Ana Botin named new chairman of Banco Santander, Spain’s largest bank

September 10, 2014, 4:21 PM UTC
CEO of Santander UK Plc Ana Patricia Botin
Ana Patricia Botin, chief executive officer of Santander UK Plc, poses for a photograph as she arrives at the British Bankers' Association's (BBA) International Banking Conference in London, U.K., on Wednesday, June 29, 2011. The head of the European Banking Authority said "speculation" that a certain number of banks would fail the upcoming stress tests is "completely unfounded." Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Simon Dawson — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Ana Botin, daughter of former Banco Santander chairman Emilio Botin, who died of a heart attack Tuesday, was named as the bank’s new chairman Wednesday.

Botin, 53, is the fourth generation of the Botin family to lead Banco Santander. Her father took over the bank’s leadership role from his own father in 1986 and turned the company into a financial powerhouse and Spain’s largest bank.

His sudden death left a vacuum in the top leadership and many analysts and shareholders were uncertain if Ana Botin would be tapped for the role, even though Emilio Botin had been grooming her to be his successor when he stepped down.

Ana Botin was not necessarily a guaranteed choice, especially considering the uproar over her re-election as a director earlier this year and concerns that a publicly-held bank shouldn’t be an assumed family dynasty.

As one corporate governance expert anonymously told Reuters: “Succession shouldn’t just be saying ‘my daughter’s going to take over.'”

Ana Botin, who currently leads the bank’s London operations, has been with Banco Santander (BNC) for most of the past 25 years after an 8-year run at JPMorgan’s (JPM) investment bank early in her career.

When her re-election to the board of directors came due this year, two shareholder advisory firms, ISS and Glass Lewis & Co., mounted campaigns for shareholders to vote her down. One firm felt that there were too many Botin family members on the board, and the other that there was not enough independent representation.

The campaign failed and Botin, 53, was re-elected as a director with 81.3% of the votes.

While there is some concern over going with yet another Botin family member, appointing Ana Botin would lend a sense of continuity. And her list of accomplishments is nothing to scoff at: She ran Santander’s UK unit, and previously served as executive chairman of Banesto, a Spanish bank that is majority owned by Banco Santander.

“More often than not, family control or strong influence tends to bolster long termism, which is particularly important in a banking context,” Phillip Saunders, co-head of multi-asset at Investec Asset Management, told Reuters.

Having another Botin at the helm could help Banco Santander focus on the broader picture and avoid the pro-cyclical trap that many banks adopt, often sacrificing shareholder value as a result, Saunders said.

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