Western Europe: Repositioning CaixaBank
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Western Europe: Repositioning CaixaBank

Isidro Fainé is the highly driven power broker who used the crisis to make CaixaBank the biggest bank in Spain. He now has to overhaul its safety net portfolio of strategic industrial stakes and better position the bank for tough times in its core business. Fainé and his chief executive Gonzalo Gortázar have made big promises to shareholders on returns. Can CaixaBank deliver?


Illustration: Hit&Run

From his office at the top of CaixaBank’s headquarters on Barcelona’s Avenida Diagonal, Isidro Fainé has an unrivalled view of the Catalan capital. But, for all that his position and personality have made the bank’s chairman the leading power-broker in Spain’s richest region, Fainé’s horizons extend much further. 

Many bankers talk about turning crisis into opportunity. Fainé has done much more than just talk about it. During Europe’s great recession, he has turned the bank into Spain’s leader by many measures. He has put technology at the heart of everything the bank does, turning a supposedly staid savings bank into the bank of choice for a third of 18- to 35-year-olds in Spain. He has led a team that, deal after deal, shows that banks can smoothly acquire and integrate other businesses. 

Just as importantly, he has tried to demonstrate that a good bank can also do good, reinforcing and reinvigorating the foundation that remains the majority shareholder and disburses Caixabank’s dividends to charitable causes. It is the third largest foundation in the world, behind the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust.

Less renowned outside Spain than the late Emilio Botín, the master M&A strategist who built Santander, or Francisco González, the former IBM executive who has put BBVA at the forefront of the banking technology revolution, Fainé, who gives few interviews to international media, is nevertheless a domestic presence to match either. 

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