BBVA’s Digital Shift Reeled in New Customers, Led Revenue Growth in 2018

BBVA’s new Group CEO Onur Genç could barely get through a sentence during the bank’s fourth-quarter earnings call without saying the word “digital.” He mentioned digital 34 times in his opening comments alone on Friday, crediting digital transformation with attracting new customers, leading revenue growth and improving efficiency at the Bilbao, Spain-based bank.

The number of active digital customers at BBVA went up 20% in 2018, to 27.2 million, meaning over half the bank’s customer base is now digital.

Digital sales also reached an all-time high, as 40.7% of all units sold in the year were sold digitally. Genç said this figure was 27.5% the previous year and just 16% in 2016.

Additionally, the number of mobile active customers exceeded 23 million, a yearly growth rate of 29%. The bank expects mobile penetration, now at 43%, to pass the 50% threshold in 2019. In comparison, JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest U.S. consumer bank in terms of mobile banking use, saw 11% year-over-year growth in active mobile users, climbing to 33.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2018.

“So, all of this is good, but how does that translate into business results?” Genç continued. He pointed first to credit card sales in the U.S., calling it a particularly high-margin product for BBVA.

He said the bank over the previous 12 months increased its total credit card sales by 89%. In the same period, he said, the credit cards sold digitally grew 184%, meaning 43% of the products sold in the U.S. for credit cards is sold digitally.

“Digital helps us acquire new customers,” Genç said. “So, 92% of all digitally sold credit cards in the U.S. last year were sold to new customers. This was an acquisition engine, a new customer acquisition engine for us.”

As another example, he said regulations rolled out in Mexico in 2016, facilitating payroll migration, presented an opportunity for the bank to on-board new clients using digital capabilities.

“Payroll migration to BBVA through the digital means is now very easy and convenient, using our app or through the web,” Genç said. “As a result… we gained seven new payroll accounts for each one migrating to another bank. So, it gave us a net inflow of 331,000 accounts.”

He said 70% of the payroll acquisitions were done through digital channels “in a very seamless and convenient way.”

As a third example, Genç said BBVA launched Click and Pay in 2017, a digital product for small and medium-sized businesses to easily access a credit line. He said the bank in 2018 experienced a net growth of 13% versus 7% in the market overall.

“The competitive differentiation is again, mostly triggered by digital sales,” he said, adding penetration of digital sales in commercial loans at BBVA increased from 13% to 61% in 2018.

Also see: Half of All BBVA Customers Now Transact Through Its Digital Channels

Why does this matter?

“The more digital a client is, the more profitable it becomes,” Genç said. Although he did call digitization a “process.”

In the first step, he said, a client will typically start engaging through inquiries only. “These clients are still 44% more profitable than non-digital customers,” he said.

In the second step, beyond the inquiry, meaning the bank is providing operating services, digital clients are 84% more profitable than non-digital.

At the next level, he said, clients acquire and buy products digitally, and become 150% more profitable than the non-digital ones.

Genç said digitization not only helps the bottom line but also drives customer satisfaction and engagement. Consequently, he said, BBVA’s attrition rate is much better for digital customers, 47% lower than the non-digital ones.

Alex Carriles, Head of Online Banking, BBVA Compass will speak at Bank Innovation Ignite in Seattle, March 11-12, on the Natural Language Banking panel. Click here to register.

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