The No. 1 bank on our ranking this year is also one of the most improved. BBVA Compass, which didn't even make the top half in the 2013 ranking, boosted its reputation score more than 12 points with customers. With a score of 78.9 on our 100-point scale, the Spanish-owned southern regional edged out last year's No. 1, Union Bank.

The increase is no aberration. Within the past year and a half, BBVA Compass has moved checking and savings accounts to a new technology platform that provides real-time processing and the full scope of each customer's relationship with the bank. It has garnered attention for the sleek, new headquarters tower it opened last June in Houston, been active in social media and raised its profile with NBA basketball, MLS soccer and college football bowl game sponsorships.

The tone is set from the top, but CEO Manolo Sánchez says reputation management is everybody's business at the bank — whether they engage with customers directly, are charged with monitoring the landscape for risks or are responsible for crafting the brand's message to the broader public.

How would you describe BBVA Compass' general approach to brand reputation?
Reputation is placed at the core of our business. That's why we're focused so much on it. We like to think of ourselves as a customer-centric company, with the other stakeholders in our business, like the community and the shareholders and the employees, around that.

How is reputation management structured at BBVA Compass, and who's accountable for it?
In theory you want everybody to own it, but we have strong leadership that steers our reputation management in the right direction. The 'doer' part of it is the corporate responsibility and reputation [group] that Rey Ocanas heads. Then we have the enterprise risk management group, which looks at reputation risks. Both have important, senior roles within the organization. Then everybody else needs to own it, too, and one way we've been able to do that is by tying reputation to compensation. In our incentive plan, we have a way of attaching [those things]. It's nonnegotiable to really get reputational aspects into the compensation [formulas].

And what is the CEO's role in all this?
I need to make sure I'm setting the tone for the organization, leading by example. Ultimately when we look to the top of the organization, we want to see that the organization is walking the talk.

We have a number of internal mottoes or mantras that we use... One of them is, 'We work for a better future for people.' It's very inspiring but also somewhat limitless, and there's nothing about financial services in it. And we set it that way about a decade ago because we really wanted to see no limits. And the word 'people,' it's inclusive of everyone — our clients, our employees, our communities. So we're setting this aspiration in very broad terms... and we have a culture that is articulated in ways that folks can get engaged around and comprehend the aspirations of the organization.

Notably, BBVA Compass is the only bank in our survey to place in the top five for each of the seven reputation drivers we study. Did you have specific aspects of reputation in mind when you were formulating your reputation strategy? Or did you purposefully aim to create a well-rounded profile?
There's been plenty of deliberate effort around our position. We have a five-year strategic plan, and when we set it out we made our best effort at hitting all of the vectors that will create, at the end of the day, the next great bank in the U.S. It's a multifaceted goal because banking is a complex business that touches a lot of folks.

Our LEED-certified building in Houston, it's open space, which is really a bold step in terms of promoting collaboration and more transparency. There's [our sponsorship of] the NBA. There are the actions that we've taken, but also the telling of the action, and that's very much connected to today's world. In the age of social media, you really need to tell your story, and that ability to create more touch points to tell our story really helps to reinforce our brand and tell our clients what we're doing.

When it comes to noncustomers, who as a group have much less esteem for banks, BBVA Compass gets middle-of-the-pack scores, ranking 12 out of 25 on our survey. Do you worry as much about what your noncustomers think?
Definitely we worry about that, because those are our prospects, those are our future employees. And those are folks in our community we're not touching. In our case, I think that's what the underlying gap is. We're delivering new solutions, we have actions in the community, but folks who are not our customers have limited exposure to that. We've tried on Facebook, for example, a campaign where noncustomers could come and submit ideas. [But] we have to find a way to be more persuasive.

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