Banking: Botín’s shelf-awareness

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Lights, camera, reaction: Santander chairman Ana Botín opens up on TV.

Any journalist knows how hard it is to get Ana Botín to open up about her relationship with her father Emilio, her predecessor as chairman of Santander Group.

So, it came as something of a surprise when she did just that on Spanish TV show Planeta Calleja in January.

Botín joined adventurer and TV presenter Jesús Calleja – think Bear Grylls, with more grey hair and less of a kill-what-you-eat attitude – on a trip to southern Greenland, and its Qaleraliq glacier, to see first-hand the effects of climate change on one of the oldest ice-shelfs on the planet.


What made me most angry was in meetings where my boss, who was my father, told me to shut up 
 - Ana Botín, Santander

“Seeing for myself the ice sheet melting and crashing into the sea was a sobering experience, which brought home the responsibility we all have to act,” Botín said in a LinkedIn post when the show aired on January 8.

Botín has certainly put her money where her mouth is since the trip to Greenland in August. In December, during the COP25 UN climate change summit in Madrid, she committed to making Santander carbon neutral by the end of 2020.

Botín also discussed the reputation of the banking industry and the impact of digital transformation during her trip with Calleja.

Diversity

She rounded on the lack of diversity in the industry, saying at one point: “I was at a meeting of the 100 largest banks in the world. Do you know how many women there were out of 100? Three. We’re nowhere near arriving at gender diversity at upper levels in finance.”

She also talked about her own struggles to make her voice heard as a senior woman in finance: “What made me most angry was in meetings where my boss, who was my father, told me to shut up. I learned how to speak with more conviction.”

Of course, the TV show we’d all have liked to see would have been a fly-on-the-wall documentary of Botín’s negotiations – and subsequent fall-out – with Andrea Orcel when she offered, and then withdrew, the Italian’s role as Santander’s chief executive.

We might get to see a version of that if the dispute comes to court in Madrid in the coming months. One thing seems to be certain – there’s no thaw in the relationship between Botín and her jilted CEO.