about the results.

As an example, Zarich points to the finance industry, where only four months ago, “the four major banks that trade on international markets, among them ours, carried out capital increases for a total of $2.5 billion. This clearly represents a bet on Argentina and on its financial system to finance the development of the country, its public sector, business community and families, which is what is taking place.”

We have more than 6,000 employees and 2.5 million customers. We have worked with 50,000 companies for very long periods of time, because our clients are very faithful to us, just as we are to the company”

He predicts that “the finance sector will end this year with a growth of more than 50% in loans, a very significant figure in real terms, although maintaining this pace will require investing more capital.”

We’re very proud of this stage, in which we’re growing as a company, culturally and in terms of teamwork. The system is transforming and we’re transforming ourselves”. Zarich says, seated at his desk on the 31st floor of the new company headquarters that has become a symbol of the process of digitalization.

“You just have to walk through any of the floors in our building to see, in the first place, the open space, where employees work without walls or offices, which creates the possibility of integration of the teams,” he says.

He imagines that in five years, both the finance sector and BBVA itself will be vastly different from today: “The year 2017 has been a very positive year for us and, we believe, for the financial system in general.”

Multi-tasking

Martin Zarich emphasizes two points: on the one hand “seizing the opportunity for growth that Argentina offers today.  In the SMEs and in our role of financing them, in the recovery of the mortgage market, and in our opportunity to lead that process – now, not in five years’ time”. On the other hand, about the transformation strategy, Zarich notes: “it’s necessary to construct a different bank. In any normal situation, structuring each one of these work agendas would take all our time”.

As for the competition from non-financial entities, in personal loans, investment advice, payment methods or the explosion of the fintech companies, the head of BBVA Francés says, “our industry is multifaceted in terms of the services we provide,” adding “the best proof of our leadership in the future will be our transformation.”

The Central Bank is very clear that it should accompany and drive the transformation. It eliminated regulations on payment methods, many of which were obsolete and bureaucratic, and sharply reduced costs”

He points out that we are seeing a completely new customer experience, with transformed services. Whoever doesn´t learn this new game, won´t have a chance. This is a process, he asserts, “that we propose to lead.”

And he adds: “Half of the customers connect with us digitally and one third of our sales take place on digital channels. We can no longer tell them what they should do in a branch office or an ATM, but rather, to choose in each case. That´s why we’re convinced that the future is in the cell phone”

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