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Jeff Dennes - BBVA Compass

Jeff Dennes

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Most people don’t think of banks as being “high tech.” Jeff Dennes, chief digital officer for BBVA Compass, is quietly changing that perception. (He pioneered mobile banking, remote deposit/check capture and is working to build better banking software.) So, as the bank’s head of business development and digital transformation, he is working to transform this global giant into a nimble, real-time operation that gives customers 24/7 real-time access to their finances. It’s a bigger feat than you think! You will be interested to hear where online banking is headed.

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Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast business, built for business; my guest today, Jeff Dennes, the Chief Digital Officer at BBVA Compass bank. Jeff, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.

Jeff: Thank you so much, glad to be here, thanks for having me.

Russ: You bet. Chief Digital Officer, man quite a title, how did that come about?

Jeff: Well it's kind of a funny story. About 4 years ago, um, I was starting a new role at a new bank and I'd met someone that was in the advertising agency and his title was Chief Digital Officer and I thought well that's kind of exactly what I do, I just happen to do it inside of a bank. So I changed my title to Chief Digital Officer and, um, a couple weeks later, uh, my wife saw my business cards and she said what the heck is a Chief Digital Officer? Did you make this up? Um, and yeah, so I brought that to the banking industry and 4 years later we see quite a few Chief Digital Officers in - in the industry.

Russ: Cool story. Okay, and you really are an officer of the bank. I mean, we're up here in the top floors of BBVA Houston so you got a seat at the table, right?

Jeff: I do and that's, uh, one of the biggest reasons I'm here at BBVA is a lot of Chief Digital Officers, uh, have been sort of challenged by their CEO to help, uh, migrate the bank to a digital bank but without a seat at the table they're really not transforming the bank; they're trying to build channels and access, uh, methods for their customers to access their money where I'm trying to transform an entire bank.

Russ: Absolutely. Well those of us that have lived long in the digital world, uh, we know it's important that you be so that's pretty cool but you've got to let us know, what is the mission - your mission - of Chief Digital Banking Officer with BBVA Compass?

Jeff: Well I think of it just like a lot of industries have had to transform themselves, things like the music industry, the media industry, uh, now the retail industry have had to transform themselves to live in this digital e-commerce era because the traditional brick and mortar, uh, is not going to live without the e-commerce side. So banking is very similar, we've got to transform ourselves to allow our clients and prospective clients to be able to access their money any time, any where, all the time.

Russ: Okay. Don't you think there's people watching right now that say yeah, I agree with that but I've been doing online banking for 3, 4 years already.

Jeff: Absolutely. But, uh, are they buying all their products and services online? Are they getting their financial advice online? Is their financial advice and their money with them on their phone everywhere they go? Do they have access to it 24/7?

Russ: It must have been interesting even to see the, uh, step up from the BBVA recruiting effort to find you to say man we need somebody to completely drive us in this direction.

Jeff: I'm excited to be here and this is one of, you know, there's a benefit of this bank that some of the people don't really realize and that is that BBV is a huge financial institution that is a global bank. So what we have out here in the U.S. would be just a traditional regional bank but it's got the muscle of a Fortune 100 global company.

Russ: Right. Well I noticed too, particularly this building; it's one of the most high tech buildings in town. Everywhere every kind of conference room you go into has Apple TV, big screens; I mean it must be the ideal place to be Digital Banking Officer.

Jeff: Yeah, I was very impressed with this building, I still am everyday. I have to sort of pinch myself sometimes when I come to work everyday. But even on top of that, what we're doing in Birmingham, Alabama of al places is building a development - software development center that you might see in Silicon Valley, but not in Birmingham, Alabama. But opening the spaces up and allowing people to work in smaller teams of six and ten people and build software because that's what we're doing in a bank is building software that allow client's to have acc-better access to their money, their products and services and how they man - navigate their financial life.

