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Spanish bank plans to open first U.S. office in D.C. next year

Banca Civica has offices at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. It plans to begin operations early next year, pending U.S. approval.
Banca Civica has offices at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. It plans to begin operations early next year, pending U.S. approval. (Grupo Banca Civica)

The bank's team has turned to key figures in the Washington area's nonprofit scene for support, including Maria Gomez, founder of Mary's Center for Maternal Health in Adams Morgan.

Gomez said she was approached by one of the bank's representatives, Pablo Gato, a former Telemundo journalist and longtime acquaintance, and invited to partner with the bank as one of its target charities. Under the arrangement, she has access to office space and has agreed to introduce Banca Civica to her friends, clients and other charities, she said.

The Banca Civica Web site is under development. But a tool on Caja Navarra's Web site points to a description of Mary's Center, which serves immigrant women, and asks customers to donate bank profits there. Other causes listed in Navarra's database include groups that aid orphans in Tanzania to a water polo club in Leioa, Spain.

The firm asks customers in an annual survey to rate various aspects of its service from one to 10, and if the average answer amounts to less than 7.2, the managers lose 30 percent of their bonuses. Go?i suffered the penalty last year as head of Navarra.

As the cajas consolidate, international business will help reduce their exposure to trouble at home. "I'm sure that this will be a strategy many cajas will follow," said Santiago Carbo-Valverde, a professor of economics at the Universidad de Granada.

Rodolfo G. Campos, an economist at IESE Business School in Madrid, said Banca Civica has about $73 billion in assets; that's not quite a third the size of Caja Madrid, which unlike most other cajas has a branch in Miami that it uses as a hub for business in Latin America.

Campos said Banca Civica's move to Washington differentiates it from other cajas. "Most of them aren't international," Campos said. "Most of them didn't even get out of their own state."


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