What is ICO?

Instituto de Crédito Oficial, Corporate State-owned Entity (henceforth, ICO), is a state-owned bank, with the legal status of corporate state-owned entity, attached to the Ministry of Economy and Business,  via the State Secretariat for Economy and Enterprise Support.

From a legal point of view it is a credit institution, and is treated as a State Finance Agency, with its own legal status, assets and treasury, as well as an independent management to carry out its activities.

ICO is a state-owned bank and is governed by the financial equilibrium principle, in accordance with its Articles of Incorporation, which were approved in Royal Decree 706/1999 of 30 April.

It finances itself on the national and international capital markets. The debts and obligations it enters into with third parties benefit from the explicit, irrevocable, unconditional and direct guarantee of the Spanish State.

Apart from the Institute, the ICO Group comprises Axis, a venture capital firm, and the Fundación ICO.

Axis was the first venture capital firm to be established in Spain, in 1986, and currently provides equity or quasi-equity instruments to companies to finance their growth.

The Fundación ICO was created in 1993 in order to promote culture and art. Since 2003 it has existed as an ongoing, not-for-profit, public sector foundation with a national scope and independent assets.

ICO also participates as a shareholder in other companies such as the Compañía Española de Reafianzamiento (CERSA) and the Compañía Española de Financiación del Desarrollo (COFIDES), as well as the European Investment Fund (EIF).


ICO was created in 1971 as the institution responsible for co-ordinating the state-owned banks existing at the time. Its structure and the way it would function were regulated in Law 13/1971 of 19 June, the Official Credit System and Organisation Act.

The Finance Act (Ley de Presupuestos Generales del Estado) of 1988 amended the legal status of ICO, and the Institute changed from being an independent body to a state-owned company, treated as a credit institution and taking on the name of the official state-owned bank, which at that time was made up of: the Banco de Crédito Industrial, Banco de Crédito Agrícola, Banco de Crédito Local and the Banco Hipotecario de España, also holding a major stake of the Banco Exterior de España shareholdings. From then on it stopped receiving funding exclusively from the Treasury and started to finance itself mainly from capital markets.

The reform of the state-owned banking sector in May 1991 had two immediate consequences. One of them was the integration of the whole state-owned banking sector into the Spanish banking corporation, Argentaria. This started off as a commercial bank, with the aim of gradually being privatised. The second consequence was the maintenance of ICO as a Financial Agency of the State and state-owned bank, independent and separate from the latter. From then on, the Institute began a new phase in its activity, its main goal becoming to boost the real economy, to achieve the purposes established in its Articles of Incorporation, which were approved in 1999.