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Capital Markets

The importance of timing

Luis Valls, the former co-chairman of Banco Popular, was reflecting on his decision to step down from his post last month. "I've often discussed with politicians the theory that if you face unavoidable decisions early then you can avoid periods of instability," he said. "That is good for the health of the organization as much as it is for oneself."

The idea that the 78-year-old Valls had decided to retire early will no doubt have raised a smile in smart bars in the centre of Madrid. But his typically philosophical comments also suggested a further motive for his decision: if you make predictable moves at unpredictable times, you can wrongfoot those who might have hoped to capitalize on disruption.

Valls announced his retirement in October at a press conference timed to coincide with the release of the bank's third-quarter results. He had been chairman of Banco Popular for over 30 years, the last 15 of them in partnership with his younger brother, Javier. They are hoping that last month's swiftly executed succession will ensure that the bank maintains the course they have set for it long after they have both retired.

Succession issues "We face a problem which will only get worse with the passage of time," Valls told the board in his farewell speech.

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