Bankia looks to strategic tech partners to co-create its digital future
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Bankia looks to strategic tech partners to co-create its digital future

Maxine-Laurie Marshall and Kenny MacIver — February 2017
Ignacio Cea, head of technology innovation and strategy at Bankia, outlines the Spanish bank’s collaborative model for driving digital transformation.

If financial services organizations are to survive the technology-driven disruption underway in their sector, they need to live and breathe digital transformation, says Ignacio Cea, corporate director of technology innovation and strategy at Spanish banking giant Bankia. And that means forming close bonds with the right technology partners.

Digital transformation is not a one-off program or end-point but “a way of living,” says Cea. “Unless you continuously try to be more digital, more disruptive every day then your organization will simply not be around in a few years’ time.”

Almost two years into its digital transformation journey, Bankia has chosen three core areas to focus on. It formed a close partnership with global ICT company Fujitsu to co-create digitalization initiatives designed to deliver differentiation and enhance the bank’s relationship with its customers. Ángeles Delgado, VP, head of Iberia and Latin America at Fujitsu, echoes Cea’s sense that it is imperative to assemble the right team: “Every single business is facing huge challenges and new opportunities, and success with digital transformation will only come by partnering and combining knowledge, experience, resources and ideas.”

Banking on robots

The bank’s three digital streams dramatically enhance the efficiency of its internal processes, creating new and enhanced customer channels, and innovating around new products and services.

“We are simplifying our internal processes, making them lean and reducing the number of administrative tasks,” says Cea. Related to that, Bankia is exploring how it could use technologies such as robots, natural language processing and speech recognition to help better serve and advise customers.

One program that encompasses all three of its digital ambitions involves the deployment of advanced robotics. Working with Fujitsu, Bankia has built Laura, a service robot for bank branches that is capable of interacting with customers and responding to their banking queries. With trials currently underway, Cea says, the company expects to deploy the robots to multiple branches soon. “Laura is designed to have conversations with customers and do things like book meetings with our banking staff. In the future we hope to have use cases where Laura could help our staff address specific problems or answer questions about products.”

Finding the right partner

Bankia is acutely aware that it doesn’t have all the skills in-house to bring such technologies to market at a pace that will allow it to challenge newcomers to the sector and pursue new business models.

“Co-creation and cooperating with tech partners is key for the business,” says Cea. “There is no other way to improve [so significantly]. It’s the perfect way to add new technology, new value to the business.”

He identifies three characteristics of an ideal partner: scale, so that the partner has a broad technological reach; a track record of creating robust, high-quality technology; and a skill base capable of extending collaboration down to a local level.

Forming such close business relationships does not always come easy to highly regulated financial institutions, but that is changing fast, says Cea. “Other companies who are embracing digital are used to working with third parties, but in the banking industry we aren’t. So we need to be more open to it.”

• Ignacio Cea was a keynote speaker at Fujitsu Forum 2016 in Munich.
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