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Opinion Act. 26 May 2020

One team against COVID-19

BBVA executive chairman Carlos Torres Vila and BBVA CEO Onur Genç address all employees in the internal blog ‘The Pulse’ to share the bank’s priorities in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak: “Our health and well-being and that of our families, customers and clients, and society as a whole is our number one priority, which comes first and it is essential above any other consideration.”

Team:

We are living in exceptional and difficult times that require us to act as ‘one team,’ helping each other and supporting our clients.

Under these circumstances of a health emergency, our priorities must be clear: protecting our health and well-being and that of our families, clients and society in general. This comes first and it is essential above any other consideration.

This is a global epidemic that is reaching all countries, and when it does, it follows the same pattern.

Anticipation is key. In crisis situations, measures that initially seemed excessive, later prove to have been insufficient. That is why we must act now and be proactive to stay ahead of events, learning from the experience of other countries where the virus has already spread extensively. The only measure that has proved effective in containing the exponential spread of the virus is for people to stay at home until the situation subsides. We are all responsible for slowing down the spread so that the health system does not collapse.  As such, and so much as it is possible, we must stay at home.

That is precisely what we are doing in all the countries where we are present. In Spain, the vast majority of our central services employees are working remotely to help to stop the spread of the virus, which has already fanned out across the country. In the other footprint countries where there are few confirmed cases, but that without a doubt, will continue increasing in the coming days, we are already taking  a proactive approach and launching plans immediately so that the majority of employees can work from home starting this week. 

It is important that we all take responsibility for these measures and start working from home even if we don’t have all the tools and means to do so as effectively as in our workplace. We know it will not be easy, but it is the only way to protect everyone’s health—our colleagues, families, and our own—and to stop the virus from spreading.

It is similarly best that our clients stay at home and use our digital and remote channels. Having said that, our branches must remain open, as in countries like Spain, financial services are considered essential for the community from a legal standpoint. Plans have been made to minimize the branch personnel needed to operate our branches, and we are adopting measures  to limit the spread of the virus, and ensure the safety of our employees and clients.

Our firm commitment to digitization has made it possible for our clients to perform most of their transactions from their homes—through our app and website— as well as through remote managers. For those clients who aren’t digital yet, we will provide them with the means to start performing transactions through digital channels immediately.

We cannot forget the fundamental role that banks must play in society in times of crisis. At BBVA, we take our responsibility to society seriously and we join the many heroes who are working tirelessly to mitigate the impact of this crisis. Some of these heroes are more visible and on the front lines, like healthcare professionals, but there are others, like social workers and volunteers who help vulnerable families, workers providing essential services, such as the food industry and public transportation, and so many more. We must thank them for their efforts.

Finally, a message to all our employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as those who are quarantined because they had been in direct contact with an infected person. We wish you a speedy recovery and all our support as you deal with isolation and these moments of uncertainty. Let’s also not forget all the people on the business continuity committees who are working day and night, with the sole objective of ensuring our health and the continuity of the business, not to mention all of you who operate critical support services, or those work in our branch network, providing essential support to our customers at this time. We send our deepest gratitude for the great work you are doing. 

We are facing an exceptional situation, something we never imagined we would have to go through. Although it is difficult, there are positives—it brings us closer to our families and gives us an opportunity to be together, something we often miss throughout the year.

We are a strong bank, with the best team and the skills and determination to overcome this challenge. In our 160 years of history, we have lived through many situations and we have come out of all of them stronger. We will be an even better bank after this. Wishing you strength and good health!

Carlos Torres Vila and Onur Genç

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