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Santander was founded in 1857. Learn about the Bank’s history over more than 160 years
On 15 May 1857, Queen Isabella II of Spain signed a Royal Decree authorising the incorporation of Banco Santander – initially to facilitate trade between the Port of Santander, in northern Spain, and Latin America.
Between 1900 and 1919, we doubled the size of our balance sheet, increased our capital to 10 million pesetas, and raised our revenue (posting nearly half a million pesetas in earnings in 1917), with above-average profitability for a Spanish credit institution at the time. The same period saw the founding of the three large Spanish banks that would be integrated into Banco de Santander: Banco Hispanoamericano (1900), Banco Español de Crédito (1902) and Banco Central (1919).
The period from 1919 to 1939 was crucial. In 1923, we moved our headquarters to the Paseo de Pereda building in Santander; we founded Banco de Torrelavega; and we set up a modest network of branches both in the province of Cantabria (the first of them, in El Astillero, in 1923) and elsewhere (Espinosa de los Monteros, Lanestosa and Osorno, in 1924).
Emilio Botín Sanz de Sautuola y López was appointed managing director of the bank in 1934, and in 1950 he took over as chairman, promoting a process of strong growth throughout Spain. This process continued in the 1960s with the acquisition of a large number of local banks.
In 1946, we acquired our long-standing rival in Santander, Banco Mercantil.
A year later, in 1947, we opened representative offices in the Americas, first in Havana, Cuba, and later in Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela, as well as an office in London. In 1956, our Latin America Department was created.
By the time of its 100th anniversary, in 1957, our bank had become Spain’s seventh-largest financial institution.
In 1960, Emilio Botín Sanz de Sautuola y García de los Ríos joined the board of directors. During this period, we bought Banco del Hogar Argentino, our first Latin America subsidiary, and subsequently, in 1965, we founded Banco Intercontinental Español (Bankinter).
In 1976, we acquired First National Bank of Puerto Rico, and in 1982, Banco Español-Chile, positioning Banco de Santander as a pioneer in retail and commercial banking in Latin America.
In 1985, we established Banco Santander de Negocios in Spain to carry out investment banking and wholesale market activities.
At the end of the 1980s, we strengthened our presence in Europe by acquiring CC-Bank, which had more than three decades of experience in the German vehicle financing market, from Bank of America. In 1988, we acquired a stake in the Portuguese Banco de Comércio e Indústria and entered into a strategic partnership with The Royal Bank of Scotland.
In 1989 we launched the “Supercuenta Santander”. This account, one of the most innovative financial products in Spanish banking history, changed the banking landscape and opened up Spain’s traditionally closed financial system to competition.
In 1994, the acquisition of Banco Español de Crédito (Banesto) marked an important milestone in our history by making us the leading bank in the Spanish market.
The next year, we embarked on a second period of intense expansion in Latin America, enabling us to develop our business in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela and at the same give new impetus to existing ventures in Chile, Puerto Rico and Uruguay.
In January 1999, along with BCH, we took part in the first large bank merger in Europe since the adoption of the euro. The result was Spain’s largest financial institution and a leading player in Latin America. Subsequently, in Portugal we bought the Totta e Açores financial group and Crédito Predial Português.
Since 2000 Santander Group has acquired Banespa in Brazil, Serfín in Mexico and Banco Santiago in Chile, strengthening its position as the leading financial franchise in Latin America.
In 2003 we established Santander Consumer through the integration of CC-Bank in Germany, Finconsumo in Italy, Hispamer in Spain and other Group companies. The countries where the consumer banking franchise is present now include Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.
In April 2004 we moved our central services from Madrid to our new corporate headquarters at Santander Group City, which now has a workforce of more than 6,800.
In November of that year, we reached another important milestone: the acquisition of Abbey, the United Kingdom’s sixth-largest bank.
In 2005 we reached an agreement to take a 19.8% stake in Sovereign Bancorp, the United States’ eighteenth-largest bank.
In 2006 we posted a record €7.596 billion profit, the largest of any Spanish company that year, and we greatly boosted our investment in customer banking and service quality. “We want to be your bank” in Spain and other promotional actions in Portugal, Abbey and America are examples of this effort.
In 2007 as we celebrated our 150th anniversary, we were the twelfth largest bank in the world by market capitalisation and the seventh by profit and we boasted the largest retail network in the Western world: 10,852 branches. We formed a banking consortium with The Royal Bank of Scotland and Fortis for the purchase of ABN Amro, through which we were awarded Banco Real in Brazil, doubling our presence in that country.
In 2008 we continued to grow through important acquisitions in the strategic United Kingdom market. We added Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley, thus reaching 1,300 branches in the country and positioning ourselves as the United Kingdom’s third-largest bank by deposits. Our €8.876 billion in profit made us the third-largest bank in the world in earnings that year.
In 2010 we entered the retail and commercial banking business in the United States with the acquisition of Sovereign. In October 2013, Sovereign’s name was changed to Santander.
In 2011 we included the Scandinavian SEB group’s retail and commercial banking business in Germany, through Santander Consumer AG. In addition, we acquired a Polish bank, Bank Zachodni WBK. At the beginning of 2013, our Polish subsidiary merged with Kredyt Bank and Zachodni, making us Poland’s third-largest bank by branches, deposits and loans.
Consolidating our strategy with respect to listed subsidiaries, in 2012 we floated 25% of Santander Mexico, the largest transaction in Latin America and the third-largest in the world that year.
In 2013, the shareholders’ meetings approved Santander’s merger by absorption of Banesto and Banif, a process that was gradually carried out over the course of the year.
In 2014, after Mr. Emilio Botín's death, on September the 9th, Ms. Ana Botín is unanimously appointed as the new Executive Chairman by the Board of Directors.
In January 2015 we concluded a €7.5 billion capital increase targeting institutional investors. The purpose of the increase was to strengthen capital and take advantage of opportunities for organic growth, increasing lending and market share in our key markets while comfortably meeting each of the new international regulatory requirements. All of the targets we set in January were met for the full year.
Also in 2015, we amended the bank’s corporate governance to include international best practices. We appointed new independent directors; established a new remuneration policy for executive directors and senior management in line with the Simple, Personal and Fair culture; appointed new country heads in five of our core countries; and strengthened leadership and improved efficiency at the corporate centre.
We also made progress with our strategy to be the best retail and commercial bank, earning the lasting loyalty of our people, customers, shareholders and communities. In addition, our senior management as well as our 190,000 employees all over the world share a common culture and are committed to making Santander a bank that is, day in and day out, more Simple, Personal and Fair.
On 15 May 2017, our bank celebrated its 160th anniversary.
On 7 June of that year, we acquired Banco Popular following its resolution by European and Spanish authorities. This acquisition was a sound strategic and business fit while allowing us to add shareholder and customer value.
The same year, we launched Openbank, Spain’s first 100% digital bank.