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Banking

Santander’s Openbank plots consumer finance reboot

Covid-19 adds to the urgency of reorientating retail to e-commerce. Combining Openbank with consumer finance is the logical next step in Santander’s cloud-based banking transformation.

A modern floor with legs of a crowd walking in the background

Banco Santander is to launch what it calls a “global native digital consumer lending business” by combining its digital-only retail offshoot, Openbank, with its consumer finance arm.

Speaking to people close to the project, Euromoney learns that the rationale is to cross sell a wider range of Santander retail products through Openbank to Santander Consumer Finance (SCF)’s 18 million borrowers.

That will help plug Openbank’s technology in to one of Europe’s biggest providers of unsecured consumer loans, and it will help mitigate a funding mismatch in countries where Santander’s wider retail operation is relatively small, such as Germany and Scandinavia.

SCF already has more than €100 billion of consumer loans, almost all in Europe, but the Spanish group still deems this a growth business.

SCF earned an underlying return on equity of 12% in the first nine months of 2020, compared with 3% at the group as a whole, despite the economic impact of Covid-19.

Streamlining

As ever, cost efficiency is front of mind. Coupled with a new project to better streamline products and more closely integrate middle and back offices in Europe – and at the same time move more of that work onto the cloud – the Openbank-SCF finance merger comes as part of a new promise, unveiled in the last week of October, to save an additional €1 billion over the next two years.

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