In recent years, the financial sector has been moving towards a change of model marked not only by technological transformation. The appearance of new competitors, regulatory frameworks and changes in customer behavior they point the way towards that evolution, now also conditioned by the economic situation.
A complex environment in which the bank has two great allies to function successfully: artificial intelligence and data science. Both disciplines allow extracting information to respond to the demands of the current financial market and evolve its processes, both customer-oriented and internal.
aware of this, BBVA AI Factory was established in February 2021, the Artificial Intelligence Factory. A global center “focused on the creation of artificial intelligence capabilities, both in the development of solutions for clients -individuals and companies- and for the optimization of the Group’s internal processes”, describes its executive director, Francisco Maturana, in an interview with D+I.
The project, which began its journey as an independent legal entity under the form of a limited company (SL), did not start from scratch. It is the natural continuation of another: BBVA Data & Analytics. “In this new stage we have formed a broader center by integrate diverse professional profiles in the same development space”.
Its purpose is to use data and technology to improve financial health of its clients, help them in the transition to a sustainable future and increase the number of people who entrust their finances to BBVA.
“To create data products based on artificial intelligence, we needed different disciplines, such as data science, engineering, architecture or business experts, to work together integrated in the same team”, he specifies.
In addition, AI Factory also adds the experience of Madiva Soluciones in product creation. A Spanish startup specializing in services big data Y cloud computing created in 2008, which the entity acquired in 2018 and of which Maturana was a part as technology director and founding partner.
Local challenges with global application
AI Factory plays a key role so that the data is behind all the business areas of the financial institution to be more efficient, but also so that all its services and products respond in a more effective and personalized way to the needs of its customers.
Maturana cites as an example the financial health functionalities of its application, both in Spain and in Mexico, and which will soon reach more countries: “What started with a development to help categorize expenses has evolved into tools that facilitate savingswho warn about unforeseen expenses and who make suggestions to improve the personal finances of each client”.
“This leap from service to proactivity is only possible thanks to the algorithms created in this factory, which are also able to reach more countries and faster thanks to our global approach to work“And he assures that this is only the tip of the iceberg of what AI Factory does.
“Data is behind many other processes, we have developed systems to help efficiently manage communications between personal agents and their customers, also to be more efficient in our digital sales or to make risk calculations more efficient”, enumerate.
Financial innovation with data
In the year and a half that has elapsed since its creation, the company’s achievements include its recent recognition as one of the best places to work for innovatorsgranted by Fast Company.
An award that places this center in the number one position in the category of small companies and in position 40 on the world list, awarded for “fostering the exchange of knowledge among its employees and promoting female talent”. Program X also stands out for its “Innovative formula to solve technical challenges of data and AI on a global scale”.
This program emerged in 2021 in response to a need detected by AI Factory: “Explore disruptive ideas that went beyond their usual tasks and develop solutions for challenges that are common to multi-team projects,” says Maturana. “It was conceived as a incubator for small innovation projects that drives the mentality of exploring new ideas by the company’s data scientists, but very focused on helping to solve problems and challenges of the bank related to data”, adds the manager.
The first prototype that has seen the light under this program is Annotify, a tool for labeling large data sets using active learning. This is an automated technique that allows the person who is tagging data to know which ones have the most valuable tags and therefore the data that is most worth tagging.
artificial intelligence experts
Along with the innovation that has earned them the recognition of Fast Company, Francisco Maturana mentions two other pillars on which the work model of this center is based, aimed at “iterate quickly and learn from our mistakes”.
One of these axes is its definition as “agile organization”teams organized by projects, flexible and with a high technological component, in which self-leadership is encouraged.
At AI Factory they have created a structure called “chapters” where, in addition to being grouped by line of business, professionals are linked according to the discipline to which they belong. “In the forums of each discipline, people have a space for growth, mentoring and learning,” says the head of this center.
The other pillar of its work model is the “alignment with the priorities of the bank’s different businessesbeing an active part of the portfolio of data projects in Spain and Mexico”.
The average age of the team members is 35 years. In total, IA Factory has more than fifty professionals from various branches of science and engineering with knowledge in artificial intelligence. They also incorporate expert profiles in digital product, talent management or communication, among others
In the field of development, they also collaborate with people from other companies, both from the BBVA group and from third-party companies. “We are a group of roughly 180 professionals sharing the same philosophy and the same work model”, defends Maturana.
All this in order to achieve one of its main objectives: “to understand what is the optimal way to accompany our clients in improving their financial health”.
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