I read yesterday that Carlos Torres Villa, whom I share with an incredibly intense and challenging time in McKinsey & CO, during the late nineties in Spain, has been appointed BBVA’s CEO.
BBVA whose origins go back till 1857, year of the incorporation of Banco Bilbao in this industrial city in the north of Spain, has grown over the years both organically and through mergers and acquisitions (first Banco Vizcaya in 1988 –also incorporated in Bilbao but “only” in 1901, and afterward Argentaria (an entity created in 1991 grouping all Spanish public banks at that time) in 1999 to become the second largest bank in Spain, first one in Mexico and third one in Venezuela and Peru. With a market capitalization of above US$60 billion (the 28th largest financial institution in terms of cap) and over 100,000 employees, BBVA, is a gigantic, successful institution and becoming the CEO of such a corporation, does not matter how you look at, qualifies as being successful, very successful.
Talking about success: as Diane von Furstenberg suitably said in an interview to the International New York Times on May 4 -and I quote: “So the first thing that success gives you is financial independence. That’s great. The second thing that success gives you is a voice. You have a voice. All of a sudden, people listen to you, pay attention to what you say. And what I feel is that if you acquired that, it is your duty, responsibility and also privilege to use that voice for people who have no voice. That’s my description of success.”
Fact is, very, very few people grow into top managers in large institutions (like Carlos Torres), or create a company, brand or product recognized and cherished decades afterwards (like Diane von Furstenberg). But can we really argue than only people like Carlos or Diane are successful, or there is something else (or different), that allows “regular people” to be considered successful?
If success is only measured as having enormous responsibilities and money (the more the better), or having a voice (in the terms described by Diane von Furstenberg), it is definitely not easy to reach that level. Being true to yourself, having fun at work – or at least having the feeling from time to time that we are making a difference-, enjoying friends and family, some economic security, should definitely be more than enough, shouldn’t it? Then why is it repeatedly not the case? Is, in the extreme, success a relevant measure of happiness or are we simply confusing things? Lots of questions and few answers… only some “food for thought” to start the day.