A Partnership for the Ages: Creating Modern Digital Banking Experiences for the Digital Era at BBVA
Keeping your money safe in the modern world is about more than four strong walls, a secure vault, and a vigilant security team and staff. Technology evolves at an exponential rate, and in this era of digital transformation, your bank can’t afford not to invest in research and development of new digital technologies. This applies equally to your banking experience: leveraging your digital and mobile devices to access banking and investing services means that every interaction with your financial institution needs to be high quality, intuitive, secure, and fast.
BBVA is a customer-centric global financial services group founded in 1857. The group has a strong leadership position in the Spanish market, is the largest financial institution in Mexico, and has leading franchises in South America and the Sunbelt Region of the United States. It is also the leading shareholder in Turkey’s Garanti BBVA.
Our purpose is to bring the age of opportunities to everyone, based on our customers’ real needs. We provide the best solutions, helping them make the best financial decisions through an easy and convenient experience. Our institution rests on solid values: The customer comes first, we think big, and we are one team. Our responsible banking model aspires to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable society.
It’s a proactive choice to build stronger relationships with our customers, who now regularly choose to bank online and from their mobile devices. For the third year running in 2019, BBVA Spain’s banking app was named the world’s best by consulting firm Forrester Research. Our digital sales (measured in units) in the first quarter of 2020 accounted for 63.4% of our total sales, as customers looked for alternative ways to interact with BBVA.
Our keen participation in digital transformation trends is what helps set us apart from our competition, so we must constantly be looking to what’s coming next while continuously strengthening our digital platforms and infrastructure.
Laying a Strong Foundation: Identifying Networking Challenges in a Modern, Digital World
To get to this level takes years of making the right decisions that lay a strong foundation. But that doesn’t mean that everything you do is perfect. There are always challenges to face and problems to solve.
I worked for Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica for almost 21 years before joining BBVA as the Senior Network Architect on the Communications as a Service team in 2017. As a result, I am very familiar with the challenges that arise in these industries.
BBVA started our digital transformation journey years ago, and our commitment has made us the unquestioned leader of the financial sector’s digital transformation in recent years. But to continue this evolution, we needed the right partner to revamp our global IP network.
A Modern, Digital Alliance: A Digital Transformation Connection Between BBVA and Cisco
We chose to partner with Cisco to achieve our strategic transformation. It came down to trust, capabilities, and vision. We are an established brand that needed to partner with an equally established brand who had a similar approach to digital transformation.
We considered this more than a partnership—the connection between BBVA and Cisco is a true, modern, digital alliance. Choosing Cisco as BBVA’s strategic, digital partner allowed us to provide cutting-edge network solutions while facilitating the connectivity and collaboration of both our customers and employees. We made this relationship official in 2016 when BBVA and Cisco signed a partnership agreement.
We reformed the way that we communicate with the network using a variety of collaboration, networking, computational, and security technology solutions from Cisco. The key is that humans should communicate with the network in their own language. So, when there are such important changes in technology to be implemented, you need a technology provider that can speak your language.
Another thing that sounds simple but is quite important, is feeling that you are important. You go to meetings with the business leads, and they truly connect with you. You need to be able to have an open dialogue, and give feedback, when necessary. Of course, that's one of the benefits of working directly with Cisco’s people: They are our partners and they act like it.
Our New Network: Pushing the Boundaries of What BBVA Can Do
Now with this new network, powered by Cisco SD-WAN, we have been increasing our speed when it comes to overall time to market, while freeing up more time in our workdays by automating more and more of our processes. We are creating a unique system by connecting our services to the cloud. The advantages of this new network are, of course, the speed, the connectivity, and we have deeply transformed our topology, where we can now provision deliverables in a couple of days instead of a couple of months. If we want to release a new feature on our mobile app, for example, we can now deliver it in less than a week, whereas before it was a cumbersome, drawn-out process.
We have developed a Network Foundation Protection (NFP) framework with an operator, developed connections with the public clouds, and more. The network architecture is completely amazing. What used to take a couple of weeks to develop a routine routing rule, for example, now deploys in a couple of minutes. That saved time adds up.
The new Global Communications Architecture & Deployment team was developed with the purpose of creating and standardising network architectures across countries, which addressed the siloing of our network teams. The Global Network Project (known internally as Synapse) was launched to help BBVA accelerate our digital transformation strategy through the development of a global network that would be flexible to growth, and dynamic in capabilities without compromising performance. Synapse is based on Cisco’s SD-WAN solution, but we also receive help from a partner who manages our network.
We deployed a high-capacity, geographically distributed network with a presence in Carrier Neutral Facilities (CNFs). The global network included connections from BBVA DCs across 11 countries and three continents.
The network also provides global connectivity to our Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) offices. The new global network has been built as a hybrid system, as it connects to public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft Azure, while also maintaining our on-prem solutions that help us stay compliant. Internet connectivity has been redesigned as well. Direct access to our main SaaS services is now provided with the same level of connectivity and transparency through an end-to-end architecture and a single point of management. This new network is automatically provisioned through Cisco vManage, can scale on-demand, and services are automatically added.
Together with Cisco, we are constantly reviewing and adding to our original vision, improving and adding new Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) services, automation, advanced QoS rules, and public connectivity services. A full team of Enterprise and Solutions Architects work with BBVA through our transformation journey. Today, our global network is a reality and we continue to evolve as we add—and improve upon—our capabilities.
Traversing the Age of Digital Transformation in Global Banking
People have been realising that we are living squarely in an age of digital transformation—this is not a phase, it’s our collective reality. And organisations and institutions that hope to be future proof need to embrace this mentality and start taking the necessary steps quickly, before they lose all hope of ever catching up.
BBVA is serious about our digital transformation strategy and we have the plans and partnerships to prove it. The world of banking is highly competitive, and without a significant investment into innovative technologies, your institution will quickly become obsolete.
By partnering with Cisco, we’ve become faster and more reliable. Our award-winning app, industry recognition, and continued customer acquisition rates are key indicators that we are moving in the right direction. Our network must always be on, and should never fail. This sets us apart from our competitors and Cisco played a key role in our success here.
My whole team was especially outstanding throughout our time with Cisco. Each one of them gave their full attention to our projects and helped us achieve our goals in ways we didn’t think were possible. We’ve made tremendous strides, but this wasn’t the work of one person. It truly was a collaborative victory.
Our partnership with Cisco is exactly what it takes to successfully traverse the age of digital transformation, keeping pace with the rapid innovation and high expectations of our customers. We at BBVA continuously strive to give our customers the ultimate banking experience, no matter what platform, channel, or touchpoint at which they choose to interact with us. Our networking systems and infrastructure need to be seamless, both internally and externally, in order to deliver on that promise, and Cisco has been helping us do just that.
Keeping our customers’ money safe has never been a question. But maintaining security while also giving our customers a banking experience that exceeds their expectations means that we can continue to be a top bank of choice now and into the future.