Santander to be grilled by Commission

SPAIN’S Santander will join the UK’s largest banks in facing individual grillings by the government’s independent banking commission when the private phase of the review gets under way next year.

The commission’s official consultation launches tomorrow when ex-OFT boss Sir John Vickers, the chairman, publishes an initial “issues paper” setting out its agenda. The two main priorities for the review will be increasing the amount of competition in the retail banking sector and the much-debated prospect of splitting up bank’s investment and retail operations, as well as a discussion of the impact of recent hard-hitting regulatory changes such as Basel III and US President Barack Obama’s sweeping Dodd-Frank reforms.

The first part of the review, between now and Christmas, will be a “public phase” designed to engage the man on the street with the decision-making process. It will involve a series of public debates, possibly televised, where senior banking figures will put their arguments forward alongside other interested parties such as regulators, consumer organisations and academics.

Early next year, the commission will move into a closed period, when it will privately interrogate executives at the helm of the UK’s largest banks – Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland – as well as Santander, which has a heavy presence on the UK high street after its purchases of Bradford & Bingley, Abbey and Alliance & Leicester.

Input from foreign banks and smaller UK players will be welcomed, according to those close to the commission, though their boards will not face individual grillings from Vickers and his team – former Barclays boss Martin Taylor; Claire Spottiswoode, the ex-head of gas regulator Ofgas; JP Morgan’s former co-head of investment banking Bill Winters; and FT columnist Martin Wolf.


Time Line | a year in the life of the banking commission

Friday 24 September
Commission launches its consultation with the publication of an “issues paper” setting out the problems facing the industry and the top priorities for its investigation over the next year.

September – December 2010
“Public phase” of the consultation begins, during which the commission is set to hold a series of debates open to the general public. Five or six debates will be held across the country, with arguments put forward by senior figures from the banking industry, regulators, consumer groups, academics, ex-industry figures and businesses. It has also invited responses from smaller UK banks, foreign banks and building societies.

January – April 2011
The commission is set to hold a number of private interrogations for the most influential banks on an individual basis, meeting with the chairmen and chief executives of the UK’s largest banks and Santander, which bought out Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley over the course of the crisis.

Spring 2011
Commission publishes an “options paper” setting out a shortlist of its most likely recommendations. A final period of consultation will follow over the summer.

September 2011
Commission due to publish its final recommendations.