Santander loses another top executive to Lloyds

Alison Brittain, Santander's head of high street banking, has followed former boss António Horta-Osório to Lloyds. Not ideal for new Santander CEO Ana Botín...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 08 Jul 2011
Santander has lost another of its senior managers: Alison Brittain, the bank’s head of high street banking, is the latest to quit the Spanish bank to join her old boss António Horta-Osório at Lloyds Banking Group (chief risk officer Juan Colombas and head of wealth management António Lorenzo have already done the same). It looks a decent appointment for Lloyds: Brittain's credentials are good, and the fact that it's been able to replace its senior woman with another woman is an added bonus. But it's another headache for new Santander UK CEO Ana Botín, who's supposed to be gearing up for an IPO...

Brittain’s move to head up the group’s Lloyds TSB and Bank of Scotland branch network comes after former head of retail Helen Weir (who had originally been tipped for Horta-Osório’s job) chose to leave the bank. Horta-Osório clearly saw his old colleague as the ideal replacement, and no wonder - she's played a key role in combining recession victims Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley under the Santander banner to create a thriving UK business. It hasn't been entirely plain sailing, mind: Santander received nearly 200,000 customer complaints during the second half of last year (which was, admittedly, still 130,000 less than Brittain's new employer).

But although Botin may try and look at this as an opportunity to overhaul Santander's customer service efforts, it's hardly ideal that she's having to rebuild her senior executive team so soon before the company's London float - which is due to take place at some point in the next few months. Still, she's already made a start: Botín said today that she has promoted head of corporate and commercial banking Steve Pateman to the board, as well as giving him a broader remit to oversee the bank’s SME operations. She’s also brought in Jennifer Scardino, a communications executive at Citigroup, who will take control of comms for the banks.

The theory is that this is a make-or-break gig for Botin, as she seeks to prove to her father (Santander chairman Emilio Botín) that she’s capable of eventually taking over the top job. All these defections aren't making her life any easier. Although on the plus side, if she does manage to navigate the next few months successfully, she'll have gone a long way towards proving herself...

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