CEO of EVO Banco
“Compared with mortgages, other banking businesses have always been subject to very low risk and very high profits, as in the case of bank cards or consumer finance”
Are you optimistic about the Spanish economic situation?
It’s improving but I am still a little skeptical. One way of measuring the improvement is by looking at the level of employment, which is unlikely to be at the levels shown by official unemployment figures but neither is it likely to be where it should. Another way of measuring it is based on average consumer confidence and the mood among the population, which is currently cautious. We are seeing more saving and less consumption than we would want. When we manage to reduce these barriers, we will be able to claim that the economy is really going well. We will manage it.
Should there be even more concentration of the banking market in Spain?
From the perspective of our customers, it is not necessary and wouldn’t be a good thing. From the point of view of our financial entities’ income statements, it could bring improvements. I imagine that concentration will take place, because with such low interest rates in the financial market margins are very tight, and concentration provides a potential solution that might ensure the survival of enterprises that are at risk. Moreover, the sector’s model needs substantial restructuring. It isn’t necessary to follow a model based on having thirty-five thousand branches when customers need to visit them less and less.
What do you think of the prospects for a capital markets union in the EU?
The main risk is that it won’t be done properly. Ultimately, it’s a case of more haste, less speed: the big decisions have to be really well thought over, and the options for creating and undoing this work have to be analyzed very thoroughly. That said, the broader and more transparent the markets are, and the greater the access to capital (no matter where it comes from), the better the impact on economic growth.
What is the banking business like when interest rates are so low?
Difficult or exciting, depending on your perspective. Success depends on being capable of providing products that offer customers an alternative and involve very limited production costs so that these costs do not have to be passed on in the form of commissions: it has to be possible to work with the prices and offer made. In Spain, banks have competed a great deal in the very traditional market of mortgages. Compared with mortgages, other banking businesses have always enjoyed very high profits, as in the case of bank cards or consumer finance, with very low risk. The default rates of 3 to 4 percent sustained by banks in consumer financing are not good enough.
How can Spain encourage venture capital?
When we can manage to understand that some entities very much need to be financed to a level of 15 or 20 percent at some point because it will allow them to grow and develop in a spectacular way, or at least avoid a very complicated system, venture capital, private equity, will evolve in the right way. Venture capital solves very complex problems where banks don’t want to get involved and businesspeople need somebody to support them. It isn’t just a question of providing finance: it also helps solve the problem with experience in facing complicated situations. It is help that might be considered expensive —but it probably isn’t.