Spain’s BBVA is a bank that no longer wants to behave like one and, according to CEO Francisco Gonzalez, is happy to live with rivals moving onto its patch.
Earlier this week at Mobile World Congress, Samsung announced its plan to launch a new mobile payment service, as the South Korean vendor takes on Apple Pay (which launched at the end of 2014).
But Gonzalez is sanguine about the competition. “There is a threat element which I like because banking needs competitors. We need to be more efficient but we can also collaborate with them.”
BBVA is already adjusting its own approach as consumers move to mobile and digital payments. Last year it bought US banking startup Simple for $117 million and is also working with online payments firm Dwolla.
But the Spanish bank, like all its peers, is stuck with a legacy IT system that dates back to the 60 and 70s; what moderator David Kirkpatrick termed a “spaghetti platform” which still underpins the kind of batch processing associated with old-school banking.
Gonzalez wants to shake up that model – and is staking the bank’s resources on pulling it off. BBVA’s cloud-based wallet app has 450 people working on it. So far, it’s only available in Spain but Mexico, the US and Latin America are set to follow.
And that’s just the starting point in terms of how the bank’s resources are likely to be heading over the next few years. Currently just 3,000 of its 110,000 staff work on the digital side but in five years Gonzalez reckons it will be a majority.
One last statistic thrown out by the banker: About 1.2 billion people around the world have bank accounts, a figure that is limited because banking is “very expensive” he says. BBVA reckons another one or two billion might be interested but not the traditional route. More likely, they will access their account through a mobile phone.
Gonzalez was speaking during the keynote session on digital transactions and social interactions yesterday morning.