Santander UK’s boss, Ana Botin, has become the fourth generation of her family to take the reins at its parent company after the death from a heart attack of her father, Emilio, the man who built a Spanish provincial lender into the eurozone’s biggest bank.
The move – confirmed after a hurriedly convened board meeting – could spark controversy amid growing disquiet among investors over dynastic successions at big companies.
But Santander’s appointments and remuneration committee, in an apparent attempt to head off dissent, described Ms Botin as “the most-appropriate person, given her personal and professional qualities, experience, track record in the group and her unanimous recognition both in Spain and internationally”.
Following her appointment, Ms Botin said: “In these difficult times for me and my family, I appreciate the trust of the board of directors. I have been working at Grupo Santander in different countries and with different responsibilities for many years and I have experienced the professionalism and dedication of our teams.”
Ms Botin’s spell at the head of Santander UK has drawn positive reviews, both in the City and in Government.
One analyst said: “Under her tenure, Santander UK appears to have made really significant, strategic progress, transforming itself from a somewhat shabby entity having to pay top-whack for its funding to a business with much-sounder funding foundations.”
Her role in the UK will be taken on an interim basis by Nathan Bostock, deputy chief executive, who is seen as a racing certainty to take full control after a Santander UK board meeting next week. He was hired by Ms Botin away from Royal Bank of Scotland, where he had been finance director for mere months.
The bank has consistently said it wants to float off a partial stake in the UK arm, but the plans have been up in the air for some time now. All it would say at its most-recent results was it remained a “medium-term objective” and it is not clear whether that will change with Ms Botin having taken over the top job.
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Mr Botin, who was 79, had been one of the giants of European banking and tributes poured in from across the business and political communities in both Spain and beyond.
He forged a close alliance with Fred Goodwin at Royal Bank of Scotland, only to run rings around his partner and the Belgian bank Fortis during the takeover of Dutch Bank ABN Amro in 2007. Santander emerged stronger having taken the operation’s prized Italian and Brazilian assets as its share of a deal which would contribute to both RBS’s and Fortis requiring the help of their respective Governments to survive.
It is a mark of Mr Botin’s acumen that, having sold a 25 per cent stake in the Latin American business to investors on the Brazilian stock exchange, it is now in the process of buying it back for significantly less.
Chancellor George Osobrne, said: “Our thoughts are with Ana Botin and her family at this difficult time. She has provided strong and stable leadership at Santander UK through a vital period for the UK economy.
“I have particularly valued her commitment to supporting enterprise and the small businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy.”Reuse content