Spain’s BBVA Plans Digital Bank Rollout in Germany

BBVA has announced plans to roll out a new digital bank in Germany
Spain’s second-largest bank, BBVA, has announced plans to roll out a new digital bank in Germany in a bid to boost customer numbers

BBVA, the second-largest bank in Spain, has announced plans to introduce a new digital bank in Germany, to mirror its success in Italy and boost its customer acquisition rate. 

Its digital model in Italy, BBVA Italia – a market it entered in 2021 – has been a resounding success, and BBVA hopes to expand its customer base to 600,000 in the country by the end of 2024. 

BBVA: Growing in markets to rival Santander

BBVA’s planned German expansion comes after the submission of a US$13.2bn hostile takeover bid for Sabadell, investing heavily in digital banking services and expanding in emerging markets, such as Mexico. 

A LatAm expansion is something BBVA’s rival, Santander, has also done – as both institutions look to expand customer bases internationally. 

Emerging markets like Mexico have helped BBVA boost income when it has struggled in more mature markets. 

Peio Belausteguigoitia, BBVA’s Country Manager for Spain, says: "Logically we are replicating the successful model we have had in Italy in the German market, where we hope to have a digital bank by 2025."

Its move to digital international expansion comes as its native market plans have shifted.

BBVA intends to offload 300 branches in its native Spain, and its move to acquire Sadabell is aimed to further its business banking operations. Sabadell has a significant market position in small and mid-sized lending in Spain, where BBVA now hopes to add 80,000 SME clients by the end of 2024. 

However, its bid to acquire Sabadell is currently opposed by the Spanish government and was rejected by Sabadell’s board – prompting BBVA to plan a direct acquisition attempt via Sadabell’s shareholders. 

Speculation has been mounting that BBVA may look to sell UK high street bank TSB to fund an improved bid for Sadabell. Should its bid – made directly to Sadabell holders – succeed, it’s unclear if BBVA would still plan to offload TSB. 

The Spanish banking giant has set itself a minimum Sadabell share approval threshold of 50.01% but says the regulatory takeover approval process could take between six to eight months before a bid can be formally submitted to shareholders. 

Speaking at a financial event, Peio Belausteguigoitia said he was ‘confident’ a takeover could be completed. If not, BBVA will focus on achieving growth organically in its native Spain. 

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BBVA: Trending towards digital 

BBVA’s plans to focus on digital banking growth come as part of a much-discussed wider trend to meet the needs of modern banking customers with their digital transformations.

The success of leading European neobanks Revolut, N26 and Monzo has sparked a continental shift from leading financial institutions to forego large parts of their physical presence and step into the digital realm. 

Earlier this year, we outlined our expectations that incumbents would scale their digital efforts to meet the challenge of digital players, with Kin + Carta Europe’s Financial Services Director Phillip O’Neil, saying: “There will be a reckoning between competition, partnership and acquisition.” 

Indeed, this is what we are seeing with BBVA – and much more activity can be expected worldwide throughout the remainder of 2024. 

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