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Banking

Sabadell tries out a new look

Since the financial crisis the bank has been transformed from a Catalan regional to the fifth largest bank in Spain. It now has ambitions in Europe and the Americas.

Sabadell CEO Jaime Guardiola and CFO Tomas Varela have transformed the Catalan bank

Sabadell CEO Jaime Guardiola and CFO Tomas Varela have transformed the Catalan bank. Illustration: David Manion

Think Catalan bank and there has really been only one name in the game, Barcelona-based powerhouse Caixa. Rarely, if ever, does Caixa’s regional rival Banc Sabadell come to mind. That is not surprising. Caixa is the biggest, most visible bank in Spain’s most-economically buoyant region. It boasts more customers and branches than any other bank in the wider Spain beyond. Where Spanish compatriots BBVA and Santander are bigger overall after expanding abroad, Caixa’s domestic loan book is larger than its rivals’. It also helps that Caixa has the two most influential figures of corporate Spain on its board of trustees: its long-time chairman Isidre Faine: Cesar Alierta of telecom giant Telefonica; and former Nato secretary-general Javier Solana. 

Banc Sabadell has had very little of this. Historically it has been very much Caixa’s smaller cousin. It was founded in 1881, named for the textile-based town on Barcelona’s outskirts where Spain’s industrial revolution took hold in the 19th century. Unlike Caixa’s caja de ahorros model, with its not-for-profit ownership, Banc Sabadell was started by local entrepreneurs to finance their commercial traffic. 

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