The Astonishing Ways BBVA, Spain’s Second-Largest Bank, Uses AI To Transform Itself
2 July 2021
When Francisco Gonzalez, who at the time was executive chairman of Spain’s second-largest bank, BBVA, proclaimed in 2015 that “BBVA will be a software company in the future, ” it was undoubtedly met with a fair amount of scepticism. However, beginning in 2007 and continuing to today, BBVA is working diligently to achieve his vision. Here we discuss just a few of the ways BBVA uses technology to transform and get ready for the 4th industrial revolution.
Even though BBVA’s history dates back to 1857, the bank is firmly focused on being a disruptor in the financial industry today and into the future. BBVA is a global financial services group with operations in Spain, Mexico, South America, Turkey, and the United States. The company’s leadership is mindful of the changes to the financial services industry that require new approaches to doing business such as more pressure on profitability, specialised players in the market, the opportunities presented by a large amount of data collected and game-changing technology, and consumers who expect digital experiences. As a result, the company invested in improving its platform (especially regarding mobile functionality) and created new digital tools and acquired other tech entities.
BBVA Tech Innovations
A customer-centric platform was one of the first priorities and technology investments for BBVA. The platform is scalable, modular and operates in real-time to provide mobile customers service they demand. Also, this platform allows BBVA to develop services such as the BBVA Wallet, a mobile payments app, that make the bank competitive among new startups and digital companies.
BBVA also plans and develops products with a framework similar to how financial-technology startups plan and develop products. This rapid-fire ideation and prototype process makes the company agile, productive and able to deliver innovation on a similar timetable to digital giants. Gonzalez believes BBVA’s biggest competitors will eventually be tech giants such as Google and Amazon, so he is focused on transforming his bank to be able to compete with them well before they choose to enter the industry. BBVA’s knowledge of its customers and what they want should be a way to help the company stay competitive even if the tech giants decide to step into banking.
Another innovative digital tool created by BBVA is the BBVA AvalBox that digitises company guarantees. As the first Spanish bank to offer an online tool to submit a bank guarantee request and have it evaluated, a process that used only to be done on paper and in person, BBVA enhanced the efficiency of the process; an innovation that will impact thousands of businesses.
BBVA developed several other apps to support its customers with digital tools. The company’s app for homebuyers called Valora pulls together data from a variety of sources to give homebuyers price information on houses that are for sale, comparable sales figures for homes that sold nearby and estimates what you can expect to receive if you sell your house. An app to send payment between America and Mexico called Tuyyo was also developed.
Artificial Intelligence Opportunities
BBVA also recognised the potential for artificial intelligence to influence the banking experience positively. The company collaborated with Google Cloud to create Bconomy, an app that predicts future income and expenses for the next month. Only 10% of the 10 billion interactions BBVA had with customers across all digital channels were human to human; 90% were human to machine. Machine learning tools can scan colossal data sets to ensure customers received the best service and even recommend other solutions to help them solve other concerns in an effort to achieve BBVA’s mission to “help people make their financial lives simpler.” Through BBVA’s Algorithmic Strategies & Data Science unit, the company aims to automate trading processes with the assistance of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
MIA, BBVA’s AI-based digital voice assistant, is deployed in its mobile banking app. This allows users to speak to complete transactions, and if their request can’t be completed on a smartphone, MIA can redirect the user as necessary. The mobile app BBVA uses in Spain offers 92% of the bank’s products today, up from 16% just three years ago. In 2017, BBVA launched its chatbot and mobile payments functionality, Cashup.
Another way to see the digital transformation of BBVA in action is to look at the company’s mergers and acquisitions—estimated to be around $1 billion. It is the single largest shareholder in Atom bank, the UK’s first digital-only bank and one of the fastest growing bank start-ups in Europe. It’s also the second-largest shareholder in solarisBank, a pioneer of banking as a platform. These investments and others illustrate that BBVA embraces fintech. In fact, in 2016, the CEO of BBVA, Carlos Torres Vila outlined building strategic alliances with fintech partners and digital mergers and acquisitions as key to the company’s strategy. All of these investments led CBInsights to name BBVA as the “most active acquirer of fintech startups in the last five years.”
So far, the intensity and rapid development of BBVA’s technological transformation hasn’t resulted in huge profits. However, its forward momentum would indicate that when the tech giants awake to the opportunity available in the financial world, BBVA will be prepared to compete.
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