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Opinion 08 June 2020

The best way to rebuild

In the internal blog ‘The Pulse’, BBVA executive chairman Carlos Torres Vila talks about the gradual return plan that will begin at BBVA headquarters in Spain and Turkey. “At BBVA, we are facing the new environment with optimism and preparedness. Our purpose and values, as well as our strategy, are now more valid than ever”, he says.

At the end of 2019, when we all wished each other a happy 2020, no one could have imagined that the new year would bring an unprecedented health crisis. Official figures show that to date 6.3 million people have been infected by the coronavirus and more than 400,000 have died from it around the world.

Although the evolution of the pandemic in Asia and more recently in Europe encourages us to face the future with optimism, countries like Mexico, Peru or Colombia have not passed the peak of the pandemic yet. I wish all our colleagues who have been affected a speedy recovery and would like to express my deepest sympathy for our colleagues in the bank who have unfortunately passed away.

Additionally, our attention has been on the global ramifications of recent events in the U.S., and I would like to take this moment to voice my unequivocal support for our Black team members, families, and communities. Know that you have the resources of the Group behind you. To any team members who haven’t yet read the statement by U.S. Country Manager Javier Rodriguez Soler, I encourage you to do so here.

The effects of the pandemic were not only limited to public health, but the economy has also been devastated, with a huge impact on production and employment. For example, in just two months, more than 32 million people in the United States and 5 million in Spain have lost their jobs either temporarily or permanently, a figure that exceeds all jobs created in the last 10 years.

The lockdown has proven to be a very effective and necessary tool to contain the pandemic when it was hitting the hardest. However, in those countries where the disease is under control—and without letting our guard down—the revival of the economy to prevent damage that may be irreversible takes on particular urgency.

This crisis has brought us a unique opportunity to rethink and redesign our ways of working, and the return will also allow us to start testing new working models

It is very likely that the virus will be with us for many months or even years, so we have to learn to live with it. The data shows a faster economic recovery keeping infection under control in those countries and regions that have found a successful balance between lifting certain restrictions on mobility and implementing health measures such as the use of masks, social distancing, and contact-tracing apps.

In some countries, people are beginning to restore a sense of normalcy in their lives, but with new habits and routines to stay safe. In the same way, we want to find a safe path for returning to more normal work lives.

At BBVA, we have already started this journey back to normal, which Onur talked about in his last blog post. Many of our branches have remained open throughout the crisis—providing a vital service for their communities—and we are gradually opening more branches based on daily monitoring of the virus’s spread and activity level in the area surrounding each branch, ATM, and points of sale, as well as foot traffic in the branches.  This is a good example of how data analytics allows us to adapt and make decisions more quickly. Since the beginning of June, 46% of the employees in the retail network have been working on site, and 82% of the branches have been providing service to customers. Once again, we would like to thank all of you who work in the network, our greatest strength.

We are also progressively starting to return to our corporate buildings. In the coming weeks, the gradual return plan will begin at our headquarters in Spain and Turkey. We will start with a pilot to test the health and safety protocols and new work arrangements. This crisis has brought us a unique opportunity to rethink and redesign our ways of working, and the return will also allow us to start testing new working models, taking advantage of the lessons learned over the last few months.

During this time, we have managed to work as one team despite the difficulties, and we have learned to value the advantages of working remotely. But as the weeks go by, we also miss our in-person meetings, working beside our colleagues, the breakroom chats, visits to clients or trips to other countries.

Last Thursday, I returned to our corporate headquarters in Madrid—at last! It felt great to finally get back to Ciudad BBVA and see the people who have already been working there for a few weeks. I took the opportunity to pay a surprise visit to our team in the trading room, as you can see in the photos below, and talk to some of our colleagues about the situation in the markets and how they feel about returning to the worksite. It gave me a bolt of energy to see colleagues in person and our traders’ optimism about the recent markets’ performance!

They overwhelmingly shared with me their hope and desire to get things back to normal. They mentioned the effort that has been made to make “trading” from home possible during the lockdown (thank you Engineering!). They also pointed out how good it has been to spend so much time with the family in these challenging times, and the many positive aspects of teleworking. But they also stressed the advantages of working from the trading room, with their screens (some have 8!) and colleagues close by, which facilitates more direct and agile personal interaction.

We have a commitment to society, and our obligation must also be to help rebuild the economy. That is why I believe that in those countries where the evolution of the pandemic allows it, we must combine the protection of everyone at BBVA, our families, and our clients, and a gradual and prudent return to normal. The best way to rebuild is to minimize the destruction.

At BBVA, we are facing the new environment with optimism and preparedness. Our purpose and values, as well as our strategy, are now more valid than ever.

Until then, take care and stay safe.

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