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Design Updated: 04 Sep 2018

"Today our competition is Apple and Google. We have to think digital”

Marga Barrera, Global Head of Design and UX (User Experience) at BBVA, speaks with Spain's leading business newspaper, “Expansión” about her role and the effort her team is making to transform the bank into a digital business that delivers value-added products to its customers every quarter. "Design is a profession on the rise, that will have a lot of influence in the coming years.” states Barrera who emphasizes that in the current climate where companies are competing for talent with big firms like Microsoft, a commitment to design is essential.

One of the fastest growing departments at BBVA is Design and UX, which already has more than 400 professionals around the world. Marga Barrera is the person responsible for its growth. When answering why the Group places so much emphasis on factors like design that seem to fit more naturally in other sectors, Barrera answers: “The data tells us that our customers feel more comfortable and their loyalty to the bank increases when the web or app design is more user-friendly, easier to understand, and responds to their needs. That's why it's so important to repeatedly ask customers directly what they would change or how they would go about doing a specific task.” she tells “Expansión.”

In the interview she reveals that by the end of June, BBVA had 25.1 million online customers – a 26 percent increase from the previous year – of which 20.7 million are mobile clients (a 43 percent year-on-year increase.) BBVA is thus “very close to the 2018 year-end goal we set for ourselves: to have half of our customers using digital channels to interact with us.” BBVA’s CEO Carlos Torres Vila explained in the latest Group results presentation. In addition, digital sales continue to rise and now represent 39% of all units sold.

BBVA is focusing heavily on incorporating designers into its workforce and recognizing the value of their professional expertise

A key element in moving forward with the process – together with increasing the availability of DIY products and offering more digital products to customers and non-customers alike - is to provide customers with value-added products every quarter. This is where Barrera and her team play a prominent role. “It's a new function that has seen a lot of growth in recent years and sets the bank apart from other players in the industry.” Barrera explains to Expansión. She went on to talk about how the objective of any designer is to create “memorable customer experiences.”

Marga Barrera, Global Head of Design and UX (User Experience) at BBVA

What are customers asking for? According to Barrera “a more human approach”, an approach that understands customers when they require new ways of working with the bank. "Designers have to be able to identify the needs of our customers, and we have to respond to them. A beautiful design is no good if nobody uses it”, Barrera says.

BBVA, an agent of change

Barrera also addressed how BBVA is preparing for the future of office-based customer service. "Customers will visit branches less and less, and we have to be flexible and adapt to this situation, but without neglecting our branch network.” We have to share our vision and innovation with each branch office. It's key that we provide the customer with the same experience online and offline, even if the branches of the future are very different to what customers are used to.”

Barrera stresses that all BBVA employees “are aware that things are changing” and that the Group has to be an “agent of change.” Including with talent:  BBVA’s Head of Design stresses the “important commitment” the bank is making by “incorporating designers into its workforce and recognizing the value of their professional expertise.” In this respect, she affirms that BBVA isn’t alone. Companies like Microsoft, P&G and PepsiCo, are also constantly hiring designers.