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Digital banking Updated: 04 Mar 2019

The four pillars of BBVA’s digital strategy

In its most recent issue, The Fintech Magazine examines some of BBVA's most recent technology advances, such as payments powered by facial recognition and the use of artificial intelligence in its mobile banking application.  The magazine also outlines the core of the bank's digital strategy and describes how BBVA is taking steps to fulfill its vision of automated banking in the future.


Beam me up, Scotty”’ is the catchphrase used by Captain Kirk in Star Trek to tell the ship's Lieutenant Commander to use the light-beam powered transporter to bring the captain back aboard the Enterprise.

In its most recent issue, edited by Fintech Finance, The Fintech Magazine uses a play on this popular catchphrase – BBVA me up, Scotty – for the title of its piece that describes how BBVA is already using technology solutions fitting for science fiction. "Imagine your face as your payment device and an app that puts your financial management on autopilot. This is paytech, not Star Trek.” states BBVA Head of Retail Customer Solutions, Gonzalo Rodríguez.

The article points out that 50 percent of BBVA’s customers are already using the bank’s digital channels; and the 2019 goal is to hit the same target for its mobile banking app. BBVA’s is focusing on mobile banking for good reason: individuals use this channel various times a day to interact with the bank, whereas they visit the website only once every ten days or visit a branch once a month. As explained by Gonzalo Rodriguez: "Our vision begins with enabling customers to do everything from their mobile app in a very simple way, from becoming a new customer, to organizing direct debits, to accessing a product. As customers go mobile, the frequency of our interaction with them increases by up to two or three times a day and this opens up the possibility of offering new experiences, products, and services that were  impossible in the past.”

According to the article, one of the keys to BBVA's success in accelerating the adoption of its mobile banking services has been the development of the bank's global mobile development platform, which is cutting-edge in the sector. The magazine asserts that this and other mobile banking development advances have served to position BBVA at the vanguard of the sector, earning it recognitions such as BBVA Spain’s app being selected as best in the world by  consulting firm, Forrester; and being named the “Bank of the Year” in the Americas last November by ‘The Banker’.

The article also touches on an innovation that seems to come straight out of science fiction but is already in use by customers: invisible payments with which BBVA aims to simplify its customers’ purchasing transactions. An example of this solution in action can be found at BBVA’s headquarters in Madrid where employees can currently pay at the corporate cafeteria using a facial recognition system based on artificial intelligence.

The four pillars of its digital strategy

"Providing all its banking services via a smartphone screen is just one leg on which BBVA's ambitious digital strategy balances," the article points out.  It also touches on other innovative services like the aggregation of accounts from other banks within the BBVA app, and the launch of Bconomy, the tool that helps customers improve their financial health.

In the article, Rodríguez discusses the four pillars underpinning BBVA’s digital strategy: first, to give customers access to as many self-service or DIY banking services as possible via digital channels; secondly, to move to an advisory model where the best technology is complemented by human advice; the third consists of creating amazing experiences that delight customers and helps them achieve their life goals; the fourth and final pillar is to create smart interactions that put the bank's products in front of its customers. BBVA's vision is that this fourth pillar will evolve toward providing automated services that can eventually make decisions on behalf of  customers in order to ease the daily management of their finances.

"This idea of encouraging customers to rely on BBVA to provide this day-to-day control, helping them to save or plan for retirement”

Data plays an important role in this vision: it is key to BBVA’s modernization plan and the creation of “self-driving banking.” The functionality in Bconomy – which assesses customer history in order to anticipate future transactions and can even warn customers of a possible overdraft – provides a foretaste of what the near future may hold. A future where the bank can actively provide advice and propose transferring cash from one account to another to avoid an overdraft or help customers more smartly add to their savings. “The idea is to anticipate customer needs and, taking it one step further, even propose that the customer automates that. The system could ask the customer if in the future it could rearrange their finances so that they don’t have to do anything to avoid going overdrawn. This idea of encouraging customers to relax, forget about their finances, and rely on BBVA to provide this day-to-day control, helping them to save or plan for retirement.”

Global aspirations

In the interview, Rodríguez also addresses BBVA’s strategy to develop digital products and services that, even if they are conceived in one country, they can quickly be deployed in other countries where the Group operates. "We truly believe it would be a key source of competitive advantage for BBVA to be able to develop one component in Mexico, then integrate that component in Spain the day after,” he explains. BBVA has already taken the initial steps to fulfill this objective with the launch of the global development platform in Mexico and Uruguay, which will shortly also be available in Peru and Argentina. "The aspiration is to have the best capabilities, not just in countries such as Turkey and Spain, but across the board, so we develop as a group.”