Birmingham business leaders and UAB business students walked into the UAB School of Business Leader-to-Leader Breakfast Series Thursday morning to a huge surprise: two of international banking’s heaviest hitters for the price of one. Manolo Sánchez (pictured right), U.S. country manager and president and CEO of BBVA Compass, was already scheduled to speak at the bi-monthly networking breakfast. But he brought along a special guest: Ángel Cano, president and COO of BBVA Group, headquartered in Madrid.
Underscoring the importance of this event, I saw Brian Hilson (pictured left, second from left), president and CEO of Birmingham Business Alliance; Richard Marchase, Ph.D. (pictured left, second from right), UAB interim president; Fr. Alex Steinmiller C.P., President, Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School; and many other big Birmingham names in attendance.
The dynamic duo from BBVA Compass answered questions ranging from Europe to Birmingham and Sanchez detailed Project Centric, the bank's efforts to revolutionize online banking and customer expectations. Sánchez, who speaks five languages — including French and Arabic — spoke in terms anyone could understand: money and jobs.
“I find it hard to believe in the 21st century that there are time delays when banking online, so we are investing $400 million to become the only bank to offer real-time banking online,” said Sánchez. “The complete overhaul of our computer system and state-of-the-art updates has already created 300 jobs in Birmingham.”
For more on Project Centric, check out Russell Hubbard’s Al.com blog post, “BBVA Compass computer upgrade in Birmingham one of biggest in world.”
The session ended with both men on stage taking questions from the audience. Cano actually entertained a self Q&A at one point.
“Is it possible for the Euro to break up? No. Can a European country go bankrupt? No,” said Cano (pictured right). “The only question is how much time will it take for countries to recover and grow and each country’s needs are different.”
Cano also told the crowd he is often asked ‘How are we (BBVA Compass) doing?’ He then paused, for a long moment, and said with a smile, “My answer is always ‘really well.’” The line received big laughs from the crowd, but Cano was serious. BBVA Compass is doing really well, especially in the eyes of customers, Cano said. It now ranks third in American Banker’s Reputation Rankings, up from 16th in 2010.
Sánchez said one question he gets all the time from community leaders is, ‘What is the likelihood BBVA Compass’ headquarters will stay in Birmingham?’ Sánchez's response: “People are anxious and worry but more than 25 percent of our staff works in Birmingham and our commitment is to this community," he said. "Banks may not have the reputation as great corporate citizens, but we support local businesses and students. Less important is where the headquarters is located; most important is the company’s commitment to the community. We don’t forget at the end of the day where we are vis-a-vis community and we are here to serve you.”
About the blogger: Kevin Storr, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a media specialist in the UAB Office of Media Relations. His beat includes the School of Business, School of Engineering and the natural sciences within the College of Arts and Sciences.