Russ: Cool. Now you mentioned, you know, replacing bricks and mortar. I gotta tell you Jeff, it just seemed like 2 or 3 years ago everywhere I went there was new branch banks being built by almost every bank in town; there's a lot of them out there. Do you think there will be, uh, fewer branches though after a while at least?

Jeff: Well you're asking the Chief Digital Officer, so yes.

Russ: Okay, so you've been in this sort of digital financial world for quite a few years if you count USAA.

Jeff: 14 years.

Russ: 14 years, okay. So what have you done along the way that you might have been proud of that caught attention and worked its way into business?

Jeff: Well a couple of things; one is I really pioneered mobile banking. So we were the first to do mobile banking,

Russ: Okay, USAA?

Jeff: USAA, yes, yes. And the other thing that has really kind of surprised me about the, uh, way it's being adopted is that we pioneered taking a picture of a check, or remote deposit capture is what we call it in the business terms. But, um, we did it to solve the business problem about people mailing checks to us and having to deal with the 3 days in the mail and then 2 days for the financial system; so now you could have real time access to that money by taking a picture of a check

Russ: And it was your idea?

Jeff: It was my idea that we pioneered it. I mean I don't want to call it just my idea I led the team to - to…

Russ: But is your name maybe even like on a patent somewhere?

Jeff: I'm sure it is, yes.

Russ: All right, real cool. All right, so before we turned the cameras on when we were just talking about how you've been spending some of your time and some of the things you were talking about sounded more like banking marketing endeavors as opposed to transaction with funds; is that right?

Jeff: Well remember, I'm here to transform the bank and so there is a marketing department and we've got to transform to a digital marketing department, which is way different than traditional marketing. It requires a different skillset, requires different capabilities and it requires a different way of leveraging data to be able to provide digital, uh, experiences and digital offerings that are relevant,

Russ: Okay, so - but before I let you go, share with me where do you think BBVA will be - I - I used to always say 20 years from now, that's way too long - what'll be different 5 years from now, uh, in the area - in your area - digital banking, would you predict?

Jeff: Well there's a number of different things but let me just focus on one that is maybe going to be a little bit challenging to understand but out of all the banks in the U.S., which there is over 4,000 banks in the United States, BBVA is the only bank that has completely replaced its core system with a real time processing system. Now that doesn't seem like much because most of us think today that all our banking is real time but the reality is it's not. A lot of the things that happen on a Friday night you don't know about until Tuesday morning when batch cycles complete, right? So we can help people 24/7 all the time and keep their banking live on their phone all the time and no other bank in the U.S. is going to have that capability for many years to come.

So we can grow this bank and help our clients and prospective clients be in touch with their finances and their small business and their big corporations all the time where Bank of America and you name it - any other bank - really cannot do that. And so we have an opportunity to grow from the size that we are today to a much, much larger bank and help people with their financial lives. And why that is so important is because the number one cause of stress is finances and the number one health problem is stress and if we can help people feel more in control of their finances, we not only help them with their financial life, we help them with their health as well. What a great, noble vision.

Russ: That's - you're really - that is cool, really good. All right, so no mention of Bitcoin in there?

Jeff: No it's an interesting thing though. We've - I've done some research on Bitcoin myself and got to speak to one of the major investors and the thing that I find really, really interesting about Bitcoin is obviously it's trying to create a new currency which whether that works or not, I have no idea but the thing that is interesting about it is that they are trying to do it on an open platform. So what it gives developers is the opportunity is to put the access to goods and services on this open platform using that currency to be able to build software solutions for how we barter goods and services.

Russ: Do you think there will be a time in your digital banking life where you will be dealing with Bitcoin?

Jeff: I think if something like Bitcoin is successful and has enough traction that absolutely it could be something that banks have play a part in.

Russ: Real cool. Well Jeff, really appreciate you giving us your time, it's a real interesting story.

Jeff: Thanks Russ, appreciate you having me on the show.

Russ: You bet. All right, and that wraps up my discussion with Jeff Dennes, Chief Digital Officer at BBVA Compass bank. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.

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