Wednesday, 3 October 2007

La Caixa - so great and still late

The savings bank La Caixa is in a class of its own here in Catalonia. No matter how you measure it (capital flows, number of branch offices etc) it is many times bigger than its closest competitor. Its brand name stands for professionalism. Well, at least most of the time.

During the last few months, La Caixa has been preparing for the public offer of Criteria Caixa Corp, an entity which above all will hold and develop the group’s international activities. There has been less media coverage of the event than I expected, but at least all people who watch the nine o’clock news on TVE1 will have seen the classy but abstract advertising. I also assume that most customers of the savings bank, like my own family, will have been approached personally by the staff of the local branch as well as through messages on La Caixa’s web-pages.

In July, when we first heard about the IPO plans, my wife and I decided that we would invest. Then followed the big credit crunch of the summer and our interest faded away. We never doubted about the project as such, but neither did we feel an urge to invest in bank shares while the consequences of the US sub-prime mortgage crash are still unclear. La Caixa is not exactly known for giving away things for free, so we are confident that the initial price for private investors like us will not have much of a discount. “But if we invest we might finally be motivated to follow the stock exchange here”, my wife said and so, in the end, we decided to take a chance. Yesterday, October 2, I signed the power of attorney so that the branch office can subscribe some shares in my name.

All activities a company undertakes can influence its brand name. Today, by ordinary post, I received a standardized letter from La Caixa, reminding me about the IPO and inviting me to invest. The funny detail is that this reached me on October 3, and as far as I have understood it, yesterday was the last day to issue power of attorneys. The fact that the letter is dated “September 2007” does not help me to determine when it was actually sent out. I am prepared to give La Caixa the benefit of the doubt since post here often comes with big delays. But the question remains: Should not a bank, which claims to be great, be able to plan for the fact that post arrives late? Or was the staff not 'under pressure' to get the information out on time?

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