The new CaixaBank started up just 10 days ago after the absorption of Bankia and its CEO, Gonzalo Gortázar, has already outlined some details on the strategy of the largest bank in Spain to face the profitability problems of the traditional business due to the negative interest rates. The main executive of the entity has defended in an event organized by ‘El Confidencial’ that the traditional activity of deposits and mortgages no longer works and has opted to grow through new businesses.
“The business of taking deposits and giving mortgages does not work with negative interest rates,” said Gortázar in a discussion where he coincided with the deputy governor of the Bank of Spain, Margarita Delgado. The CEO of CaixaBank has indicated that “today” the function of taking deposits “makes us lose money”. And it considers that this loss is only cushioned “in part” with the granting of loans. “We want them to bring the money to the bank but you see that something does not work if such an important function is not profitable, but quite the opposite,” stressed the manager.
Gortázar has acknowledged that before the pandemic the market was counting on a rise in interest rates soon, but now the situation is different. “We have been with negative rates for five years and the market expects there to be at least another five,” stated the CEO of CaixaBank. To this he added that, with the current demographic and economic model of the euro zone, “you have to think that interest rates are going to be very low for life.”
In this sense, Gortázar has pointed out that a consequence of this monetary policy is that it affects the profitability of the bank, although he has clarified that he prefers “these secondary effects” to a “disease” due to a credit crisis, as happened after the bursting of the housing bubble. This means that “the return on credit production is not enough to compensate for losses on deposits” and therefore advocates “seeking new income for the banking system.”
“We have to broaden the vision outside the box, so that the numbers add up. If not, we can only continue cutting costs and dwarfing ourselves, and that, in the end, is a trip to zero”, defended Gortázar during the discussion. The manager has recognized that the way of charging more commissions to clients so that the bank offices remain open “do not make practical sense” because “people do not accept them and do not understand them.”
It is at this point where the CEO of CaixaBank is committed to “offering more things” to customers, in order to find new revenue streams for banking. In this way, he advocates moving from a “banking services” company to a “financial services” platform. This section includes activities such as insurance or investment funds. In both businesses, CaixaBank has seen its dominance position strengthened with the absorption of Bankia. “We have to find a joint package that works,” said the manager.
These activities are the ones that are moving the banking sector in recent years since they allow new income in commissions for the management of their clients’ assets, compared to income from interest on loans that is in decline. More than a quarter of the fees charged by banks in 2020 already came from investment funds, pension plans or insurance.
To these businesses, Gortázar has indicated that others are being added in the bank in recent times, such as activities “more at the limit” of the financial business field such as mobile financing or renting. The sale of alarms also appears among the attractive businesses for CaixaBank, where it has an alliance with Securitas Direct. All these activities, he pointed out, “already offer us almost 100 million euros in the income statement”.