Ana Botin sweeps up switchers as Santander’s plans pay off


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The Independent Online

The growing trend towards customers paying for their bank accounts was reinforced today as Santander UK said another 900,000 people have signed up to its 123 account since the start of the year.

The bank, which kicked off the sector reporting season, said it had reaped the rewards of its heavyweight advertising campaign, starring Jenson Button, Jessica Ennis and Rory McIlroy.

Santander’s monthly charging 123 account now makes up 2.2 million out of the bank’s 2.6 million customers in this country.

Of the 900,000 new customers, just over 180,000 switched from other UK banks, with Santander saying it is already seeing positive signs from the simpler switching rules which came in last month.

Ana Botin, pictured, who became chief executive almost three years ago, said: “Helping people and businesses prosper through simple, personal and fair banking is at the heart of our strategy.”

She added that while growing competition and changing regulation in UK banking continued to make life tough she was  “encouraged by early signs of UK economic recovery”.

Under Botin, Santander has concentrated on improving the quality of its customer base across current and savings accounts and mortgages. This has seen it reduce mortgage lending from £156.6 billion to £149.9 billion in the past nine months but increase its lending to business from £19.6 billion to £21.5 billion. 

Santander has dropped many of its top-rate savings accounts, which combined with cheaper wholesale money means its net interest margin improved from 1.39 per cent to 1.5 per cent with Botin predicting it should rise further in the final quarter.

Pre-tax profits fell from £1.04 billion to £891 million but that largely reflected the lack of one-off gains made in 2012. Profit after tax was broadly stable at £71 million.

The Spanish parent bank saw a strong surge in profits as bad debt provisions for property loans declined and its Brazilian arm improved sharply.