BBVA’s 7 Steps to Digital Transformation

canstockphoto22420746One theme from the current earnings seasons is that digital transformation for financial institutions does not come cheap.

That makes it all the more important for banks going down the path of digital to do so smartly. Angel Cano Fernandez, BBVA’s president, chief operating officer and executive director, yesterday described the bank’s steps to digital transformation this week, and they deserve consideration, particularly considering that BBVA has drunk the digital Cool-Aide in hefty portions.

Fernandez highlighted the following seven steps to the bank’s digital transformation:

  1. Develop a strategic roadmap
  2. Revise your distribution model
  3. “Deeply” transform the customer experience
  4. Reduce servicing costs for the bank
  5. Align IT process, branches and commercial activities “all in the same digital way.”
  6. Roll out cultural organizational changes to simplify structure
  7. Look to create value “in this new digital environment” by pursuing “cornerstone digital transactions”

At the end of last year, BBVA had 9 million digital customers, which it defines as customers that interact with the bank via the internet or mobile phone. Of those, 4.2 million are mobile banking customers, according to the bank.

Fernandez pointed out that, as part of its “cornerstone digital transactions,” in addition to acquiring Simple last year, BBVA invested in Coinbase, a bitcoin platform, and acquired Madiva Soluciones, a Spanish company that specializes in big data.

What kind of cost savings might digital transformation provide? Fernandez emphasized some impressive numbers:

The results of just these two lines of transformation in 2014 are already starting to deliver significant cost efficiencies, with costs coming down in Spain in the corporate center area by €340 million or minus 8%, and if we exclude amortizations by 9% or €357 million reduction.

By region, I need to highlight the substantial cost savings achieved in Spain, where as a result of our digital transformation plan costs went down by €340 million, also taking into account as well the corporate center.

Those cost savings certainly appear to be a salve to BBVA’s IT spending in recent years. The bank, which had $745 billion of assets at the end of last year, spent $951 million on IT last year, a 3.8% increase.

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JJ started the first iteration of Bank Innovation back in 2007, and has been working on it ever since. He also serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Royal Media, Bank Innovation’s parent. He founded Royal in 1995 and oversees all aspects of the New York-based diversified media company. Prior to forming Royal, JJ was on the editorial staff of American Banker, the daily newspaper, and worked as an editor of a business magazine in Hong Kong. As a reporter and editor, he has won journalism awards from the National Press Foundation, Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Foundation, and the Reader’s Digest Foundation. He has a BS in Economics from Yeshiva University and a Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was also a Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School of Banking. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and son. He counts among his accomplishments one New York City Marathon, two New York City Triathlons and the 2010 Father’s Day 5K, the first race he ever ran with his daughters. He can be reached at or 212-564-8972.

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