Abigail with attitude: Botín’s legacy
European financial markets were shaken in September by the sudden death of Emilio Botín, the chairman of Banco Santander.
Botín, who had built the family business from a sleepy Spanish bank to one of the world’s largest lenders, was succeeded within days by his daughter Ana.
One does wonder if Ms Botín, whose last job was running Santander’s UK operation, feels a bit like the Prince of Wales will feel once Queen Elizabeth II passes away. Much of Ana’s very successful business life has been a dress rehearsal for this moment. And when she learnt of her father’s unexpected death, instead of sinking in to mourning, she had to stiffen her spine and meet her destiny.
Ana was anointed as Emilio’s ‘banker’ child at an early age. She went to Harvard University and learnt the rudiments of banking at JPMorgan before joining Santander 25 years ago. Those who mutter about nepotism are plain wrong. Ana Botín is a bright and talented banker who knows the sprawling Santander group inside out.
She will need her wits about her. The Spanish economy is still weak and Santander has a lot of exposure to teetering Latin America. Her first challenge will be navigating the European stress tests and asset quality review this autumn.
As I read that six banks are facing record fines resulting from settlements over manipulating the foreign exchange market, I wonder how much skulduggery still goes on at financial institutions.
A mole who recently returned from a conference on financial crime mused: “I lost count of the number of bankers (some very senior) who were openly talking about colleagues they thought should be investigated. No names mentioned but lots of: ‘I can’t believe you-know-who hasn’t been shopped yet’-type of comments going around…”
As I write, Lloyds Bank has just fired eight traders linked to Libor fixing. There will be more, perhaps a lot more, firings to come.