Exclusive Interview with the director of Banco Cooperativo Español for Global Digital Banking Radar 2023

4 min read

Pablo Ruiz Correa, Director of Innovation and Digital Business Strategy at Banco Cooperativo Español (Grupo Caja Rural), describes how the banking group’s continuous digital transformation process helps them improve their value proposition for customers and stay competitive. This interview is a part of the upcoming Digital Reinvention Radar 2023 report, brought to you by the Digital Reinvention Community.

Q: Tell us more about your bank group.

A: Grupo Caja Rural comprises 30 cooperative banks and their undertakings (Banco Cooperativo Español, Rural Grupo Asegurador and Rural Servicios Informáticos), which together form the only cooperative banking group in Spain to follow in the footsteps of the continent's leading groups, such as the BVR Group in Germany, Crédit Agricole in France and the RZB Group in Austria. 

Q: Is the group currently going through a banking transformation process or has it taken up a project of this sort? If so, can you give us more details on the timeline, teams involved, initial aim, etc.

A: We are currently immersed in a continuous transformation process, especially focused on digital transformation. The main focus in the past three years has been the renewal of our online banking experience, building a new mobile banking app for retail banking clients, implementing digital marketing and growth capabilities, improving our onboarding processes, and implementing new data analytics capabilities.

In 2022, we launched a new group unit to focus on innovation and co-create new digital business initiatives. The main objective of this unit is to promote an open innovation strategy, develop new innovative initiatives through partnerships with FinTechs, and invest in startups. 

Q: What prompted this transformation process? What was the initial goal? Were you driven by any particular macro trends or competitive dynamics?

A: The transformation process began several years ago, as a consequence of several factors. In the first place, a continuous aim for improving our digital services and value proposition to our clients. The second key goal was to remain competitive in a landscape where traditional banks were also transforming to compete with digital banks, Bigtechs and new neo-bank players... 

Q: What does your competitive landscape look like in the transformation aspect? How do you position yourself against the competition?

A: The banking sector in Spain is very competitive and all financial entities are immersed in a similar digital transformation journey. Grupo Caja Rural is the best example in Spain of proximity banking. It contributes to the development of the regions in which we operate, reinvesting a large part of the profits obtained in the prosperity of local communities, in the form of both loans and social development projects. We have a well-established relationship with our customers through our more than 2,300 branches and a top-tier digital banking service with the aim of ensuring that customers are at the forefront of digital services

The Group has been proactively fighting against financial exclusion, not only not closing down local branches but even opening new ones every year. It benefits from the fact that it does not just operate based on profitability, but also strives to ensure that both members and our six million retail customers can continue to enjoy direct and personal banking services in the future.

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Q: What has been the impact of this transformation project so far? Can you specify what has changed and how?

A: We believe the digital transformation we are going through will have a very positive effect on our overall business performance, improve customer satisfaction and deliver cost efficiencies.  

Q: Are there any plans to include more business lines, or are there any future relevant transformation projects you can mention? What is Grupo Caja Rural’s vision for the future of financial services in this regard?

A: As our customers are becoming more digital, their needs and wants will continue to evolve. We believe we will need to increasingly allow them to service their own financial needs and provide them with value-added services, financial tools, and AI digital capabilities. However, without losing the proximity and human element which makes Grupo Caja Rural a unique banking experience.