At a Glance
Going high tech and ongoing growth
Opportunities outside the Spanish-speaking world are limited
"Well managed, relatively unscathed—have had a good credit crunch"
"Shrewd management entering this crisis, but I worry about their Spanish exposure"
"Outstanding retail bank; up and coming"
"Not too sophisticated"
About Banco Santander S.A.
An equilibrium of businesses
The Madrid-based Banco Santander is one of the largest banks in the world. It has nearly 171,000 employees, more than 14,000 branches and 90 million customers. In 2008, it made €8.9 billion in profits, making it one of the five most profitable banks in the world. It also won several awards during the year. Euromoney named Santander the Best Bank in the World in 2008, marking the second time in four years the bank won this prize. The magazine also named Santander the Best Bank in the United Kingdom, Best Regional Bank in Latin America, Best Bank in Project Finance in Latin America, and Best Bank in several other countries (including Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina).
In terms of geographic presence, Santander's global business is divided into three main areas: Continental Europe, which encompasses all of the group's retail banking, asset management, insurance, and wholesale banking businesses in Europe; the United Kingdom, where the bank is the third largest in the country after doubling retail outlet presence in 2008; and Latin America, where the bank is the largest financial institution, conducting business through subsidiaries and affiliated banks in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. In 2008, Banco Santander expanded its presence in North America, with the purchase of Sovereign Bank, a large retail bank in the northeast U.S. with about 750 branch offices.
The bank's operations are focused on retail banking, wholesale banking, asset management, insurance and private banking. In addition, the banking group has key business practices in investment banking, investment and pension funds, corporate banking, treasury and capital markets. The banking group boasts of a global customer base of 90 million customers.
More than 150 years of banking
Santander's history began on 15 May 1857, when then reigning Queen Isabel II signed a royal decree that authorised the incorporation of the founding of the bank. Spain's presence (and colonisation) in Latin American was culminating at the time, and from its beginning, Santander was linked to trade between its namesake port (Santander in the north of Spain) and the fast-growing trade and industry of Latin America.
Santander spent the first half of the 20th century buying up scores of Spanish banks, and not only did it survive the Spanish Civil War and the two World Wars, the bank actually grew at an accelerated pace throughout all of Europe's instability. In the 10 years between 1900 and 1919, Santander doubled the scale of its balance sheet and made heads turn when its earning power topped that of the average among the country's finance houses in 1917. Between 1919 and 1939 (the year the Spanish Civil War ended), Santander experienced what the group describes as a crucial point in its evolution, beginning with a move into the famous neoclassical building Paseo de Pereda in Santander, then developing a network of branches both within and beyond the province.
In 1934, Emilio Botín Sanz de Sautuola y López was appointed managing director of Santander bank, and in 1950, he was appointed chairman. After that, he led an impressive expansion (including a further series of acquisitions) of the bank throughout the country, which continued for two decades. Santander's first regional office in the Americas was opened in Havana in 1947. Offices in Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela followed, and in 1956, Santander formally established a Latin American department.
When Santander celebrated its 100th birthday in 1957, it was the seventh-largest finance house in Spain. During the late 1980s, it expanded in European, beginning with the acquisition of CC-Bank in Germany and the purchase of a stake in a Portuguese bank (through which it formed an alliance with the Royal Bank of Scotland). Santander's historical 1994 acquisition of rival firm Banesto is what, finally, after 137 years in business, made it the No. 1 bank in Spain. Major flurries of Latin American and Continental European expansion followed in the years since then. In 2004, Santander relocated its operating headquarters from central Madrid to a purpose-built complex in Boadilla del Monte, on the outskirts of the city.
The millennium chug
When Spanish banking giants Santander and Banco Central Hispano merged right before the turn of the millennium, the deal marked the first massive banking consolidation of the new century—and perhaps foreshadowed the mergers and acquisitions that would unfold over the next decade. While Santander's business focus has traditionally been in Latin America, the banking group made headlines in 2004 when it paid €12.5 billion for Britain's then-debt-ridden and financially suffering Abbey Bank. At the time, the deal was the biggest ever cross-border purchase of a European retail bank. After Santander implemented a cost-cutting plan and revenue initiatives, the group reported net profits for Abbey in 2007 of €1.2 billion—not a bad turnaround for a once-struggling high street retail bank. The Abbey acquisition in 2004 made the Spanish banking giant the No. 1 bank in the Eurozone by market capitalisation—a position it still maintained in 2007.
The most highly publicized of Santander's shopping sprees was its October 2007 purchase of iconic Dutch banking giant ABN Amro. Santander was part of a buying consortium made up of now-fallen Belgian banking giant Fortis and the Royal Bank of Scotland. As a result of the long-drawn out acquisition—which triggered a prime-time bidding war; Britain's Barclays Group was a key contender for the Dutch banking group as well—Santander ended up landing the South American prize it had been eyeing up all along. Further strengthening its already tight grip on South American's banking sector, Santander picked up ABN Amro's Brazilian banking business, Banco Real, making the Spanish banking giant one of the top three banks in Brazil. A month after Santander signed on the Brazilian bank, while it was on a dealmaking roll, Santander also famously acquired Italian bank Antonveneta, and then turned around and sold it to the Italian bank Monte dei Paschi, earning a whopping €2.3 billion profit in the deal.
At the end of 2007, while the world's financial industry began feeling the pain of the US subprime crisis and looming global financial crisis kicking in, Santander posted net profits of â‚¬9.06 billion, making it the fifth-largest bank in the world by profit.
Ciudad Grupo Santander
Boadilla del Monte
Phone: +34 91 289 90 08
Employer Type: Public
Stock Symbol: BNC, STD
Stock Exchange: LSE, NYSE
Chairman: Emilio BotÃn
2010 Employees (All Locations): 170,264