Spanish banking: Unicaja swims against the stream
As Spain prepares to digest the €17 billion merger of CaixaBank and Bankia, Andalucían lender Unicaja has revived merger talks with rival Liberbank as it faces a threat to its regional dominance. While its community roots are an advantage, it also needs an answer to the calls for change
(This story was updated on October 8 to reflect reports that Unicaja is in informal merger talks with Liberbank.)
In the heart of the southern Spanish port of Malaga, one building soars unavoidably above the bustling cityscape: the headquarters of Banco Unicaja.
Built in a severe brutalist style that seems at odds with Malaga’s summery vibe, local commerce revolves around the Unicaja tower, extending across rural Andalucía beyond. Unicaja is the sum of a 1991 merger of a regional group of centuries-old savings thrifts and credit unions, or cajas, and is today a banking powerhouse in the region. No other Spanish bank comes near it here in terms of local spread, retail business and brand recognition.