Spanish giant Santander lays out ambitious growth plans for Britain
BRITAIN’S Sandtander boss Ana Botin has set out ambitious growth plans for the bank despite warning of "strong headwinds" over the next two years.
Ms Botin, who became UK chief executive at the end of last year, hopes the bank will be able to attract a further three million current accounts by 2014, in addition to the existing portfolio of five million active accounts.
The target forms part of ambitious plans to invest nearly £500m over the next three years in improving services at the bank, which is expected to list on the London Stock Exchange by 2013.
Santander UK has 25 million customers and 1,400 branches after a series of purchases of British banks including Abbey National and Alliance & Leicester.
Speaking at the bank's annual investor conference in London, Ms Botin said long-term low interest rates and low gross domestic product growth would impact the bank's earnings going forward.
Ms Botin, who replaced the now-head of Lloyds Banking Group Antonio Horta-Osorio, said: "The UK banking industry faces a more challenging economic environment than expected."
Ms Botin said demands to hold more cash to protect against future crises - as demanded by European regulators and the UK government-appointed Independent Commission on Banking - would also hit profits.
But the Spaniard said Santander UK still had an "enormous opportunity" in the UK as it implements plans drawn up in its strategic review, which she expects will start paying off in 2014.
Santander UK, which was the third most complained about bank in the UK behind Barclays and Lloyds in the first half of the year, will invest in improving customer relationship standards, Ms Botin said.