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BANKING

Digital bets revive BBVA’s global ambitions

After the 2020 sale of its US bank, BBVA’s global ambitions in retail are alive and well. It has entered Brazil with digital bank Neon, ploughed more capital into UK app-based lender Atom Bank and launched in Italy in a way that presages branchless growth across the eurozone.

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Photo: Reuters

During the past two years, international sales by big banks have been seen to signal the demise of global ambition in retail banking, but things are different at Spanish banks, including BBVA.

The Madrid-based lender started the latest round of US exits by big European banks in late-2020, with the sale of BBVA USA to PNC. That was not long after it had sold banks in Chile and Paraguay, in the late 2010s.

The sale of HSBC’s US retail business followed in May 2021. BNP Paribas then sold Bank of the West to BMO for $16.3 billion in cash in December 2021. Meanwhile, Citi is paring back in global retail banking to such an extent that it put its Mexican consumer business on the block in January.

However, unlike at Citi and BNP Paribas, there is no suggestion that BBVA’s US sale signalled a retail-banking retrenchment to its home country or region. Indeed, in November, BBVA did the opposite, launching a voluntary takeover bid for the 50.15% share it did not own in Garanti BBVA, Turkey’s biggest bank by market capitalization. Its ownership of Mexico’s biggest bank Bancomer is still the jewel in its crown, and it retains top-tier positions elsewhere in Hispanic America, notably Colombia and Peru.


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