Abbey shakes up board and merges divisions to cut costs

The first boardroom casualties of the takeover of Abbey National by Spain's Santander Central Hispano emerged yesterday as the British bank announced plans to combine divisions and cut two directors to help achieve planned cost savings.

Abbey said it would merge its information technology and customer operations divisions to bring them into line with Santander's structure. The new unit will be responsible for cost control across the business and will be run by Tony Wyatt, who currently heads customer operations. The IT director, Yasmin Jetha, 52, has been made redundant and will leave on 30 November, taking early retirement. Another board member, the customer sales director Mark Pain, has decided to leave at the end of March. An Abbey spokesman said his departure was not connected to the restructuring, adding that Mr Pain wants to spend more time with his "young family".

The UK bank will also create a new division combining insurance and asset management. The head of this unit, who is yet to be recruited, will sit on the executive committee. The finance and markets director and the chief risk officer will also join the committee. Four Santander executives will join the Abbey board as non-executive directors. Lord Burns will remain as Abbey chairman.

Abbey said the changes would help the company achieve the revenue benefits and cost savings announced in August. The banks said then the deal, Europe's biggest cross-border banking takeover, would lead to €450m in cost savings, including €128m from IT, and €220m in revenue gains over the next three years. There are plans to cut up to 3,000 jobs at Abbey and to introduce Santander's technology platform Parthenon at the UK bank.

Abbey's new chief executive, Francisco Gomez-Roldan, said: "My goal is to accelerate Abbey's turnaround plan and start achieving the revenue benefits and cost savings identified by Santander when it made its offer to acquire Abbey. Abbey has the potential to be one of the most efficient and profitable banks in the UK, and the new structure is a decisive first step towards achieving that goal."

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