WASHINGTON After regulating banks, Sheila Bair has now joined the ranks of those who advise them, or at least one of them.
Banco Santander announced Monday that Bair, former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., will join the board of the Spanish bank as an independent director.
Bair, who since leaving the FDIC has been a senior advisor to The Pew Chartiable Trusts, will take the seat on Santander's board left vacant by Lord Burns, a British economist. The announcement came just weeks after Bair was also named to the board of the RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization.
The board "is convinced Sheila Bair will make a significant contribution, due to her international experience and her knowledge of the U.S. financial market," Banco Santander said in a press release. "The Santander Group is present in the U.S. through its consumer finance business, Santander Consumer USA, and its retail banking operation, Santander Bank."
In an interview, Bair said she joined the bank's board because she was impressed with its operations.
"I'm on the board because I want to make contributions to a safer, more responsible banking system," Bair said. "Banco Santander did well during the crisis because they stuck to the traditional banking model. They take deposits and make loans."
Bair said she also viewed the bank's structure as positive.
"They subsidiarize they organize locally with local managers," she said. "It adds better controls and limits contagion. It makes them much more resolvable if they got into trouble.
As an independent board member of the Spanish holding company, Bair said she will not represent the bank before US regulators. (Santander SA's regulator is the Bank of Spain.)
She is not the only former FDIC official to be associated with Santander. Jesse O. Villarreal Jr., who was Bair's chief of staff at the agency, joined Banco Santander in 2012 to head up its U.S. government relations team.