Carlos Oliveira is the Executive Director of the Client Lab at EVO Banco, one of the main challenger banks disrupting the Spanish banking sector. In May 2018, EVO Banco made headlines by launching the first banking voice assistant in Spanish; a year after the start of the project, Carlos tells World Finance how the EVO assistant was received, what the bank learned about its clients and their priorities, and EVO Banco’s position as a disruptive force among the big Spanish banks.
World Finance: So first Carlos – a year after the start of the project, how was the EVO assistant received, and what did you learn?
Carlos Oliveira: Well, we received it with really great customer engagement because at the end of the day if you analyze, almost in a month 10% of customers use it – and they also spend about two minutes there. ‘use. So for us that’s a very surprising number, because, you know, spending two minutes talking to a machine is not that easy.
About 70% of customers use it now, and they perform basic transactions like money transfers or review how much money they have in their accounts; to more sophisticated things. They also ask the assistant, “Tell me, what’s the right thing to do to invest my money? and that sort of thing.
What we are learning is that people like it. Because at the end of the day, it’s natural language: it’s what normal people do, it’s talking. So if you finally find someone or something who understands you and answers your questions, you’re in the right key.
World Finance: How far has the rest of the Spanish banking sector come in the digitization journey we see everywhere?
Carlos Oliveira: Well, I think we have to divide into two big groups. One of them is the traditional banks, you know, the traditional banks. To be honest, they go to great lengths to change their reality. But there’s also a lot of legacy to change, right? So in the end, they really invest a lot more, but I think they’re not that nimble, in terms of arena switching.
So I think we are in a pretty advantageous position, these banks like EVO. Because innovation is more about attitude. About how you’re going to put the customer at the center of everything you do as a bank. And I think at EVO we really have a vision of being useful to customers. For us, it’s an obsession. We don’t do innovative things just to be fancy, okay? We need to do things that make sense to customers and make their lives easier. OK? Our obsession is to be easy on them and to create something that makes sense.
World Finance: So how do you make sure the innovations you create are useful to your clients?
Carlos Oliveira: Well first of all, the ideas and also the priorities are not defined by me – they are defined by the clients.
So we have a lot of data, you know? At the bank, we have a lot of customer information, we have all customer transactions. So we try to analyze with the big data department, what are the real insights, what are the real trends that we have with our customers? Then we develop products, we test them with our beta testers: a thousand customers use our products a month in advance. So, they analyze how it works, how it doesn’t work; and see if it’s efficient or not.
I have always said that we are not a bank: we have said that we are a BankTech. A bank traditionally, they have… they know how to manage a P&L, they know how to manage customers. But they’re not really good at user experience and that kind of tech – that sort of thing.
On the other hand, you have the fintechs. They’re really good at some aspect of the user experience, but on the other hand, they don’t know how to handle P&L. We are in between. We are like a banking start-up that combines the two. And I think that’s the secret to our success.
World Finance: Finally, what’s next for EVO Banco? What opportunities do you see in your future?
Carlos Oliveira: Well, there are a lot of opportunities. The secret is to choose the right ones. It is not so easy; with big data and insight… choosing the right insight is the critical thing.
We stimulate our brains with ideas from other industries. I mean, we want to be of service to you. We want to go beyond the traditional banking system, and traditional banking products. To be in touch with you in your daily life. So we really want to be on the first screen of your phone. We don’t want to be a normal bank. We don’t want to do the typical things that banks do. We want to be someone who understands you, someone who really adds value to you, on a real basis. This is exactly what we really want to do.
World Finance: Carlos, thank you very much.
Carlos Oliveira: You’re welcome.