An interview with Marco Bressan

Marco Bressan

FST Media: What are your key business and digital priorities for the next 12 months?

Bressan: We have two main lines of work ahead. The topics are shared issues across the banking industry – things like risk, fraud, regulatory compliance, customer intelligence and operational intelligence. Our priority now is on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ and prioritising projects that will deliver more value. We are working along two dimensions; firstly the data culture dimension, which is enabling the bank, from a skill-set perspective to develop activities with different business units and also for the executive mayor to be able to judge and make decisions on top of these activities. This is very much a learning and training initiative.

The second dimension is the way BBVA employs data products. We develop our data engines and the analytics team within the banks delivers tools and algorithms that are able to extract knowledge from the data. Your data engine is a categorisation or a segmentation of your clients – a predictive and search engine that works as a recommendation system. Those engines then come to fit within certain areas of products in the businesses that have been developed. The ability to transform the data you have as a business into knowledge comes from our analytics teams, but how that knowledge fits into products and the value that knowledge can provide to customers, is developed in partnership with the actual business. The two lines of our strategy therefore, are data culture and data engines.

FST Media: What insights have BBVA found in its research on how banks use data? How important is big data in BBVA’s overall omni-channel structure?

Bressan: Banks are not necessarily aware of the value their data conceals, so the first thing we do is try to show them the data is valuable for them and third parties alike. Once they start seeing that internally, or even externally with helping others to use the data, you start really believing in it and then investing in it. It’s not about  thinking that big data is a trend so you will just go along with it and put your money behind it and see what value there is, it is by the credibility and the value of the data and then afterwards, that we decide what key projects we will be doing and what we will invest in.

Omni-channel banks have been talking omni-channel and before that multi-channel for a while. After being concrete on that, we are finding that without a consistent data strategy, there cannot be an omni-channel line of strategy to support that. If I am stacking the data my customer gives me in completely separate silos and where it does not communicate together, there is no way I can make a decision that is omni-stratergal.

FST Media: How does BBVA respond to the issues of cyber fraud and security?

Bressan: We have been responding to that for a while and our security teams are very advanced and our fraud rates very low. The team has worked on many fraud prevention algorithms and collaborate a lot with research institutions worldwide, so they are really cutting edge. They have only recently started collaborating with us, but we have been working on cyber issues for a long while prior to. The key, as with risk, is increasing the knowledge for your business. Having the highest level of data allows for much more advanced risk assessment algorithms. Doing this really changes how the business looks.

FST Media: How do you encourage a culture of innovation in your team?

Bressan: I come from an innovation management career and I previously worked for the bank as the chief innovation officer for transportation and government. The traditional approach to innovation within companies has been creating different organisations that incubate innovation for the rest of the business. What we are doing now at BBVA is different in a sense as we are assuming the need for innovation has been acknowledged broadly, and so now, the task of innovation will be distributed across the whole business. The key decision is thinking of how we can encourage innovation to keep happening within our business. You can do that through really concrete measures, for example, dedicating a specific amount of your time to innovative ventures or you can do it implicitly by rewarding innovative behaviour when you detect it, meaning publically, people will become aware that it is greatly recognised. In the case of data and analytics, I have an advantage. The kind of talent that works with me is somebody who, by simply doing what they do, is creating innovation. You work with new tools, you explore and you find new answers to old questions.

FST Media: Why is it important to host specific events for financial services?

Bressan: They are very important because you get to know what the industry is doing amd thinking and to encourage my colleagues and I to be transparent with what we are doing. In genera,l I try to have a very open attitude in sharing the projects and the information that I am doing. When you find about the real potential risks of sharing that information, it turns out to be very fuzzy and you generally get to learn a lot. At the end of the day, business is about your execution – can you do it fast, can you do it right and can you do it with quality. What I enjoy most in these events is getting that glimpse of what is going on.

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they would like to be remembered for. What is yours?

Bressan: The key thing is learning. I love learning and reading and what I miss most from the free time I do not really have, is being able to consume information and learn new techniques and technologies. I try to encourage that within my team and whether I succeed or not, I try to encourage a learning attitude where you are always curious about what is going on. I really believe that curiosity correctly combined with a certain level of scientific scepticism is the combination for anything. If you have that, good things will happen. I want an organisation that is able to learn because if everyone is a learner, the organisation becomes and learner, and if the organisation is a learner, you will be able to survive in these times of permanent change.