Ricardo Forcano: "Cultural change is the key to continuing to progress in the transformation of BBVA"
Edmund Hillary was the first person to reach the top of Mount Everest in 1953 – a feat that brought him worldwide fame, but also changed his life. His relationship with the mountains was so intense that he once said, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” When asked about his hobbies, Ricardo Forcano (Zaragoza, 1977) answers right away, “the mountain.” It´s probably the best place to order ideas, propose new challenges and work as a team. All those experiences can be applied to the business world, and that’s what Ricardo Forcano is doing as head of the Talent and Culture area of BBVA.
He has two children, has been the youngest member of the bank´s Global Leadership Team since May of 2015 and directs the most transversal area of the bank, the one that affects people and corporate culture. Ricardo Forcano radiates agility and prudence in each one of his answers. In his conversation, he makes reference to his recent reading, which shows his interest in learning and a curiosity, which are always the first steps to initiative and innovation.
He is an industrial engineer and has been at BBVA for seven years. His time at MIT pointed to a career dedicated to innovation and the development of new businesses. He joined the bank in the Corporate Strategy area and participated in the creation of the venture capital fund Propel. Later, he took on the responsibility of strategy and planning in the Digital Banking area, and afterwards directed Business Development in the emerging markets in which BBVA is present. As of nearly a year ago, he directs Talent and Culture.
Ricardo is discreet when speaking about himself, but he is clear and precise when explaining what he is doing as the head of an area that is so critical to BBVA. We spoke with him about plans, projects, vision, people, training, work-life balance, professional careers and diversity, among other things.
Q: Your professional experience has allowed you to see first-hand the profound transformation that the financial industry is undergoing. Based on this knowledge, what do you believe is the most important challenge facing banks in the area of human resources?
A: The human resources function, not just at BBVA or in banking, but at companies in general, has changed a great deal in recent years. The human resources areas previously had an administrative and transactional management focus. Today, on the other hand, many companies are embarking on profound transformation processes, in which the function of human resources has a much more strategic role, as a key area from which to drive cultural change.
From my prior experience in business functions, it was very clear that the management of people, of organizational change and cultural change was key for us to continue to advance in the transformation.
It´s necessary that the teams have the autonomy to transform strategy into real products and services for the customer”
It was necessary to go beyond the transformation of our technological platforms, distribution channels and the offer of products to the customer. What was necessary was a cultural change that was very linked to the new ways of working that allow the teams to feel that they are the owners of what they do, working with autonomy and with agility on the basis of continuous feedback from the client, instead of embarking on projects that can take years before they see the light.
In essence, the great challenge to the human resources function is employee engagement: managing to activate their commitment to the organization and its goals. To achieve that, it´s necessary to build an operational model that allows one to pass from the strategy to action with agility, so that the teams are autonomous in transforming the strategy into real products and services that have an impact on the customer.
Q: We’re talking about a culture that is capable of driving transformation. How is BBVA working to construct this new way of thinking?
A: Transformation is always a challenge and changing the culture of a company like ours, with 135,000 employees in more than 30 countries, is a process that takes time.
We’ve been working for awhile on a project in which thousands of people have participated, from different areas and geographies of the bank, to rethink what should be the culture of BBVA. What characteristics and values should define us as an organization in order to be consistent with the goal we have set for ourselves: “Bringing the age of opportunity to everyone.”
This culture includes qualities that have characterized the bank for decades and that are part of our DNA in all countries, such as our model of responsible banking based on principles. But it also has some elements that we want to incorporate, in order to be successful at the transformation in which we are immersed. For example, how can we be an organization that promotes challenging the status quo, where we question everything we do so that things are not done by inertia, but really add value to the bank and to our customers today.
The great challenge is to make the employee the real protagonist of his or her professional career”
Q: How should the model of people management change, in order to align it with a such a profound cultural change?
A: The big challenge is making the employee the real protagonist of his/her professional career, development and continual training. We are going from a model in which employees waited to receive orders from the organization to be able to move or to receive training, to a new concept, that puts into the hands of all the professionals of BBVA the resources and tools necessary so that they can design their own professional career and their training, in a personalized manner.
