Meet Javier Rodriguez Soler: President and CEO of BBVA USA and U.S. country manager for the BBVA Group.
Rodríguez Soler joined BBVA in 2008 as a managing director for Corporate & Investment Banking. He also served as BBVA Group’s global head of Strategy and M&A, where his corporate development functions included setting the strategy at both the Group and country-level, giving him extensive exposure to the U.S.
Prior to BBVA, Rodríguez Soler was director of Investor Relations and director of Strategy and M&A with Spanish utility Endesa, where he worked for five years. He was also an engagement manager with McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.
Since arriving in the U.S., BBVA has been notable for being a first-mover in multiple areas of digital banking. The bank completed a core conversion with Accenture in 2013, and acquired the challenger bank Simple in 2014. It was one of the first banks in the U.S. to offer real-time payments via its partnership with Dwolla. BBVA is also a leader in working with startups, having been involved in multiple bank-fintech partnerships, and spun off a venture arm, now known as Propel Venture Partners.
Tell us more about what you do and how you moved into your space.
BBVA is one of the most international banks in the world. Most banks just operate in one country while BBVA operates in 30 markets and in 10 of them as a full-fledged universal bank.
Having spent 10 years at the helm of mergers and acquisitions for the bank, I have had the privilege of getting to know all our franchises around the world. As a result, I was in a good position to give new vigor to our bank in the USA, while connecting with our headquarters in Madrid and with the rest of our banks in Mexico, Europe, and Latin America.
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
I started in the tech ecosystem about a decade ago when I came to San Francisco to interview a few individuals who were working and investing in the space that was later known as fintech – a term that did not exist at the time. As a result of that trip, BBVA hired Jay Reinemann who went on to become the founding partner of the VC fund known then as BBVA Ventures and now is Propel Venture Partners. At that time, BBVA opened an office in San Francisco, knowing how important a role the city plays in technology. From that office, we have centralized many of our partnership and innovation initiatives.
How has technology impacted your industry and why is this important?
Technology has impacted nearly every aspect of the financial industry – from the rise of online banking to mobile banking and disruptors who have come in and taken pieces of the traditional banking value chain.
When fintech first began in earnest, I think it took many in the industry by surprise. Who were these upstarts pulling customers from banks? And in such large numbers?
But, this revolution – that has been impacting the industry for decades at this point – has been hugely beneficial. It made the industry understand that customers have a preference and those that come in and focus on delivering the type of experience that customers are looking for will be the winners in the long term. Banking today is not the same as banking five, ten and fifteen years ago – and in that, the customer wins.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2019 (as it relates to your industry)?
Data, no doubt. We are living a true revolution in the possibilities that AI and data usage may give to individuals and companies. Have we always had data? Yes, absolutely. But, with the advent of technology, we are better able to leverage the potential of these mass amounts of data in ways that will benefit customers and provide them with the ability to make good decisions about their money, and in the process, achieve their goals.
Our Chairman Carlos Torres Vila has spoken and written about this, and we believe fully in customers right to their data, and further, their right to say how and when it is used. Data and the use of data represent the next big opportunity for both a revolution and a way of better serving customers
What advice would you give for someone who wants to get into your space?
It’s so important for those who want to be part of the revolution happening in finance through technology to never forget that everything we have been talking about, from technology to data and innovation, has a single purpose – serving customers better.
Today, the proper use of new technology allows banks like BBVA to serve all individuals – including those in low- and moderate-income segments and all companies, from the smallest to the largest, in ways that previously only the biggest and wealthiest corporations could just five to ten years ago. Technology has become the great equalizer, and with it, we can serve all people better than ever before.
Anything else we should know?
BBVA has been at the forefront of the digital transformation of the industry for many years. I couldn’t be happier to have a seat in front by being at the helm of the US bank in a market with so much potential and so many forward-looking thinkers.