Grupo Santander, Spain's largest bank, is looking to build its global asset management business by moving into the United States and the United Kingdom

Santander announced that it had hired an investment team from Baring Asset Management Inc. that includes Philip Bullen, former president of the ING Group subsidiary. Mr. Bullen will lead the group from Boston, while three colleagues from Baring - Christopher Goudie, Peter Hartley, and Kathryn Matthews-will work from Boston and London.

The mandate of the group is to shore up clients in North America as well as beef up the bank's asset management business in Latin America and Europe. The group is part of Santander Investment, Madrid.

"The U.S. is the home of asset management, and if you want to compete globally, you've got to be here," Mr. Bullen said. "It's important to have a significant part of our presence here and management of U.S. clients. If we can do that, we can do it for anyone in the world."

Santander Investment has $35 billion of assets under management, primarily from Spanish clients. But it also manages pension assets from Argentina and Mexico. With the Baring team on board, Santander plans to expand its reach.

"We did not have much experience running global portfolios for global clients outside of the countries where we were operating before," said Jaime de Pinies, managing director of Santander Investment in New York.

The Baring team amassed $12.5 billion of assets to manage in North America, according to Mr. Bullen. Observers say their experience could serve Santander well in an American expansion.

"If they can point to a team with an ability to build a good book of business, that could mitigate their risk of a de novo entry," said Douglas Trott, president of Taddingstone Consulting Group, Toronto.

The move into the United States and the United Kingdom should bolster Santander Investment's reputation, said Russell Taylor, a London-based private banking consultant.

"Because London, New York, Boston, and Switzerland are the four great equity centers," he said, "you can always argue you've taken a team that will do wonders for your clients."

The bank already has been making inroads in the United States in business lines apart from asset management by hiring professionals away from local banks and expanding its operating powers.

Its New York securities unit opened in 1995 and is now a large broker for Latin American paper for U.S. clients.

High-profile hirings include Kathy O'Donnell, who heads emerging market trading after holding a similar post for Chase Manhattan Corp., and Maher Al-Haffar from Citicorp Securities, who runs debt origination. Santander's private bank also has offices in New York and Miami.

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