The King is dead.
That’s what I thought when I heard that Emilio Botin, Chairman of Banco Santander, had died. Botin had been running Santander—based in Madrid, Spain—since 1986. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had all been bankers. He took what was then a sleepy, regional bank and built it into one of the largest banks in the world. He was a canny manager, acquiring Sovereign Bank in the northeastern United States for $3 / share in late 2008, when it might have cost $40 / share in 2006. And Santander weathered the Financial Crisis well, never taking a bailout, and never cutting its hefty dividend.
His daughter Patricia has been selected to succeed him, becoming the fourth generation of that family to run the bank. She’s generally well-regarded, having managed the Spanish, Latin American, and UK subgroups. She’s considered a detail-obsessed hard-nosed executive, who has never forgotten that in 1999 she was forced out of the family business for a few years due to some ill-timed press coverage during a critical acquisition.
Source: Grupo Sandander
It remains to be seen how Botin will address the challenging banking landscape going forward. She may have gotten the top job through hard work, determination, and leadership—as well as her family’s heritage. But now that she’s the first woman to lead a top-20 global bank, we’ll have to see where she takes it. With Apple Pay, Google Wallet, peer-to-peer lending, and a host of other tech-based tools available, many analysts are asking what banks are good for. If they become highly regulated depository and payment utilities, it’s hard to see where their growth will come from.
Spain’s top banker, a charismatic, articulate executive has been succeeded by his daughter, another a charismatic, articulate leader. It’s likely there will soon be another crisis that tests her.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
Leave a comment if you have any questions—I read them all!