The euro has a big fan in Jan Kalff, chairman and chief executive officer of the Dutch banking giant ABN Amro Holding.
The new common European currency has begun to distinguish large, multinational banks from smaller, weaker competitors in Europe, enabling ABN Amro-with worldwide assets of about $500 billion-to prosper, he said.
"The opportunity for ABN Amro is enormous," Mr. Kalff said in an interview in his company's North American headquarters in Chicago. "Rather than 11 bank accounts, at least, in 11 countries, in 11 currencies, you are now able to have just one bank account in euro and make use of ABN Amro's network, which is a complete network in all of Europe.
"For us, the euro is not so much a threat, but it is an enormous opportunity."
Smaller European banks are ill-prepared to handle multinational corporations that want to deal in the euro, so there are more acquisition targets for growth-hungry ABN Amro, Mr. Kalff said.
Just last week, ABN Amro said it would take an 8.75% stake in Banca di Roma, Italy's fourth-largest bank. Mr. Kalff said similar deals could be in the offing.
"It's not that this bank is growing just by way of acquiring other banks," Mr. Kalff said. "We're just adding to our growth rate. Most of our growth is coming from organic growth, and that's the way it should be.
"We are not looking all over the world for acquisitions. We are focusing on just a handful of countries where we think the potential is large and the economy is strong."
Raphael Soifer, an analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., said ABN Amro is most likely to expand in Italy and Spain. Though there are possible targets in Germany and France, those countries offer fewer opportunities because their banks have the begun consolidating.
Mr. Kalff has shown little interest in entering the United Kingdom, Mr. Soifer added.
ABN Amro has not been completely predictable. It twice tried to buy European banks last year. More recently, it bought a stake in a Thailand bank, and it established Brazil as its third-largest market by gaining a controlling interest in Banco Real.
Despite problems with the country's economy, Mr. Kalff said he believes Brazil is a good market.
"There might be a recession in Brazil at the moment, but the Brazilian economy will be a major economy in the world," Mr. Kalff said.
He added that the country is "underbanked," as only about 40% of Brazilians have bank accounts. He said he expects that number to increase to 60% to 80% soon.
Outside the Netherlands, ABN Amro's largest presence is in North America, where it holds $146 billion of assets, mostly in the United States. It operates its LaSalle Bank Group and its U.S. investment banking unit, ABN Amro Inc., out of Chicago.
"We are very pleased with what we have here," Mr. Kalff said. "We are very well placed, we are highly profitable."
However, the high prices being paid for banks has dampened his enthusiasm for making deals in the United States.
"There are so many other opportunities in the world, so why would you pay very high multiples when you can pay lower multiples and still buy good franchises in other countries," Mr. Kalff said.
Deutsche Bank's pending acquisition of Bankers Trust Corp. is just the type of deal ABN Amro does not want, he said.
"It's a totally different route than we've taken and will take," Mr. Kalff said.
Instead of buying a corporate bank like Bankers Trust, ABN Amro is more interested in increasing its U.S. asset management and insurance business. If U.S. laws prohibiting banks from underwriting insurance were lifted, ABN Amro would consider buying an international insurer with a sizable U.S. operation, Mr. Kalff said.
"What we would probably like to do is find a large insurance company who has also a large outfit in the United States. There are a couple of very good possibilities," Mr. Kalff said.
Mr. Soifer said the Dutch insurers Aegon NV and ING Group NV would fit that bill but that ABN Amro still might have its eyes on a U.S. bank.
They say U.S. acquisitions are unlikely, Mr. Soifer said, but "in the next breath they say want to continue to acquire in the Midwest."