Grupo Santander, Spain's largest financial institution, has hired a veteran U.S. banker to run the global operations of its investment banking unit.

Santander said it named Robert Bailey, former senior international banking executive at NationsBank Corp., as head of global banking at Santander Investment SA. His responsibilities include corporate banking, private banking and transactions products.

In a phone interview, Mr. Bailey acknowledged that it is still somewhat unusual for a U.S. banker to join a foreign bank. But he added that the number of U.S. bankers joining foreign banks is increasing, noting that several U.S. bankers have taken on senior positions at German banks recently.

Mr. Bailey said much of his focus will be on integrating operations in Latin America, where Santander has bought a large number of local banks in recent years. "It is of prime importance to develop a regional product network for the banks Santander bought," he said. At NationsBank, Mr. Bailey played a key role in boosting the bank's international presence to 14 countries from six.

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