BBVA will use data-driven model to start reopening branches

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BBVA USA said Monday that it will begin the process of reopening branch lobbies it closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The $93 billion-asset BBVA, of Birmingham, Ala., said it plans to move gradually. The U.S. arm of the Spanish company Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria will use a data-driven proprietary model to determine when certain markets are ready to reopen.

“It’s important that we open our branch lobbies, because we know that customers want and need face-to-face interaction … but we have to do it in a responsible way,” Larry Franco, head of retail banking, said in a press release. “Using a data-driven approach that considers internal and external factors is the best way we can do this, particularly as we monitor how COVID-19 numbers are rising in certain areas across our footprint.”

As the coronavirus took hold in the U.S. this spring, banks across the country began to close or limit access to branch lobbies in response to the recommendations of infectious disease specialists.

Now that some states have gotten the spread of the virus under control, banks and credit unions are starting to prepare their branches to reopen to the public. However, Citigroup will delay bringing back some office workers in 13 states including Florida and Texas where cases have surged recently, Bloomberg News reported last week.

BBVA said its model will draw on both internal and external data to come up with a “ready to open” score for each branch. External data will include the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people within a county, cases per square mile and the new-cases curve and forecast. The internal data will consider the employees available to work at a given branch, the ability to socially distance inside the lobby and the risk level of interactions.

At branches that do reopen, BBVA will take extra precautions, including requiring masks for all employees, increasing cleanings, providing more health and safety supplies, and using signage directing the flow of foot traffic.

BBVA also said recently that it would stick to its pre-pandemic plan to add 15 new branches in Texas.

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