Twisha Shah-Brandenburg
Author - Twisha Shah-Brandenburg

Interview with Rob Brown, Global Head of Marketing, Design and Responsible at BBVA Article by Twisha Shah-Brandenburg

When was the turning point for service design in your organization where it became business as usual? Could you describe some key moments in that journey that led to your success.

I'm very fortunate to be a part of an organization that has been focused on digital transformation since 2007. Very few banks can claim this duration. We have a leadership team with a very clear vision for the future of banking that includes putting design at the very heart of everything we do.  


Since I joined the organisation in September of 2016, we have been building the service design function both within our corporate headquarters in Madrid but equally growing service design in all of our countries and our Creation Center in Dallas, Texas.  


Service design, for us, is a key component in over 37 projects globally in 2017 alone. We currently have 22 service designers with the bulk of the team in Madrid, Mexico City and Dallas. 


For me, the turning point at BBVA was when we instituted a "full triangle." The three vertices of the triangle represent the three minimum components we must have before a project kicks off; they are, design/data, engineering and a business lead.  


The turning point was not one specific event but rather the day we implemented the triangle and required a designer (or multiple designers depending on the size of the project) on all of our 800+ projects globally. We still have a long way to go to fulfilling this but we have the full support of our CEO, our chairman and our global leadership team to make this a reality. 




What do you provide to your leadership team to get support for an on-going internal team and resources that future service design leaders can learn from?  

We run quarterly "demo days" in every business and country where BBVA has a presence. In the demo days we showcase prototypes of all of our new projects and services for our customers, clients and colleagues.  


In Mexico City recently we "demo'd" 200 projects alone! And it's where we review the design component to ensure a user experience is nothing short of spectacular. And how do we know this, how do we gauge "spectacularism"?  


We ask our customers, clients and our colleagues to be a part of the process. I try to give the service designers ample opportunities to present to our executive leadership team. Designers are typically quite passionate about their projects and are often the closest to the new product or service.  


They can be very good at showcasing this passion in front of your leadership team. Also, designers love to learn. Don't forget to set aside some budget so your team can attend workshops outside of your company, attend classes or a conference. They can be great refreshers for the team.  




For a person(s) embarking on bringing service design to their organization what advice would you have for them to be successful?  

I love the moment when we a skeptical business owner or an executive sees the amazing outcome of the first prototype! Don't discount the benefit of a collaborative first project used as a path to building your service design team.  


Just asking for designers without the benefit of seeing the results can be a frustrating time consuming process. Take a risk. Offer to pay for the design resources out of your own budget (instead of the limited budget the business owner has compiled for the project).  


Also, developing strong training programs to educate non-designers on service design and design thinking can be incredibly powerful tool to help you build your team. At BBVA we have trained almost 500 non-designers on design thinking techniques including virtually all of our global executive team.


Once the leadership team of your organization has experienced the benefits of design in a hands-on workshop, it's typically easier to get your finance and HR team to open to the idea of adding headcount for creative types! 




What are the podcasts/books/blogs that you go to to stay inspired around service design? 

I worked in London for almost five years before arriving here in Madrid. During that time, I followed very closely the Digital and Design team blog at Gov.uk. If you can perform the wizardry and magic needed to transform in the public sector, especially the behemoth and bureaucratic UK government, well then transforming in the private sector, in banking should be a walk in the park, no? Well maybe not that easy but I still loved reading about the success Ben Terrett and the team at Gov.UK covered on the blog.  


I'm also an avid reader of Fast Company (I like the physical magazine) since its inception in the mid-90's. BBVA will one day make the cover as the most innovative company. Hell, I'd settle for most innovative bank...on the cover! Or even an inclusion in their endless lists of innovators and creators would be great! We'll get there. 


I don't have a favorite podcast or blog but rather I seek information on specific topics and then will read or listen to those most relevant. Recently, I listened to a Harvard Fintech podcast, one from IDEO and Fresh Tilled Soil, an agency in the US I've done some work with. 




What would you like to see happen for the future of service design in the Financial Sector?

In a previous role, I helped assemble an incredibly talented team of Service Designers. These guys were innovators—almost all of them had designed a product and brought it to market prior to arriving at our organisation. What I quickly learned from this group was how beautifully they blurred the line between design disciplines.  


They were not simply a visual designer, nor a UX'er, nor did they simply focus on design research. These guys did it all...and loved every minute of it. They wanted to be a part of every aspect of the insights and research, personally asking the questions. While asking they'd begin sketching visual depictions of early prototypes. Simultaneously, they'd also concentrate on building a brilliant user experience and here's the best part, they could even code. 


So all of a sudden, we were getting a 4-in-1 designer, somebody capable of end-to-end design and genuinely enjoyed it. And it was just the beginning. 




Be sure to see Rob at a roundtable discussion at the upcoming 2017 SDN Global Conference



Check out other conversations at 5by5.blog


“For me, the turning point at BBVA was when we instituted a "full triangle." The three vertices of the triangle represent the three minimum components we must have before a project kicks off; they are, design/data, engineering and a business lead. The turning point was not one specific event but rather the day we implemented the triangle and required a designer (or multiple designers depending on the size of the project) on all of our 800+ projects globally” —Rob Brown

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