BBVA Poaches Top Digital Bankers from Capital One, SunTrust

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Just three months after acquiring digital banking startup Simple, BBVA Compass is continuing its digital self-improvement journey with the hire of two high-profile executives.

Jeff Dennes, who was a Bank Technology News Innovator of the Year in 2012 and has led digital banking initiatives at USAA, Huntington Bank and SunTrust, will head the new Digital Banking division at BBVA Compass in the U.S.

Mark Jamison, who was previously chief digital officer at Capital One Bank, will be BBVA's director of customer experience and business intelligence. Jamison ran one of the industry's first innovation labs at Capital One and has said banks need to take cues from digital brand masters like Apple.

Dennes, who will report directly to BBVA Compass CEO Manolo Sanchez as well as Carlos Torres Vila, head of digital banking for the parent bank in Spain, will be filling a new position for the bank. (Jamison, who will be stationed in Madrid, will also report to Torres.) Dennes has been given a mandate to "transform the bank" so that it's "digitally enabled" across all channels, including call centers, ATMs, and online and mobile channels.

While BBVA Compass already has fairly advanced online and mobile banking offerings, Dennes sees a need to catch up with strong brands like Simple and PayPal.

"The transformation is about how we create an innovative culture, and build a startup mentality that helps create better experiences customers automatically migrate to," says Dennes, who spoke to American Banker in a phone interview Monday afternoon.

One goal is to help clients and prospective clients feel more in control of their financial lives. "Too often banks think of trying to sell a checking account, a credit card or a loan, and then try to think about how to help the consumer buy a car or house," Dennes says. Clearly he believes it should be the other way around.

Simple, the digital banking provider BBVA bought in February, already has a similar mission of helping consumers control their finances, by helping them understand their money. It does this by creating statements and alerts that are clear so that people can see their financial picture and start making positive changes if need be. BBVA Compass CEO Sanchez has asserted that Simple will retain its independence even as it draws on the bank's greater resources.

Yet Dennes believes he will be able to repurpose some of Simple's customer experience work, and harness Simple's startup mentality to apply it throughout the bank.

"Creating that environment within the bigger bank of BBVA Compass is one of my biggest issues to solve," Dennes says. In mobile banking app development, for instance, he wants to help the bank shift from a traditional, waterfall approach to agile collaboration among small teams.

Dennes also plans to help BBVA Compass make better use of customer data.

"When I use Amazon, it just feels like hey, they know me, they know what I bought in the past, they know what my preferences are and they provide me with authors that are more relevant to me based on that data," Dennes says. "Banks have yet to leverage that."

If a customer comes to the bank's website from a car shopping site, for example, that's a clue that he or she is in the market for a car.

"If someone comes to BBVA Compass through cars.com and we offer them a credit card, shame on us," he says. "We should be talking to them about whether they're buying an automobile and if we can help."

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Comments (1)
Congrats to both Jeff and Mark (and to the BBVA team - this is quite the roll they are on in 2014). BBVA is becoming the bank to watch when it comes to leading innovation efforts, joining a short list of worldwide banks that are embracing disruptive forces shaping the future of financial services.
Posted by Bradley Leimer | Tuesday, May 13 2014 at 6:25PM ET
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