How a global bank leads in open innovation

Blueopes is a member of the MKB Fintechlab alumni, won the Best Fintech in Hungary award at the Central European Startup Awards, and the Best Fintech for Sustainable Finance award at the BBVA Open Talent competition. Balázs Faluvégi co-founder and CEO will talk about experiences from BBVA’s competition and immersion week.

Balázs Faluvégi delivering the winner pitch

BBVA might sound familiar for most people in the banking industry, especially in the fintech ecosystem. It is a global bank by every measure:

  • More than 75 million customers
  • Over 130 000 employees
  • More than 8000 branches in 30+ countries in all continents (except Africa and Australia)
  • Almost 800 billion USD in assets.

The group is mostly active in Spanish speaking countries, with the global headquarters in Madrid, but also active in Latin America, Turkey and the USA.

But most importantly, in the last ten years BBVA has held the biggest fintech competition of the world. This year we are super proud to have the honor of receiving one of their awards: Best Fintech for Sustainable Finance. The award came with a lot of advantages, including a special, professional immersion week for all the winning teams in Madrid in October, all covered and organized by BBVA’s Open Innovation team.

Madrid in October

The capital of Spain is a majestic city, huge boulevards, beautiful buildings, and a lot of green areas. But what really makes Madrid amazing are its people. Everywhere I went, I encountered kindness, openness, cheerfulness and an amazing hospitality.

Our first day was the longest, and not even one minute was uneventful. We were transferred to the outskirts of the city to visit BBVA’s headquarters. The building complex is an architectural wonder by itself, as the main building has a shape of a sail, and there are huge squares and even a mini forest. We had the chance to see the biggest trading room in continental Europe. More than 400 people work here, and there are two giant screens from wall to wall on two sides of it, showing CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and newsflash constantly.

BBVA headquarters

We also had the chance to meet some of the Bank’s executives. For us, the most interesting presentation and meeting was with the Group’s Responsibility Director. We learned that BBVA’s intention, results, and monitoring is even more widespread than we thought. Promoting and supporting sustainability is embedded in the core of the Bank’s business model, and they do a lot to lead by example for their customers, suppliers and even competitors. The evening was held at one of soccer’s holy places, Santiago Bernabéu stadium, home of Real Madrid FC. I’m not a big soccer person myself, but it was really nice to see how they recognize Ferenc Puskas, the Best Hungarian Soccer Player of all time, who played there more than five decades ago.

Santiago Bernabéu stadium, home of Real Madrid FC

We spent the next two days at BBVA’s Open Innovation conference. The whole event took place at the former Casino de Madrid building, which had some of the best early 20th century charm I’ve ever seen. During the conference we had the chance to pitch to an audience consisting of BBVA executives, investors, financial and tech companies and the fintech ecosystem players. We received the award during a nice and elegant ceremony.

Blueopes at BBVA Open Summit

These two days were all about meetings and learning. We had the opportunity to meet several digital leaders and fintech partnership managers, plus even some investor representatives. BBVA really put a great effort in bringing together the whole ecosystem and all kinds of stakeholders not only from Spain, but from all around Latin America and Europe. We had some time to see the pitches of other fintechs and attend some seminars plus panel discussions about the future of the industry.

Derek White BBVA

On Thursday it was time to see other digital companies throughout Madrid. We had almost an hour long Q&A with Juan de Antonio, the CEO of Cabify, the first Spanish unicorn (startup valued over 1 billion EUR). This was a tremendous opportunity to learn about how to build up a global company, an easy-to-use service in matter of years.

It was a huge inspiration.

They build the future of finance

Later we visited Wayra’s offices and BBVA’s Open Innovation centre, where we had more discussions and workshops. This is where I found out that not only Spain, but many countries, like Mexico, are developing fast in the digital space for financial innovation. I also had the chance to speak longer with a local pension-fintech, which might lead to a partnership in the future.

Now — more than ever — I am convinced, that the future of finance, and especially wealth management will be digital, and will be based on partnerships with traditional financial institutions, who understand that technology is not a layer or a marketing platform, but the very core of the business model and customer relations. BBVA understands this, and it looks like it will continue to give them a huge advantage for the coming years.

I hope most banks will soon follow the paths created by BBVA globally, or by regional players, like MKB’s Fintechlab here in the CEE region. Speaking of Fintechlab, stay tuned for my next post where I’ll write about how our partnership became reality, hopefully with useful insights and practical advice for other fintech startups.


Balázs Faluvégi

Balázs is the co-founder and CEO of Blueopes, an automatized, white-label wealth management software tool for asset managers, using artificial intelligence to help them custom-tailor portfolios to their end-clients’ investment goals and value preferences, while focused on sustainable investments.