The Innovators 2020: Latin America

Banco do Brasil’s investment in digital transformation has helped it maintain service to clients and keep liquidity flowing during the Covid-19 crisis.

A shift to digital culture is part of corporate strategy at Banco do Brasil, our 2020 Most Innovative Bank in Latin America.And this has served the bank—and its clients—well, as they work through an unprecedented period of social isolation.

“Over 95% of our service is remote, through channels like mobile,” says Gustavo Fosse, IT director at Banco do Brasil. “Our digital strategy ensured the expansion of remote service, with a complete portfolio of services via chat, such as Talk to BB,’ and services via WhatsApp and social networks. We had an increase of 1.7 million customers on our app in just over a month. The average number of new users per day in April was 358% higher than the total observed in the previous six months.”

The bank has also been working to keep its clients—representing much of Brazilian business—liquid during the crisis. All five of Brazil’s largest banks were able to negotiate a 60-day extension on debts due in the coming months. Between March 16 and April 30, Banco do Brasil directed 25.8 billion Brazilian reals (about $4.8 billion) in resources to small and medium-sized enterprises, of which R$3.6 billion was new credit and R$22.1 billion represented renewals and credit extensions.

In addition, the bank launched the MPE Voucher, a solution connecting those who need to sell with those who want to buy, to support small businesses. Larger companies were disbursed R$35.5 billion. “There was an increase in demand for working capital resources by companies in the sectors that were most affected by the retraction in economic activity, and for investment to expand the service [in response] to the immediate increase in demand,” says Fosse.

But the Covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic crisis have reinforced Banco do Brasil’s commitment to digitization. “We have been in a strong process of transformation for some years,” says Fosse. “A change in mindset is reflected in the way teams work, which today is to think, act and build together.”

Banco do Brasil is connected to a fintech ecosystem, which it recognizes as a path to innovation. “With this, we are promoting events to exchange experiences and create connections with startups and innovation entrepreneurs,” says Fosse, “as well as establishing partnerships with accelerators of startups to generate solutions on different IT fronts, such as analytics, cybersecurity, Internet of Things, cashback and social listening.”

The bank has its own innovation department, which aids IT in research and prospecting of new technologies and trends. “This content is disseminated periodically for the entire bank,” says Fosse, “in addition to providing support and being one of the bases for new corporate strategies.”

Intelligent Connectivity

With 16 million users on its app, which has a 4.7 rating on both the Apple and the Google stores, Banco do Brasil is using innovation to improve its customer experience, Fosse says. One innovation it considers critical is voice assistants. It launched its application in Google Assistant in December 2019, and in late 2019 it adapted the Google Assistant app to fit with the Google Nest Mini, which was then launching in Brazil.

“We will soon launch a new version of this application,” says Fosse, “which will have new features based on interaction by voice commands, such as balance and savings statements and investment funds.”

Banco do Brasil is looking beyond its home market with plans to launch the app in another language beyond Portuguese and English. Says Fosse, “We believe that the major technological trends that will promote a disruption in business models in Latin America are virtual assistants integrated with the Internet of Things, with intelligent assistants linked to home automation.” As an example, he cites Google Nest Mini and Alexa, which can control air conditioning temperature to reduce electricity bills.

Agribusiness stands to benefit as well, Fosse adds, through “greater automation and use of artificial intelligence and integration into the blockchain for land marketing, tracking the origin of products, planning productivity and much more.”