Building a Global Bank: The Transformation of Banco Santander

Building a Global Bank: The Transformation of Banco Santander

Building a Global Bank: The Transformation of Banco Santander

Building a Global Bank: The Transformation of Banco Santander


In 2004, Spain's Banco Santander purchased Britain's Abbey National Bank in a deal valued at fifteen billion dollars--an acquisition that made Santander one of the ten largest financial institutions in the world. Here, Mauro Guillén and Adrian Tschoegl tackle the question of how this once-sleepy, family-run provincial bank in a developing economy transformed itself into a financial-services group with more than sixty-six million customers on three continents.

Founded 150 years ago in the Spanish port city of the same name, Santander is the only large bank in the world where three successive generations of one family have led top management and the board of directors. But Santander is fully modern. Drawing on rich data and in-depth interviews with family members and managers, Guillén and Tschoegl reveal how strategic decisions by the family and complex political, social, technological, and economic forces drove Santander's unprecedented rise to global prominence. The authors place the bank in this competitive milieu, comparing it with its rivals in Europe and America, and showing how Santander, faced with growing competition in Spain and Europe, sought growth opportunities in Latin America and elsewhere. They also address the complexities of managerial succession and family leadership, and weigh the implications of Santander's stellar rise for the consolidation of European banking.

Building a Global Bank tells the fascinating story behind this powerful corporation's remarkable transformation--and of the family behind it.


Although many people consider finance to be a purely global activity, commercial banking does not naturally lend itself to cross-border expansion, for reasons having to do with the many economic, regulatory, political, and cultural barriers that continue to fragment markets along national lines. Perhaps this is the best reason to write a book about Banco Santander, one of the few banks that has managed to overcome such daunting obstacles. Moreover, Banco Santander has done so within a strikingly short period of time and while working from its headquarters in Spain, a country that does not normally come to mind as a financial powerhouse.

Santander stands as a stark reminder that, in the global economy, structural disadvantages can be circumvented in creative ways. Its rapid rise to global prominence as one of the world's top ten banks also indicates that bold, decisive action and a willingness to take calculated risks in an industry undergoing rapid transformations are what distinguishes the leaders from the followers.

Writing this book has taken us to different parts of the world and forced us to familiarize ourselves with developments not only in banking but also in politics and the economy more generally. Our foremost gratitude is to the bankers, executives, policymakers, regulators, and scholars who agreed to be interviewed. We are also indebted to the colleagues who saved us from failures of reasoning and factual inaccuracies, including José Manuel Campa of iese Business School, Julio García-Cobos of Universidad Carlos iii de Madrid and pq Axis, and Esteban García-Canal of Universidad de Oviedo. the two anonymous reviewers for Princeton University Press provided us with an embarrassment of riches in terms of suggestions for improvement, as did our editor, Tim Sullivan.

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