Caja Navarra: Pioneers in Civic Banking

In northern Spain, there’s a bank that really gets branding. It’s called Caja Navarra, or CAN for short, and they could show community banks in the United States a thing or two about what’s really possible with “community banking.”

They didn’t just slap a bunch of generic principles together and call it a brand strategy. CAN has wrapped itself entirely around one, two-word concept: Civic Banking. The brand strategy is built solely around transparency, accountability and, above all, social responsibility.

Never before has 36kr seen a bank so fully embrace a singular idea as much as CAN, for which Caja Navarra earns itself a Breakthrough Brand Award. In fact, there’s so many ways in which Caja Navarra lives out it’s “civic banking” strategy that it’s hard to find them all (much less remember to write about them).

The CAN website starts by detailing five “rights” they believe their customers are entitled to:

  1. Know how much money the bank makes off of them.
  2. Know and decide how customers’ deposits are put to work by the bank.
  3. Determine how the bank’s profits are used to support socially-responsible projects.
  4. Know what progress is being made by the socially-responsible projects the bank supports.
  5. Help out by volunteering — giving their time and energy (not just their money) to socially-responsible programs.

You’d expect CAN, a bank centered around the community, to utilize social media…and they do. You can find Caja Navarra on and Friendfeed. And they are active — very active. They’ve tweeted over 2,000 times and have more than 500 followers. They have over 250 photos on Flickr.

The bank also has what it touts as “the largest social network in Spain,” including the CAN Civic Banking Community, where there are over 1,000 blogs about various socially-responsible projects.

The bank has more social networks (maybe too many to count). Here are some of the bank’s proprietary social media projects, all bearing the Caja Navarra brand:

  • Volcan – more than 10,000 volunteers look for- and participate in volunteering opportunities in Spain or around the world
  • Eurecan – network and community of entrepreneurs, including its own blog
  • Tribucan – educational community
  • Pluralcan – dedicated to helping women in the workplace
  • Estoyenlista.com – a hybrid P2P lending effort

It’s not all just about the online community though. The bank has around that are fully mobile and will come to people’s homes. The bank has also redesigned its branches to function as community spaces. Anyone can walk in and surf the net for free. And one day a week, each branch hosts a public event like

Customers Control the Profits

With CAN’s “You Choose, You Decide” program, customers can choose up to three general categories or specific projects within them. There are nine different categories: disability and welfare, research, cooperation, environment, employment and entrepreneurs, culture, preservation of heritage, sports and leisure. Customers can submit a project, or review other projects to see which ones they’d like to support.

Each time a customer gets a product or service from Caja Navarra, they choose where the profits will be spent, making customers feel with the bank and their community.

80% of customers choose where and how are used. Last year 500,000 CAN customers decided how EUR 50 million would be distributed to over 2,700 projects. As of 2005, CAN customers decide where

In an effort to be completely transparent, CAN sends each customer an annual statement showing how much the bank made in profits, and what, exactly, the bank did with those profits.

Feedback & Measurement

CAN created an online survey so they can hear from customers how well they are doing with delivering on their ideals. It’s a great survey, and worth a look.

They also took the standard, academic, predictable survey questions you’d expect and phrased them in a way customers can actually relate to, an accomplishment that’s all the more impressive when you realize English isn’t this bank’s native language. One question with a 1-10 rating scale reads, “”At CAN, they are grateful when I complain or demand explanations for a mistake they have committed.”

There’s another section of the website where you are invited to “vialoga” with Can. It’s another feedback mechanism, where customers are asked questions like, “What would you do if you were the manager/manageress of a branch of CAN?”

Reality Check: You can say your brand is about anything you like, but if you aren’t measuring yourself according to the principles you espouse — like CAN is doing — then your brand strategy is basically meaningless.

Bottom Line: Between 2001 and 2007 Caja Navarra moved 20th to 12th in after-tax profits, and from 16th to 5th in margin per employee compared to other Spanish banks.

The Caja Navarra Website
You can get lost exploring all the various aspects, angles and components of “Civic Banking” on the CAN website, which has almost entirely been translated into English.


Virtual Host
Despite being both helpful and quite charming, the website’s ever-present virtual host cannot be muted so you may hear the same recording many times.

Caja Navarra’s “Civic Banking Community
Just one of the successful and vibrant online social media sites the bank has created.


Community Facilities
Customers can reserve and use special community meeting rooms in CAN’s 400 branch locations, what the bank calls “Cancha Offices.” There’s a cool, interactive tour of the facilities online, but it’s in Spanish.


Interactive History
One of the coolest interactive histories you’ll ever see for a financial institution.


Cancha Magazine
Cancha is CAN’s magazine about civic banking. It is solely focused on the bank’s values and how it lives them out. Cancha has multiple definitions and connotations. It can mean something like a “forum,” a “stadium” or a “field.” It can also mean “your element” (as in “está en su cancha,” or “he’s in his element, as well as a rough translation to “street cred.” Whatever the case, CAN has Cancha. Lots of it.

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