This is a model that is not based on processes, but on open platforms, in which you can explore your opportunities for growth and professional development in different areas and geographies. And the same is true of the area of training: we are creating platforms so that the employee can access a wide and diverse offer of content: from in-person courses linked to your current role in the bank, to ten-minute videos about areas that may interest you, although they don´t have much to do with your current function.
At bottom, the goal is to open the horizon to any person working at BBVA, so that they can have a vision that is not limited to the area in which they work, or the area the bank may suggest to them at any given moment, but to let them have a much greater space to satisfy their personal curiosity.
This paradigm change presents a great opportunity but also a challenge. There will be people who naturally fit this model and others for whom it will take a bit more effort. That´s why the role of the managers and the business partners of Talent and Culture continue to be critical, in order to support and guide people in this search process. In fact, one of our objectives this year is to have personal development and coaching interviews to give all the support possible to employees in this process.
Q: What role do the new technologies, digital tools or big data, play in this new model?
A: In recent years, we have progressed a great deal in incorporating into our business these new capabilities, which will be critical, such as the design of customer experiences, the use of data to personalize our services, or the mobile phone as the principal channel of interaction with our customers. Curiously, in the area of human resources, we are not so advanced although really, the challenges we face are very similar. In both cases, our goal, is to attend the needs of people; whether they are customers or employees is in some way secondary.
We can make better use of data to personalize the services and content that we offer to our professionals”
So now, we have the chance to incorporate these new capabilities into Talent and Culture, so that everything we build is based on the employees’ experience. We can also make better use of the data to exploit all the information we have about our professionals and thus personalize the services and content we offer. And we also have to migrate our services and content to the mobile phone to facilitate the interaction of the employees with the bank.
In addition, we are beginning to incorporate agile methodologies into the Talent and Culture projects. These methodologies are already being used in other areas of the business, to improve the quality and speed of execution of the developments for our customers. This method of working will allow us to be more agile and efficient in delivering new solutions to our employees.
Q: Will this new culture also make BBVA a more attractive company for the best professionals in the digital sector and for the young people with a more scientific background, who don´t tend to think of a bank as the first job option?
A: Clearly. Today we find some specific profiles for which there is a lot of demand in the market. They are specialists in new, emerging disciplines such as designers, data scientists, experts in specific programming languages, or cybersecurity.
In order to attract the interest of these professionals, it is very important to have an attractive project as a company, a project that has an impact on society. All the work we have done to collectively define our goal as an organization and our culture is a key element in making our proposal attractive. Another fundamental factor is the evolution in our workspaces and in the ways of working – having autonomous and multidisciplinary teams, with agile working dynamics, and being an organization where there are no “functional silos” and where you can work with teams from other areas and geographies in projects that really have a visible impact.
The greatest challenge, and the biggest opportunity, is not how we incorporate new talent, but how we integrate it with the talent we already have at the bank”
This profile of employee not only wants to know what they will be doing and what their role will be; they also want to know about the environment and the dynamics of the organization in which they are going to work. In addition, they place a lot of importance on the people management model, on the opportunities for professional development and on internal mobility.
But in my opinion, the greatest challenge and the biggest opportunity we have is now so much how we bring in new talent but above all, how we integrate it and make effective their collaboration with the talent we already have in the bank, carrying out tasks that continue to be critical for our activity, such as risk management or financial management.
At the same time, at the bank we have excellent professionals working in our branch network, that attend our customers every day and answer their needs, so it´s fundamental that we are able to integrate all that knowledge with the teams that are developing new solutions for our customers.
In short, a key factor for success will be our capacity to form multidisciplinary teams that work together effectively .
Q: It´s clear that remuneration and professional career are key in attracting and retaining talent. But there are other factors, such as work-life balance or managing diversity, that also play an important role. What lines of work are you developing in these areas?
A: In the area of compensation, we have a well-developed model, which basically seeks for every person to have a retribution according to his/her profile and the value they contribute. In the past year, we have implemented a new model of variable incentives, so that each and every person who forms part of BBVA may have a direct link between his/her compensation and the strategic indicators we have defined at the bank. It´s simpler, clearer, more transparent model, one that is better connected with BBVA´s strategy.
