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Santander: Regaining the initiative

Investors will be watching closely for indications of what Andrea Orcel will do as chief executive.

Santander’s shock announcement in September that Andrea Orcel would take over as chief executive in early 2019 certainly took the market by surprise.

Given his reputation as a financial institutions adviser, naming Orcel to lead any retail-focused bank would always have turned heads. It is especially so at Santander, given its size, tendency to promote insiders and how active it has been (often with Orcel alongside) as an acquirer of banks.

All sorts of theories have emerged about what Orcel’s arrival from UBS might entail. His first job, however, will be to help devise and defend a new medium-term strategic plan after the full-year results. This will offer clues about his style at Santander, although the substance of his tenure may not become clearer until well into the 2020s.

Orcel’s appointment is even more intriguing as the chief executive position at Santander has traditionally been more akin to a chief operating officer elsewhere because of the executive chairman role (currently occupied by Ana Botín).

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