BBVA’s story starts in 1857 when the Spanish Board of Trade sponsored the creation of Banco de Bilbao as a currency-issuing and discount bank. This was a pioneer initiative driven by economic growth in the region. Until the 1890s it was practically the only bank in that part of Spain.
In 1872 Banco Hipotecario (BHE) was created by an act of parliament to provide long-term loans for property.
In the second half of the 19th century Banco de Bilbao played a leading role in operations involving infrastructure projects and development of the steel industry. In 1878 it lost the right to issue currency and reorganised as lending and discount bank.
Banco de Vizcaya was set up in 1901. It carried out its first operations in Bilbao and gradually extended throughout Spain. Apart from its activities as a commercial and general purpose bank, it intervened in the creation and development of a large part of Spanish industry.
In 1902 Banco de Bilbao merged with Banco del Comercio although both continued to operate as separate entities.
In 1909 Caja Postal was set up as a public entity and started operations in 1916, based on savings books.
A consortium of bankers and manufacturers founded Banco de Crédito Industrial (BCI) in 1920 with the express aim of boosting the installation and consolidation of industry through long-term lending. Both Banco de Bilbao and Banco de Vizcaya formed part of this consortium.
In 1923 the Servicio Nacional de Crédito Agrícola was created under the ministry of agriculture to provide loans to agricultural associations against the joint and several liability of their members.
A combination of public and private interests set up Banco de Crédito Local (BCL) in 1925 in the form of a joint-stock company. Its purpose was to finance local authorities and other public institutions.
Banco Exterior (BEX) was created in 1929 to encourage foreign trade, to seek new markets for Spanish products and to help local companies with imports and exports.