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Banks are facing a new breed of competitor, BBVA chairman says

Key Points
  • Francisco Gonzalez said that it is tech firms, both large and small, that the banking industry should be monitoring – and not other financial institutions.
  • One of the biggest challenges for the banking system is adapting to the fast-changing tech world, with digital currencies and online banking taking center stage.
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Banks need to start paying more attention to the technology sector as this is where their future competitors lie, the executive chairman of Spanish lender BBVA said Wednesday.

Francisco Gonzalez said that it is tech firms, both large and small, that the banking industry should be monitoring – and not other financial institutions.

"Our competitors are not going to be the banks, generally speaking. It's going to be the big techs and some start-ups," Gonzalez told CNBC's Joumanna Bercetche in Brussels.

"This is the new league of competitors we are envisaging in the future. So we are focused on that and investing — investing every year in order to be more efficient."

One of the biggest challenges for the banking system is adapting to the fast-changing tech world, with digital currencies and online banking taking center stage.

BBVA, was the first global bank to issue a corporate loan using blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies. In April, the Spanish bank loaned 75 million euros ($87.95 million) and blockchain reduced negotiations from days to hours.

BBVA Group has more than 24 million digital customers and 19.3 million mobile customers. CEO Carlos Torres Vila said earlier this month that 36 percent of the lender's customers use mobile banking and that 45 percent are digital customers.

"In the coming months, we expect this (digital) number to go over the 50 percent threshold, and for 2019 we should reach a 50 percent figure for mobile customers," he said.