Fourth generation Ana Botin has become the most powerful woman in European banking, following her unanimous appointment to the head of Banco Santander.
The decision by the board of directors came less than 24 hours after the death of her father Emilio Botin, 79, who suffered a heart attack on Tuesday evening.
Botin, one of six children, has been head of UK operations for the past three and half years. A Harvard graduate, she first worked at JPMorgan, but after an eight year stint moved to the family business, where she has stayed for the last 25 years.
Her family connections have attracted criticism ahead of her previous re-election to the board of directors.
However, at Wednesday’s appointments and remunerations committee, Botin was voted the most appropriate person to succeed her father as chair of the family banking empire.
In a statement, the board said Botin was appointed to the role for her “personal and professional qualities, experience, track record in the group and her unanimous recognition both in Spain and internationally".
Speaking on her appointment, Botin said: "In these difficult times for me and my family, I appreciate the trust of the board of directors and I am fully committed to my new responsibilities.”
Her father was credited with turning the domestic bank into an international lender – something that would shield the family business from Spain’s future economic woes.
In a statement released following his death, the board of directors said: “Emilio Botín was extremely important for the bank, leading its extraordinary transformation, turning it into the leading bank in the Euro zone and one of the most relevant in the world, and for Spain.”
He was still actively involved in the family business right up to his death, reportedly even scrutinizing individual loans made through the lender.
Raised in the northern Spanish city that lent its name to Santander, Emilio succeeded his father at the helm of the family business in 1986.
Before the turn of the decade he had started a competitive price campaign against domestic rivals, and by 1994, following the acquisition of troubled lender Banesto, Santander had become the country’s largest bank.
From there, Emilio’s strategy turned global, expanding the business first to Latin America, and, in 2004, purchasing Britain’s Abbey National.
Following her appointment, Santander UK released a statement paying tribute to Botin’s time as chief executive. “In just three and a half years, Ana has transformed Santander UK, turning three former building societies into one of Britain’s most successful banks,” UK chairman Terry Burns said.
The board of Santander UK will meet next week to appoint a new chief executive.