The BBVA Chairman believes that 2020 has been a turning point in the drive for sustainability. He explained that climate change and decarbonisation represent not only a risk but also an enormous opportunity for both the economy and for banks. Firstly, because of the investments involved, and secondly, because of the importance of advising customers on their ecological transition. "Banks are moving fast to tackle this change head on, involving the whole organisation, because sustainability and climate change affect all businesses".
Carlos Torres Vila participated in a webinar with Andrea Enria, Chair of the European Central Bank’s Supervisory Board, organized by the Florence School of Banking and Finance. Both have discussed the role of the financial sector, and its corporate governance, considering the new economy in the wake of COVID-19, digital disruption and climate change. Asked by the moderator about how the banks’ Boards of Directors should prepare for climate change, the BBVA Chairman pointed out that "it is important that they are prepared, because it is going to be the largest disruption that mankind has ever seen".
In Carlos Torres Vila's opinion, climate change and decarbonization bring with them not only huge challenges, but also opportunities. Firstly, on the investment side. "There will be huge investments in innovative technologies that are needed to solve this problem," he said. Secondly, advice is key. "We need to prepare our teams to advise our clients in this transition," he said. It is also important for banks to learn how to measure the risks when a client is not undertaking this transition correctly. "This approach has to scale up our teams and the Board would be a reflection of that," he explained.
"Banks have great opportunities to support the recovery."
After a very demanding year, and despite the uncertain environment, Carlos Torres Vila referred to the expected rebound of the economy in the second half of the year, as vaccination progresses, mobility restriction measures are reduced and economic stimulus packages are implemented in several countries. Despite this, banks face significant challenges. Among them, he mentioned the competitive pressure due to high liquidity in the markets; new entrants, such as 'fintech' and 'BigTech', in the financial sector; low interest rates for a long time; and the possible deterioration of delinquency once the relief measures implemented by governments and institutions are completed.
The BBVA Chairman also referred to the longer-term challenges, which include inequality and climate change. For banks, "there are great opportunities to support the recovery, and maximize the impact of European funds, to help set the ground for a more sustainable and inclusive growth, while helping us to regain the profitability lost in the last decade".
The other major challenge facing banks is technological disruption, further driven by the pandemic. "New technologies such as AI, robotics, blockchain or quantum computing will radically transform the way we do things" and at an accelerated pace, he predicted. To face these challenges, Carlos Torres Vila has stated that "the Boards of Directors of banks need not only to oversee traditional management and risk vectors, but also to know how to adapt, be innovative and forward-looking" to ensure that the entity is on the right path.