Belfast Telegraph

Santander chief condemns bank bail-outs

By James Moore

British consumers would suffer if the banks were broken up, the chief executive of Banco Santander told an influential committee of MPs yesterday. Alfredo Saenz also rounded on banks that were bailed out by the taxpayer.

He said: “I can't refrain from saying, as a traditional banker, it is extremely hard to accept that a big bank can be bailed out.” He added: “Regulators must ensure fairness to banks that have best weathered the crisis.”

Mr Saenz said higher prices would be the inevitable consequence of a break-up of large banking groups such as his own.

“It drives efficiency. We are the most efficient bank in all the territories in which we operate.

“That means we can pass on the savings to consumers and offer services such as commission-free banks accounts ,” he told MPs.

However, he said that while Santander is Europe's second-biggest bank, operating across several countries, it was effectively a traditional “narrow” bank which takes deposits and lends money. Santander does not have an investment-banking operation.

Mr Saenz's company owns Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and the deposit business of Bradford & Bingley in the UK.

It is also interested in buying Williams & Glyn, which is being spun out of Royal Bank of Scotland. Mr Saenz said Santander supported living wills and operating through national subsidiaries rather than an international branch network.

He added that subsidiaries could be protected in the event of a collapse at the centre of a bank.

Belfast Telegraph