CaixaBank CIO Pere Nebot discusses modernizing business operations for an enhanced, customer-centric experience

As a leading financial group in Spain, CaixaBank has long been an innovator by taking a technology-first approach by placing innovation, digital transformation, customer experience and sustainable banking at the forefront of its strategy. The bank reportedly serves 20 million customers and is a country leader in digital banking with more than 11 million customers.

For years, the bank has been part of IBM’s growing ecosystem of financial institutions and technology partners leveraging IBM Cloud for Financial Services to help deliver more improved customer services and products better tailored to each individual customer’s financial needs. CaixaBank is continuing its initiative to increase cloud absorption. With reporting more than 200 billion transactions at the end of 2022, CaixaBank understands how critical it is to scale securely, increase operational efficiency and accelerate time to market to optimize digital banking experiences—all while safeguarding customers’ data.

This week IBM opened the doors to our latest Multi Zone Region (MZR) in Madrid, Spain, designed to help European companies accelerate their modernization journey. The MZR can help deliver resiliency, performance and security to help clients leverage hybrid cloud and AI solutions in a secured environment. Furthermore, IBM Cloud’s operations in the MZR in Madrid, Spain uses a network of data centers backed by 100% renewable electricity.

We spoke with Pere Nebot, Chief Information Officer of CaixaBank, on how IBM Cloud has served as a catalyst for digital transformation as the bank strives to integrate simplicity into its innovation to build products and services that financially empower its clients.

The digital transformation journey can be challenging to integrate new platforms and applications quickly and seamlessly, especially with increasing security complexities and evolving regulatory and compliance standards. How can financial institutions overcome these challenges to build trusted and established digital brands that deliver the experiences that customers need?

CaixaBank focuses on improving the flexibility, scalability, and efficiency of its IT infrastructure, an approach which enables us to improve cost efficiency, potentially diversify outsourcing, reduce time-to-market, increase timing of versions, and become more resilient.

For example, the bank successfully and reliably completed the largest technological integration in the history of the Spanish banking system with its merger with Bankia in 2021 – all without any service interruption. This was a milestone that involved the migration of 10.4 petabytes of information in less than 24 hours, and the digitalization of more than 2,500 million documents, as well as setting a capacity to manage up to 29,000 transactions per second.  

When it comes to infrastructure, we know any system downtime has real-world consequences and costs. During an integration process, data can be in transit in multiple places, ultimately making it vulnerable to fraud and other sophisticated cybersecurity schemes. Cybersecurity pressures will always be present, and therefore, financial institutions need the right ecosystem of partners to seamlessly help navigate these challenges and build trusted platforms and services that are beyond the boundaries of a traditional bank. These partners must also be compliant as the financial services industry is inundated with stringent regulatory laws. Leveraging IBM Cloud for Financial Services provides the built-in security and compliance controls for us to host applications and migrate mission critical workloads in the cloud with confidence and improve operational efficiencies to provide seamless and frictionless customer experiences.

We view the next chapter of digital transformation as harnessing the combined power of hybrid cloud and AI to help drive growth and performance in an industry landscape rife with new and nimble digital competitors. How is CaixaBank leveraging both technologies to successfully integrate and execute simplicity into innovation?

CaixaBank and IBM have been working together for over a decade to help drive new solutions for the banking industry with a goal of increasing speed for processing a large number of transactions in an open, secured, and scalable environment. To accomplish this, we need to continue to maintain the highest levels of operational efficiency to successfully deliver an ecosystem of products, services and hyper-personalized experiences tailored to each customer’s financial needs. It is important to remember that simplicity means making decisions easier for our customers, which leads to generating more engagement with them.

Our collaboration with IBM has helped us combine our current technological infrastructures with an updated environment that helps evolve core business applications with cloud and artificial intelligence. We developed one of the first virtual banking assistants created in Europe. Built with IBM Watson, the AI-based virtual assistant manages millions of client conversations each month, handling tasks such as helping bank employees quickly obtain relevant detailed information about new client offerings and assisting mobile customers via chat with day-to-day queries.

The IBM Cloud Multizone Region (MZR) is a key milestone to keep offering our customers the best user experience we can, while maintaining the highest levels of information confidentiality and protection.

CaixaBank’s IT company, called CaixaBank Tech, also serves as a key enabler for digital transformation. CaixaBank Tech incorporates most of CaixaBank Group’s specialized technology and systems teams to help facilitate the attraction and retention of internal and external talent.

Financial institutions and its stakeholders have focused more attention on climate change, thrusting sustainability requirements even more firmly into the spotlight. Sustainability strategies must be impactful and realistic. How is CaixaBank mobilizing sustainability efforts to help its clients transition to a sustainable and low-carbon economy?

CaixaBank has roots in delivering social impact for the benefit of society through its mission in helping customers improve their financial well-being. The bank has developed a Sustainable Banking Plan, which includes proposals to solve sustainability challenges such as inequality, climate change and unemployment.

CaixaBank aims to mobilize €64 billion in sustainable finance by 2024, including financing and growth in mutual funds, pension plans and sustainable intermediation. In the first year of the plan’s life, the mobilization rate has increased by 27%, from €18.53bn in 2021 to €23.58bn in 2022.

The bank has also set the goal of reducing the electricity holdings in its portfolio by 30%, and the absolute emissions financed by the oil and gas sector by 23% by 2030. Currently, these two sectors as a whole account for 70% of global emissions.

CaixaBank views cloud as a valuable asset in accelerating sustainability transformation. Unification of the bank’s dedicated private clouds is also helping the bank not only reduce operating costs and work in a more agile way, but also improve its energy efficiency.

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