Changes at top of Santander after legal row

Tim Wallace
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SANTANDER’S chief Alfredo Saenz quit his job yesterday, lifting a cloud of uncertainty that had been hanging over the bank and sending share prices upwards.

He will be replaced by Javier Marin Romano, a veteran with 22 years experience at the bank who currently heads the insurance, asset management and private banking arm.

Spain’s central bank had been considering whether or not to ban Saenz over his conviction four years ago for making false accusations against debtors in the 1990s. He received a suspended sentence at the time, but the conviction reared up after the central bank received additional powers over the approval of bank chiefs.

The board praised the departing chief executive, noting that in Saenz’s time at the top Santander has nearly quadrupled in size to become the Eurozone’s largest bank.

It has grown its assets from €358.1bn (£302.4bn) in 2001 to €1.25 trillion now and increased managed funds from €453.4bn to €1.38 trillion.

He leaves with a pension pot of around €88m.

Non-executive director Mauel Soto is also stepping down from the board after 14 years at the lender. He will be replaced by Juan Miguel Villar Mir.

Soto’s position as chairman of the audit and compliance committee will be filled by Guillermo de la Dehsa Romero, while Isabel Tocino Biscarolasaga is joining the executive committee.

Santander’s shares rose 2.6 per cent.


SANTANDER’S new chief executive, Javier Marin Romano, joined the bank in 1991 and has served as executive vice president of global private banking and asset management and insurance at Santander since November 2009.

Marin, who is 46, represents a new generation at Santander, but is also a confidante of the bank’s 78-year-old chairman Emilio Botin, with whom he shares a passion for golf. He is also a fan of opera, something he has in common with his predecessor Saenz.

Despite being under pressure to shed businesses and raise capital at a time of rising bad loans and defaults in Spain, Santander has shown interest in expanding in some areas, including possibly the private bank and asset management side that Marin is from.

Santander said Saenz will step down from his board seat upon completion of the leadership transition to Marin, but no date has yet been given for when Marin will assume his responsibilities as chief.