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Santander’s investment bank flexes its muscles

The past year has shown how building a corporate and investment bank more equivalent to its standing in retail could be a vital prop to Santander’s earnings, especially in Europe. Does divisional head José Maria Linares now have the backing to match his ambitions?

Photo: iStock

There’s still barely any sign of life in Banco Santander’s once buzzing London headquarters, almost a year and a half since the bank first sent staff home. The lights are off, chairs upturned. The office coffee shop lies idle and empty, while the traffic outside roars by.

But the view from Santander’s lobby is deceptive. Unseen on the floors upstairs, traders are back and business is booming. When José Maria Linares steps into a suitably socially distanced meeting room to meet Euromoney, it seems he has been itching to get back into the office. Like JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, his former boss, Santander’s global head of corporate and investment banking is not much of a fan of remote working.

It’s not just working practices in which Linares’ division has followed a different path to the rest of the bank lately. Over the past decade Santander has typically earned at least three times more profit in retail than in corporate and investment banking. In 2020, however, Linares’ division saw a 23% jump in underlying profit, compared with 29% drop at group level, with retail banking in Europe doing particularly badly.


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