Emilio Botín never felt the urge to name a successor. He felt in good shape and had nothing better to do. Besides, nobody was urging him to leave the front line, not even hard critics from the financial British press, who didn’t understand how an almost 80-year-old person could lead the largest European bank.
One of Mr Botín’s main characteristics was wit. This lead Santander to undertake many operations and risk that may have seemed beyond its possibilities. Someone said once that Mr Botín looked more like a trader than a commercial banker. The truth is he was both things, combining audacity, risk and anticipation with caution and prudence.
Santander bank enjoys one of the most efficient risk control and management systems. That’s one of their assets in Spain. But the lender has also played abroad: UK, Brazil, Poland, Germany, the US… like no other player, imposing its brand, including its passionate red, from day one.
Mr Botín knew how to surround himself with efficient, well-trained executives at different levels who have successfully met the bank’s goals and who were replaced when he estimated necessary. There were shadow areas in his career but there’s no doubt that from the bank he inherited from his father 30 years ago to the one he is leaving as his legacy there is a vast difference.