Onur Genç has just been named the next CEO of the BBVA Group. He is excited, beyond happy and somewhat surprised. As the announcement is made public we meet him for a quick chat.
Question: What was the first thing you thought about when you heard the news?
Answer: Well, I must confess, it came as a surprise. I moved from Turkey to the U.S. two years ago, and I am truly enjoying my time here. But I am completely committed to this Group, I deeply value our purpose and values, and I am very excited to be part of BBVA’s transformation project. I guess my international background and experience also reflects the true global nature of the Group today. It is an honor to serve the bank in this new role.
A: I am demanding but I care for the individual. I expect performance but would then do everything within my reach to care for the ones who show willingness to perform. It is all reflected in the values of BBVA, but I would also like to pick some concepts that I always try to embrace myself:Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
- Teamwork. We all depend on each other to do well in life and I believe the value of success multiplies with the number of people involved in the making of it. So embracing teamwork is a must.
- Trust. This is the bedrock of relationships and successful teamwork. This implies open communication, saying what you think as it is, without the counterparty questioning or second guessing. It also implies discussing openly until a decision is taken, and thereafter uniting as one full force towards the same goal.
- Accountability without compromising teamwork. I believe in this concept of single point of accountability. After defining the goal and the end product, single point of accountability implies somebody assuming the orchestration role to get it done in a certain timeframe with the expected quality. So, you will hear me often asking about the single point accountable and about the dates.
- . This implies taking decisions, acting fast within our control framework. One of our great strengths is executing rapidly but always within the most strict guidelines and controls. “Let’s move, vamos” is another phrase I often use to encourage the action.
Q: What are the main milestones of your professional career?Needless to say, and as reflected in BBVA’s values, all of this has to be wrapped under the broader principle of right ethical conduct, being principled in what we do and how we do it. That is a non-negotiable must-have in everything that we all do.
A: I have been extremely fortunate to work with great people throughout my career. I spent 13 years at McKinsey, consulting predominantly to financial institutions, living in four different countries and conducting projects in more than 10 countries. I was the youngest senior partner and office director of McKinsey at the age of 34. After McKinsey, I joined Garanti in Turkey. My main responsibility was leading retail banking operations, and thanks to our great teams we achieved market shares in core products that clearly exceeded our natural market share of branches and ATMs. We are also the clear digital leader in the market. After Garanti I joined BBVA’s operations in the U.S. We have dramatically improved profit over the past two years, performing better than most of our peers. We became one the highest growing retail banks in the country with leading digital capabilities. Also, our employee engagement has taken off, customer satisfaction has improved, and I am also very proud of our service to local communities.
In short, thanks to people surrounding me and the great teams that I had the privilege to work with, I’ve had amazing experiences in very diverse settings. And I have always believed that true success comes from serving all stakeholders: shareholders, employees, customers and the overall society.
Carlos Torres Vila, CEO of BBVA and Onur Genç, country manager USA,
Q: What are the main strengths of BBVA?
A: Three things I would highlight:
- First, we have a project: our industry is going through a major technology-driven transformation. Our clients and customers are increasingly interacting with us through a constantly-evolving interface. Thanks to the vision of our chairman Francisco González, BBVA became aware of the depth of these massive changes much earlier than others, and with Carlos, the transformation of the Group accelerated immensely. I believe our conviction level in the need for transformation is much higher than that of other banks. That is why, for example, our mobile app in Spain was ranked as the best globally, followed by our app in Turkey. And while digital transformation is a must, we are also in clear realization that our business is a people business, it is a relationship business, and while owning digital, we will continue to invest in our people. All channels will complement each other in the pursuit of providing the best service to our clients and customers.
- Second, we are global: my designation as next CEO is also a clear reflection of that strength. We are a Spanish bank with global operations and aspirations. As we become more global, we will become more efficient at leveraging the investments we make across markets. We will also become more effective, learning from one market and replicating in another. And we will do so always appreciating the differences of the respective markets, tailoring our initiatives properly.
- Third and most importantly, our strength is our people: in many markets we take full pride in being one of the most preferred employers. And that is because we are ardent believers in meritocracy. We spend a lot of effort in developing our people. We have been investing at scale in agile methodologies to create a better workplace. In our business, it is all about people, and we don’t run short of talent at BBVA.
Q: What do you think are the main challenges facing banking these days?
A: The key challenge is the need to respond to the ever changing customer in the digital age. Given that, there will be new forms of competition popping up and some commoditization will take place, leading to margin erosion. But like all successful companies, we have a laser-sharp focus on our customer transforming the way we interact with them and, as I mentioned, we have leaders who had the vision to start the transformation much earlier than others, more than a decade ago, and that is a competitive advantage.
.Q: What will you do upon arrival in Madrid?
A: Well, first find a house for my family and school for the kids. Also, I need to improve my Spanish. Text is easier. I will encourage colleagues to write to me in whichever language they feel comfortable. And, as much as I can, I will make a commitment to reply in Spanish to every single text get in the language from the first day. For conversation though, I will take my time and ask for everyone’s patience.
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