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Opinion Act. 24 July 2020

An unprecedented journey

In the internal blog ‘The Pulse’, BBVA CEO Onur Genç shares his experience during his virtual journey meeting employees from all the countries where BBVA operates. “Although today much of our energy is justifiably focused on the response to the crisis, to protect the health and safety of those around us and continue to serve our customers, we all also acknowledged that our strategic plan is more valid and relevant than ever”, he says.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our daily lives with an unabated severity in certain countries, we started experimenting with ways to adapt to the new environment without losing sight of our absolute No.1 priority: to protect the health and safety of all of BBVA employees, clients and society in general. I, too, have been embracing the new normal by going back to my traditional agenda items in an unconventional way.

July has been nonstop for me. Like last year, in the past two weeks, I have traveled more than 30,000 miles, visited six countries, and crossed the Atlantic Ocean twice. The most unusual part of my long trek? This time, I have not physically moved.

Our global presence is something that gives us a unique and competitive edge over our peers, and not only due to the diversification of our portfolio. It allows us to share best practices and develop industry-leading solutions that all of our country units can use and adapt to their local reality. A perfect example is how the world’s best mobile banking app -as recognized by Forrester- originally developed in Spain, has been launched in several countries and is currently under development in others. Mexico, for example, has embraced our global mobile app platform -GloMo-, and now the features developed by our Mexican team are being deployed in other countries under the same platform in a much faster and efficient manner. As an active customer and mobile app user of BBVA in Spain, USA and Turkey, I am amazed by the homogeneous experience from the different apps of different countries. This is all driven by the fact that the underlying banking needs of our customers are the same wherever they are.

During my virtual journey, I have also been able to engage with many colleagues and hear about their families, how they are living and responding to the crisis, and how their lives have changed. Of course, we also discussed business performance in the first half of the year, our expectations for the second half, and future plans. Although today much of our energy is justifiably focused on the response to the crisis, to protect the health and safety of those around us and continue to serve our customers, we all also acknowledged that our strategic plan is more valid and relevant than ever. We must take advantage of the lessons learned from these challenging times to accelerate our six strategic priorities. If there is one silver lining to this difficult situation, it’s that this crisis also brings us an opportunity to build our capabilities for the future.

In closing, I want to share some details of my journey to countries in our footprint. Each geography is different, but there are valuable common denominators: the solid business performance, which has allowed us to improve our competitive position; our strength in terms of capital and liquidity, the health metrics for a bank; our focus on asset quality in all countries; and our outstanding, extremely talented team.

  • My journey started in Mexico. The situation is still marked by the harsh situation caused by COVID-19, with the country reporting one of the largest number of cases in the world. . In this complex environment, Lalo and the BBVA in Mexico team continue to prove their strength with an absolute and increasing leadership in all products and segments. Furthermore, we continue to reinforce our digital leadership widening the gap with our competitors.
  • From Mexico to Colombia, where in recent weeks the new cases of coronavirus have unfortunately been experiencing significant growth. Mario and his formidable team are extremely motivated. On the one hand, they are effectively managing the crisis in the short term, while on the other hand, they are still keenly focused on defining clear plans for the future in a very attractive country where our clear priority is to grow.
  • The next stop was Argentina, where we have a team, led by Martín, trained in several crises, a team with unparalleled experience and flexibility to quickly adapt and anticipate challenges. In addition, the bank’s foundations to face this crisis are sturdy and differential. This is increasingly noticeable in terms of solvency, liquidity and asset quality. I am convinced that, once again, BBVA in Argentina will emerge stronger from this crisis thanks to our team.
  • From Argentina, I set my sights on Peru. The country has already gone through especially critical moments, as the pandemic seems to have already passed its peak although the current level of cases still imply caution. Fernando and the team have managed and effectively implemented government support plans in order to alleviate the financial situation of our clients. They have done so, admirably, without losing focus on the long-term commitment to building the leading franchise in the country; a country that is also one of the most attractive in the region.
  • I crossed the Atlantic Ocean to share some time with Peio and the BBVA in Spain team. Here, the pandemic has subsided, but we are seeing unfortunate new outbreaks in some areas again advising caution for all of us. We cannot let our guard down, a point that I will keep emphasizing until a vaccine is out there. Peio and the team have done a wonderful job managing the crisis, while improving our competitive position in multiple dimensions, including the bank’s relative profitability as compared to our competitors. The whole team has also done an amazing job in the so-called ICO government-supported loan programs. I should also not forget to mention the unparalleled leadership we have in digital in Spain, and the many exciting projects the team kept delivering on even during the pandemic.
  • From Spain, I traveled the Atlantic Ocean back again to the U.S. Some of the country’s states where we are present, especially Texas, Florida and Arizona, are experiencing exponential growth in new cases of coronavirus. Javier and the team have been proactive, granting loans with a government guarantee that have helped our communities, and they’ve done so in an extraordinarily fast and efficient way. Our team reached remarkable milestones for example in cost of funding management while riding through the pandemic without losing sight of our long-term strategic plan: being the best bank in the best region of the USA.
  • From the U.S., I traveled directly to my home country, Turkey. It’s been a month since the lockdown was lifted and the health-related numbers continue to be under control. In short, Recep and team have clearly and uniquely risen to the challenge in the past few months. In a very complex competitive and regulatory environment, Garanti BBVA’s strategic and financial metrics have clearly outpaced the competition thanks again to our wonderful team there.

The itinerary of my tour doesn’t end here, I would like to extend my recognition and gratitude to each and everyone of you in the more than 30 countries where BBVA is present, for your unrelenting efforts in these trying times. You make this bank extraordinary. Please continue to show unmitigated positivity and optimism for our future.

I would also like to take the opportunity to re-send a special warm message of support to those of you affected by the pandemic or who have lost a loved one. You are very present in my thoughts.

Stay safe, be healthy, and stand strong.

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