The future of BBVA won’t just be more technology in banking. “BBVA will be a software company in the future,” the Spanish bank’s chairman, Francisco Gonzalez, told an audience on Wednesday (March 4) at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
His bank has been on a “digital journey” for the past eight years, he said, and the result is a new generation of services to compete with major technology companies like Apple, Google, Samsung and Amazon, as well as disruptive startups. He added, “Mobile has emerged as the driving force for disruptive innovation in banking,” according to Finextra.
The speech follows a prediction by Gonzalez at a February press conference announcing BBVA’s earnings that “the greater part of banks — thousands of banks — is going to disappear slowly in coming years” because of competition from non-bank players, including Internet and mobile-focused companies. When one of them finally jumps into banking, he said, “many people are going to realize what we’re talking about, that there’s a revolution going on,” Bloomberg reported.
BBVA’s mobile customers have increased by 14 times in the past three years, and totaled 4.3 million by the end of 2014, he said. He also pointed to the success of BBVA Wallet, the bank’s mobile payments app, which has been downloaded more than 450,000 times by customers in Spain and will soon be rolled out in Mexico, the U.S. and Chile. “It’s the world’s most-used cloud-based NFC payment app,” he boasted.
The 70-year-old Gonzalez, who has been chairman of BBVA since 2000 and has relentlessly invested in technology opportunities ranging from U.S. digital bank Simple, which BBVA bought for $117 million in 2014, to Bitcoin startup Coinbase.
While not everything has gone as planned — the Simple operation has been glitch-plagued from the start, and analysts say the only noticeable effect on BBVA’s financial performance has been a recent reduction in costs — Gonzalez has said the technology push will continue as long as he’s in charge.
The bank currently has 3,000 of its 110,000 employees working on digital banking, but Gonzalez said he expects that to grow to be more than half his workforce within five years, as the company re-engineers to compete with technology companies.