A gentleman always hits the right word | Opinion
The Círculo de Economía, the Catalan institution born in 1958 as an evolution of the Joker Club, created under the facade of a chess club to discuss topics of interest and share the ideas and concerns of a group of young people years ago, has a new president. Jaume Guardiola will be responsible for taking the helm of this symbolic association, after declaring himself the winner in the entity’s first elections since its creation.
Guardiola was born in Barcelona in 1957. On his father’s side, he hails from a merchant family of Catalan ancestry. On his mother’s side, his grandfather was a doctor of Cantabrian origin, and his grandmother, a teacher from Valladolid. Being very young, they settled in Andalusia, where their mother was born. For this reason, the summer was spent from the new head of the circuit between Algeciras and Vilassar de Mar, in the district of El Maresme, the birthplace of the Guardiola family. Jaume studied Business Science and MBA from Esade. At the end of the latter, he joined the BBVA in 1979, coinciding with his final year of law studies.
His first position in the entity came in 1990, when he was appointed as Deputy General Manager. Later he was promoted to the position of CEO of Banca Catalana, where he remained for several years, even with the arrival of 2000, he was transferred to America. He moved first to Puerto Rico, then to Argentina, where he served as CEO of what was then the French Bank. At that point he had to live the choraletto, something that, he says, became an important vital moment. In January 2003, with the acquisition of Bancomer by BBVA, he arrived in Mexico City as president of the company. “In working life, you go through moments of crisis from which you learn a lot, and other moments of great success. For me, those years were probably the most successful, because I had the opportunity to view Mexico’s growth and its contribution to the total number of the entity, from zero to 40%”, as Guardiola says.
In 2007 he decided to leave what had been his home for nearly 30 years to take charge of Banco Sabadell. He remained in the Valesana entity until his retirement, in 2021. At that time, he managed to turn a bank of the Catalan bourgeoisie into one of the five most important entities in Spain, even internationalizing it. It has done so through acquisitions, some more fruitful, as with Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM), and others less so, such as TBS, a subsidiary of Lloyds in the UK. He also had to make other important decisions, such as moving the bank’s headquarters from Catalonia in response to the actions.
Those who have worked with him describe him as kind, intelligent, restless, always eager to know. “He has consistently shown confidence in the team and delegated a lot,” they say. They highlight his ability to create a good atmosphere, knowing how to adapt his speech to each situation and relying on the person he is addressing: “He always finds the right word with each interlocutor”. As well as its elegance in forms, “gentleman”. He himself, in fact, highlights his ability to engage and engage people. “When you change attitudes as often and in different environments as I have, individuality does not work,” he says, boasting of his ability to diagnose, discover and identify internal talent, “which is vital in M&A (mergers and acquisitions).” It also highlights how some of the people he identified at the time held key positions over the years.
Guardiola’s retirement, however, can undoubtedly be described as energetic. In April 2021, the year of his retirement, he signed FC Barcelona to Joan Laporta as Chairman of the Economic Committee. A position he will leave at the next meeting because it conflicts with his new position. His love for Barcelona stems from family traditions. His grandfather, the club’s 13th member, was a director, and his father is currently the 16th member. But in addition to his claim by the club, he was also appointed in June of that year as the chair of the Esade Board of Trustees. Guardiola wasted no time in praising the establishment. “It’s a Spanish management training school, and proof of that is that two of the 25 largest companies in the United States are run by Esade alumni: Duato, from Johnson and Johnson, and Ramon Laguarta, at the helm of Pepsico,” he highlights.
Now, after the election, “a period of intense activity in which you dedicate yourself nonstop to this task and you can think of nothing else than to seek support in the department,” Guardiola hopes to have time to enjoy what he loves most: his family. He is married to a lawyer, an employee of the vernacular, and has three children: two sons and a girl. The oldest film was studied at New York University, the second followed in his footsteps and ran the business at Esade, although his work is far from finance and devoted to the world of video games in Norway, and the young Esade also chose to study law. Additionally, he has a granddaughter and another on the way.
He also loves culture. He is an avid reader, preferring current political articles and historical novels. A topic that is transferred to the cinema, because he prefers to watch feature films that reflect real events or have some historical or political components. A sports lover, he now plays golf, tennis or paddle, with the arrival of summer, he loves to go out to sea with a small boat for fun and spend time in Limpurda. Specifically, the sea is something he missed a lot when he lived in a city without a coast. One of his other concerns is to contribute to civil society. His first experience was in 1992, as an elite volunteer in the Barcelona Games Technical Operations Center, a position he was responsible for the Olympic port area and sailing events. Now, as president of Círculo, he intends to open the institution to the development of civil society, as he has done throughout its history.
independence. Guardiola has emphasized on several occasions that he is not an independent, but a Catalan of liberal beliefs and complete confidence in equal opportunity. In addition, he declares himself a defender of democracy and a critic of populist movements that are “currently invading the economy”.
Expedition. Achieving a more balanced social economy performance calls for the defense of the planet. This is the mission of Guardiola, the Board of Trustees of Esade and the Department of Economics, the institutions under his presidency.
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