BBVA, Accenture Bringing Real-Time Banking to the U.S.

Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA), Spain’s second-biggest bank, completed a $362 million project with help from Accenture Plc (ACN) that brings so-called real-time banking to its U.S. customers, speeding up transactions.

The technology, which the company already uses in the rest of the world, allows customer transactions to be recorded immediately instead of in delayed batches. The move will help BBVA cut processing costs by as much as 20 percent, said Sergio Fidalgo, chief information officer for the bank’s U.S. unit.

The change also gives BBVA an edge over U.S. rivals, which haven’t embraced the approach. Banks have been hesitant to change their core technology because switching can be risky, vulnerable to delays and disruptive for customers, Fidalgo said.

“We realized that there is an opportunity in the banking industry here in the United States (X) mainly because of technology,” he said in an interview. “By the time these other banks will be ready to move, we will have leadership.”

The Bilbao-based company owns BBVA Compass, which has 716 branches in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Texas. Real-time systems will let branches open a new account in as little as 5 minutes, BBVA said. The $362 million figure represents BBVA’s internal and external costs, including payments to Accenture.

Trend Beginning?

Accenture sees the project as a way to spur other U.S. banks to adopt real-time transactions. BBVA will act as a showcase for the technology’s benefits, said Bruce Voelker, senior managing director for financial services at Accenture, a consulting firm incorporated in Dublin.

“A number of banks are looking at core replacement,” he said. “It’s hopefully one that will start a trend.”

The traditional approach of batch processing made more sense when people relied heavily on checks, said Bart Narter, a senior vice president of the banking group at research firm Celent in San Francisco. Now that more transactions are electronic, it’s more practical to process them in real time.

As other banks transition to the technology, it could generate billions for companies like Accenture, Narter said.

“It’s basically the rest of the banks in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s a huge market opportunity.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Frier in New York at sfrier1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net

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