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The director of the BBVA Innovation Center's Observatory, Antonio García Maeso, Antonio García Maeso, has had a professional career with success in a great diversity of projects, from aviation to entrepreneurship. He has worked at BBVA for twelve years. He began in Uno-e, in its time the bank's most innovative experience and, before finally joining Research and Development (R&D), was in the Transformation area.
His tasks at the head of the Observatory include his team's responsibility for capturing trends in banking innovation to translate them into projects that generate bank business. On the Planta 29 blog he forecasts that banking's future will be in the cloud, social trends, big data and mobility.
Question: What is the essential task of the BBVA Innovation Center's Observatory?
Answer: The Observatory's task is to be aware of what is happening in the world, in order to convert it into business opportunities. Try to find out what can the bank can do to offer new proposals to customers, and transform the service in order to differentiate itself.
Q: What is the Observatory's work method?
A: In the end it is a matter of analyzing information and synthesizing scenarios and opportunities. It is easy to listen. There is a great deal of noise and voices on the web. We capture all of this with good information sources and are up to speed with everything that is going on. We complement this with high level documentation, like Gartner and Forrester reports, and comparison with experts and analysts from our network of collaborators. From all of this we prepare reports.
For us, the report is not an end in itself, but a sub-product. The important thing is to anticipate relevant changes due to new technologies and detect opportunities for the bank. Along the way we create reports.
In short, our task is to see what is going on in a series of areas of interest to the bank. We do this by listening to internal and external conversations, but as information analysts, we also identify business opportunities. And, when this happens, a process is initiated to make it into a concrete project in the bank of tomorrow.
Q: Who are the leaders of innovation for the bank?
A: Today many companies are innovating, especially the leaders in the new Internet, like Google, Facebook and Amazon. Then we have the FinTech start-ups , with special mention to those dedicated to payments, and there are also the major technology manufacturers.
The start-ups are very important; we find which are most relevant by sector and analyze what they offer and their business models. They interest us because they are capturing the customer's experience. A fundamental part of banking is how customer perceive their financial experience. In a way, we should be able to make the customer's relationship with the bank more like the one he/she has with Google or Facebook.
Q: How does BBVA relate to these other companies?
A: They mirror each other. They identify which individuals within the bank have authority to acquire or recommend what they offer. We do the same the other way round. We try to find out who is producing technology and we see how we can collaborate: what ideas they have for the future, what are their projects and how we can establish lines of connection.
With start-ups the process is somewhat different. We analyze which interest us and then we try to benefit from the model that they are discovering, whether by emulation or by collaboration, and we also send a message to people operating corporate venture in the bank in case they are interested in investing.
Q: What are the Observatory's strategic work lines?
A: We have divided the spectrum into five specific lines plus one covering issues outside banking business boundaries. In these, the Observatory needs to develop a vision for the future and propose viable projects that are related, especially to the creation of new content.
In our beginnings as an Observatory we worked on demand: our internal customer asked us for information on specific topics in order to conceive its own business opportunity. Today, most of our work has its own objective. Developing ideas is a responsibility each member of the team assumes right from the start.
Q: Which areas are evolving fastest and are of most interest in the field of innovation in banking?
A: In the short term, the areas that most interest us are the bank in the cloud, new digital content, and the impact of the social plane and mobility on our retail business. That is why we keep up to speed on the technology of cloud computing, social business, big data and wireless communications. Of the latter we are especially interested in customer experience and payments through mobile networks.