Following are excerpts from a CNBC interview with Francisco González, BBVA's Group Executive Chairman and CNBC's Steve Sedgwick and Geoff Cutmore from the World Economic Forum 2018.
GC: Francisco González is with us, the Group Executive Chairman of BBVA. Good to see you this morning, thanks for joining us-,
FG: Thank you.
GC: Just-, can we just get a response from you on this? The-, the-, the Parliamentary Speaker has proposed Carles Puigdemont as President. The government, clearly, is not very happy about this. Does it, again, raise issues around the way Spanish banks, and Spanish businesses, are going to have to deal with this ongoing crisis?
FG: Not at all. I think the Catalonian process is-, is done. The government has enforced the law, under the Spanish Constitution, and there is no way for Catalonia to be independent. So, it's a-, it's a pity what has happened, because independence has, in my view, misled their voters, promising a lot of unachievable things, and they have-, and they have frustrated the emotions of many people. So, it's gone. There will be, of course, a lot of fuss, but it is impossible for Catalonia not to be in Spain, so-,
SS: Sir, and I'm not wishing to take away the ardor for nationalism, but for me, from the outside, the key moment seemed to be when all those huge companies, or even the smaller companies, said, 'Right, okay, if you're going to be independent, we're going to move our HQ out of Catalonia.'
SS: So, you've gone from being a rich, corporate-heavy part of the country, to having a lot less corporates, and a lot less economic wealth, potentially-,
SS: That, for me, seemed like a key moment.
FG: Yes, it's not easy to understand, but a lot of companies have left Catalonia, but the legal headquarters-,
SS: Yes. Exactly.
FG: That-, so, I don't think there will be any particular effect in the Catalonian economy.
SS: But, for the Exchequer of an independent Catalonia, they-, those companies wouldn't have their money based there.
FG: Yes, so, there will be a time of fuss and noise, but-, of course, the economy is suffering a little bit in Catalonia, a couple of decimals, but nothing real, because, in the last elections-,
SS: Sir, let's-,
FG: Independence have lost ground.
SS: Let's move on from that, I want to talk about you, actually-,
SS: Because I, and Geoffrey, chatted to you two years ago, and you opened my eyes a little bit, about the threat that you face, not from other banks, but from fintech, as well, and you said, 'We've got to get with it.' Two years later, how's that going?
FG: Yes. You know that we have been working on the digital process for two years now, now we are reaping the benefits. This year, 50% of our clientele will be digital. That means a lot of things. They are very happy, and digital customers give us 2.4 more profits, or revenues, I would say, margins, really, than the conventional ones, and they are extremely happy. So, we are advancing very rapidly in this transformation process, and the world is going in that direction.
GC: How's the world going to look for you, do you think, 2018? It does feel as though there's now a-, a tailwind, for European economies. How will BBVA fare?
FG: You know, the economy is gathering momentum, really, Europe is-, you know, is in good shape, and Spain is in good shape, as well, in terms of the economy. So, BBVA will perform very well, not just in the financial, which is important metrics, but in the transformation process, which, for us, is-, is really the-, is the real target. So, I feel it's going to be a very good year for BBVA.
GC: Mm. And in terms of the-, I mean, the old problems, about debts lingering in the system, you feel Spain has done enough now, and is well away from the crisis?
FG: Yes. Spain has done a very good job, in my view. They started-, well, Spain started in 2012, leveraging the financial system, addressing the banking system problems, the several problems, and now the situation is quite normal and calm
GC: Alright. We've got to let you go. Francisco, nice to see you, thanks very much for coming along.
FG: Thank you to you.
GC: Francisco González, the Group Executive Chairman of BBVA.