In the area of gender diversity, we have progressed in recent years, but we are still far from the point where we would like to be. It´s important that we continue working so that there are more women at the highest level of our organization. In the overall organization, we have a diversified team, but when you look at the levels with the greatest responsibility in the group, the percentage of women is lower.
It´s been shown that teams comprised of people with different ways of thinking, of dealing with problems and making decisions, obtain the best results”
In any case, when talking about diversity, I´d like to widen the field a little and talk not just about gender diversity, but also generational diversity, capability diversity and cognitive diversity. It´s been demonstrated that teams made up of people with different ways of thinking, of confronting problems, and of making decisions, obtain the best results. So the fact that we are an inclusive organization, capable of incorporating different types of profiles, is going to be critical to our success.
As for work-life balance, at the bank we have for years been promoting different measures to facilitate it such as flexible work hours, and encouraging teleworking. Logically, there´s not a single solution that works for an organization as large and heterogeneous as ours. So what we are doing is establishing policies and measures that we place at the disposal of the areas, so that they can adapt them to their reality and use them to the maximum, within a model based on meeting objectives and not necessarily on presence in the office.
Work-life balance seems to me a priority matter and, when attracting and retaining talent, we are seeing that it is a key element. It´s something that concerns the new generations in particular, but not only them. At bottom, we all want to have a good equilibrium between our personal and professional lives; technology and the new ways of working must serve us to progress towards that goal.
Q: The digital revolution is generating a great deal of uncertainty about the future of work. In this environment of accelerated change, do you think that training will play a more important role?
A: In effect, yes. We talk a great deal about the digital transformation of the economy and of different industries and services. But in my opinion, there is a pending revolution in the area of training. Our educational model has functioned well for decades, but it as hardly evolved. However, the demand for new professional profiles changes very rapidly, and that means that a gap is opening between the professionals the market demands and the training that is being given in the schools. In fact, the lack of trained profiles in specific disciplines affects not only banking, but many other industries.
This leads us to models, such as we have in the bank, where the companies create their own training schools or corporate universities. In our case, the BBVA Campus is a very powerful training platform, which is at the disposal of everyone in the bank, with diverse content and programs, both in-person, on-line and blended.
Besides, in some areas we are making specific efforts to train and reconvert profiles in the new technologies that we need at the bank. In engineering, for example we have Ninja Academy, which is a new concept of training and professional development around a community designed for people in that area. Now we are also starting up Tech University, which goes in the same direction. The objective is to help recycle professional with a lot of talent that have been working in the bank for years.
If we’re not capable, each and every one of us, of continually recycling ourselves, then the risk of professional obsolescence will be very serious”
The great challenge we face in the area of training is that the cycles of professional obsolescence are increasingly shorter and we all will have an ever greater need for continuous training during our professional careers. The business models, the technologies and the parameters with which we operate today will probably change a great deal in two or three years. So either we are capable, each and every one of us, of recycling ourselves continually, or this risk of professional obsolescence will be very serious.
At the bank, we have the responsibility of planting the seed of this concern in all our employees and, above all, of creating content, platforms and tools that we put at the disposal of those people who want to update themselves and invest time and effort in continual training.
Q: To conclude, if you had to ask something of BBVA employees, what would you choose?
A: I would like us all to reflect personally on how we can help make BBVA’s goal a reality and for us to dedicate some time to better understand the meaning of our goal, which is not a slogan or a cute phrase – it has many implications for our business model and for creating the banking we want to have in BBVA. It’s about how we genuinely help our customers to make the best financial decisions in their lives and in their businesses.
In the end, we are all part of the same team, and an organization does not work if everyone only thinks about their individual role or their area. This translates into a very specific attitude on a daily basis. When employees see something that doesn’t work in the bank, I would also like them to think about what can be done to try to resolve it, even if it’s not in their area of responsibility. Or when they see something that is inconsistent with our goal of putting customers first, that they are capable of questioning it. Because in the end, the transformation is everyone’s responsibility.
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