SCH staff face a new life at Botínopolis
The brainchild of Santander's chairman, Emilio Botín, Santander Group City is set to become Europe's largest corporate headquarters. But not everyone at the bank is happy to embrace a US-style working culture. Jules Stewart reports.
BIGGEST BANK must have Europe’s largest corporate headquarters. So proclaims Emilio Botín-San de Sautuola y García de los Ríos, the 69-year-old chairman of Santander Central Hispano (SCH), and head of the country’s most powerful banking dynasty.
This month the first contingent of SCH employees will move to Santander Group City in Boadilla del Monte, a sprawling state-of-the-art complex covering 150 hectares of scrubland 18km north-west of Madrid. Santander hopes that by June it will have shifted 5,500 people to the new site – the entire Madrid staff apart from branch office employees in the city. The project is Spain’s most costly property venture ever, a total investment of e480 million, which the bank says has been fully financed by the sale of all but two of its 25 Madrid office buildings for e800 million. Santander also expects to save about e21 million a year in rent fees.
Clearly cost-cutting is a driving force, as was the case with similar moves by European companies such as Bouygues in France and Fiat in Italy. The concept is deeply rooted in the business culture of the US, the country that has always captured Botín’s imagination, where companies such as General Motors and IBM pioneered the shift to out-of-town corporate campuses.