Ten years ago, a group of inquiring minds at BBVA created a small innovation program to explore opportunities to exploit financial data. A decade may not seem like a long time, but when it comes to technology, it feels like time travels twice as fast. By 2011 we hadn’t yet seen a machine beat the ‘Go’ world champion in the mythical battle between master Lee Sedol and AlphaGo, the Artificial Intelligence developed by Google DeepMind. Nor had we seen how a language model could hold a natural conversation on any topic or generate a web page just by describing its functionalities. In fact, in 2011, even mobile banking was still a fledgling reality.
The innovation program was small because it was made up of a very modest number of professionals, but it was nevertheless born with great ambition and purpose. This particular innovation program was the seed of BBVA Data & Analytics SL, which has now reached maturity and becomes BBVA AI Factory SL. But before we delve into the details of this new milestone, let’s rewind a few years.
It was 2014 when the bank created BBVA Data & Analytics SL, a subsidiary of the group that was given its own independent legal status for two reasons: 1) the need to place technology at the forefront of our activity -not just as an enabler or support function- and 2) the ability to sell non-financial products. In fact, the company had to be able to attract analytical talent, mainly data scientists, who, at first, might not find a financial institution to be particularly attractive. Thus, a company culture based on self-leadership and the encouragement of personal and professional growth began to develop, and continues to this day.
Soon after, the BBVA Data & Analytics teams began to work on business projects to identify problems to be solved. This gave way to the first successes, eg. the transaction categorizer that paved the way for the personal finance tool for digital customers (developed in collaboration with the Digital Transformation business unit). In addition, we witnessed the implementation of the individualized on-demand product recommendations to branch managers. These collaborations with different business teams helped raise awareness among our colleagues in other departments vis a vis the importance of working with data, and helped clarify the type of solutions that Artificial Intelligence can bring to a financial institution such as BBVA.
Some of the initiatives launched in recent years have made a significant contribution to the transformation of the bank into a data-driven organization that recognizes the value that such initiatives bring to the business. A further milestone was reached with the creation of the Data area in 2017. Moreover, the beginning of 2020 saw data and technology capabilities being boosted as part of BBVA’s strategic priorities. Towards the latter part of the last decade, the effort to disseminate the value and impact of Artificial Intelligence within the bank has led to the consolidation of key relationships with other teams (mainly technology), such as engineering and data architecture. At the same time we got to know better our colleagues at Madiva Soluciones, and their unquestionable and tireless work in the construction and marketing of data products. BBVA Valora is just one example of the strength and nerve of this team.
And then, in June 2019, we opened the Artificial Intelligence Factory, the physical and mental space -exclusively mental this past year- where multidisciplinary profiles started to work together, as one team, with the aim of building global data products and services in the banking sector. Data scientists, software engineers and developers, data architects and business experts continue to work to create solutions that respond to the bank’s new challenges and to ensure that the AI impact reaches the entire organisation.
Now, ten years later, it is time to take a new step and consolidate the Artificial Intelligence Factory space within the bank. BBVA Data & Analytics SL now becomes part of BBVA AI Factory SL, a new BBVA Group company that will have the data analytics of BBVA Data & Analytics and all its employees, as well as the values and principles that have guided us through the years. To achieve the goals, BBVA AI Factory SL will also add the experience of Madiva Soluciones in product creation and the necessary technical capabilities of Data Engineering. Francisco Maturana (CEO) will lead the company together with Marta Sanz, who takes on the position of COO.
This is not a full stop, but rather a follow-on. Because of this, we will continue to advance along the path we opened a decade ago and to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. We will also continue to share our concerns through this same channel, now being renamed, but which maintains all the content published to date, as well as through our social networks and our monthly newsletter, which we encourage you to follow closely.
We continue to work with the mission to build new data products that help BBVA to bring the age of opportunity to everyone.