UNO July 2023

Digitalization, innovation and sustainability

Over the past thirty years, BBVA has played a crucial role in the development of the financial sector in Latin America and is currently one of the most important banks in the region, with a presence in nine countries.

In a world where 24 % of the population does not use banking services, BBVA recognizes the transformative power of financial services to overcome the major challenges facing society, as well as the unique role played by the financial sector as a catalyst for development. In fact, GDP per capita shows a clear correlation with access to financial services. Without looking further, the degree of bank use across Latin America, which stood at around 30-35 % in the 1990s, has experienced the greatest increase in recent decades among the developing world; as a result, based on data gathered by the World Bank in 2021, 73 % of adults now have accounts with financial institutions of some kind.

For all these reasons, BBVA’s strategy in the region is structured around three strategic priorities: digitalization, innovation and sustainability.

As regards the first of these priorities, BBVA has been a pioneer in the introduction of online banking channels and mobile applications, facilitating customer access to services and products in a more convenient and secure way, ensuring that they reach the most vulnerable groups. In 2022, the number of BBVA’s digital users in the region came in at over 29 million customers, with annual growth of 18 %, with sales through digital channels accounting for almost 80 % of the total.

In a world where 24 % of the population is unbanked, BBVA has a clear understanding of the transformative power of financial services to address society’s biggest challenges

In terms of innovation, the region is a key setting, which is why BBVA plans to continue on getting closer to the fintech ecosystem, supporting solutions provided by the entrepreneurial ecosystem that facilitate forays into new business models and markets. This was reflected in the 2022 launch of BBVA Spark, which currently operates in Mexico, Colombia and Spain, to promote and provide banking services to technology and innovation companies offering specialist financing solutions such as venture debt and growth loans or tools for optimizing working capital for daily transactions.

Sustainability is another strategic vector; at BBVA, this is reflected in the 2025 commitment to contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the commitments assumed under the Paris Climate Agreement. To this end, BBVA has committed to mobilizing 300 billion euros of sustainable financing worldwide by 2025. In the context of Latin America, and in 2022 alone, BBVA has mobilized more than 6.7 billion euros in green loans, extended to both individuals and companies.

BBVA is also staunchly committed to society. And, with this in mind, it will allocate 550 million euros between 2021 and 2025 to the communities of the countries in which it is present. In line with this commitment, BBVA performs corporate responsibility initiatives focusing on financial education and inclusion and the promotion of social entrepreneurship. This is in addition to the work performed by the BBVA Microfinance Foundation, which, since its creation in 2007, has served more than 6 million small entrepreneurs in vulnerable situations (6 out of 10 women), extending more than 18 billion dollars in microcredits, which is a testament to its position as one of the philanthropic initiatives with the biggest social impact worldwide.

An efficient and solvent financial sector is crucial to address the economic and social recovery in the region after the combined effects of the pandemic and rising energy and food prices

Latin America faces important challenges as well as offering great opportunities. Although the economic and social outlook for the region is currently mixed (according to BBVA Research, growth in the region will slow from 3.6 % in 2022 to 1.1 % in 2023), this is largely due to the tightening of financial conditions worldwide and the slowdown in global growth. Economic estimates suggest moderate but sustained growth in most of the region’s countries.

However, Latin America offers extraordinary potential for long-term growth, leveraged by the acceleration of digitalization processes (now close to the levels seen in developed countries), its demographic dividend (average age in the region is 31 compared to 43 in Western Europe), significant progress with access to banking and significant wealth in relation to natural resources and clean energy sources.

An efficient and solvent financial sector is crucial when it comes to facing the economic and social recovery in the region following the double shock of the pandemic and the rise in energy and food prices as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, it must play an essential role in the triple transition (digital, energy and social) in the region and in promoting development by financing investments in infrastructure, telecommunications and sustainable energy.

In conclusion, BBVA is committed to the development of Latin America through investment, offering credit, encouraging savings and decisive support for social inclusion. All of this is guided by our purpose of making today’s opportunities available to everybody.

John Rutherford
Global Head of Public Affairs at BBVA
Bachelor's degree in Materials Engineering from the Universidad Simón Bolívar and MBA from the University of Michigan. He has almost 30 years of experience at BBVA, where he has held various leadership positions such as Global Head of Public Finance and Head of Project Finance for Europe and North America. He was also an Associate Director at Schroders in London and a financial analyst at General Electric. Since 2020, he has been the Global Head of Institutional Relations at BBVA.

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