How local conditions affect global banking: the case of BBVA and Santander

Abstract: This paper explores why Spanish banks internationalize and why Latin America has been the main region for the international expansion of BBVA and Santander. It shows that prior to 1986 Spanish banks had a limited presence abroad, and analyses the main drivers of this initial expansion (remittances and trade connections). However, from 1986 on, there was a confluence of domestic and external factors (economic and regulatory changes in Latin America) that encouraged the international forays of BBVA and Santander. The fact that changes in the Spanish and Latin American financial sectors occurred just when other transnational banks were turning their attention to other regions created the optimal conditions for the expansion of Spanish banks in Latin America.