Banking: All accounted for

Santander offers tailored solutions for a wide variety of banking needs.

By Billie Josephs, December 13, 2010
Santander Zero customers get free ATM withdrawals abroad

Santander Zero customers get free ATM withdrawals abroad

Santander has well over 13,000 branches and 90 million customers worldwide and a history stretching back over 150 years. Today, it has more branches than any other international bank and more than 1.8 million shareholders in the UK alone.

In the British banking market, it has been an effective challenger in the personal banking sector and is becoming just as effective in corporate and commercial banking, as it builds on the acquisition of the Alliance and Leicester and Bradford and Bingley brands.

It is also due to take over more than 300 branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Steve Pateman, head of Santander's corporate and commercial banking operation, estimates that this expansion will see growth in the establishment's market share in small and medium enterprise (SME) banking by around eight per cent.

There are also expectations of further growth in this sector, with Santander's lending to SMEs up by 23 per cent in the nine months to this September.

Service is increasingly important in a banking relationship.Good value is much more than price

"We see this as a key growth for us going forward," he says

The bank's corporate and commercial banking business is built on developing long-term relationships with its customers," says Mr Pateman.

"Of course it is important to provide competitive funding or deposits, but I think many businesses value advice, consistency and service just as highly, which is why we offer tailor-made solutions to each of our customers, rather than off-the-shelf products."

Santander prides itself on its retail banking services and is committed to offering what it describes as the most competitive range of current accounts on the market. One of these is the UK's first fee-free current account, the Santander Zero.

The account levies no overdraft fees (no arranged or unarranged charges and no fees for paid or unpaid items) and if customers do become overdrawn, the interest rate applied is set to be "a very competitive 12.9 per cent".

It also offers free ATM access abroad and there are no charges on the use of the Visa debit card to make purchases worldwide.

The Zero account is designed to reward loyalty and has therefore only been available to those with Santander mortgages or investment products. From January, however, it will also be available to anyone with more than £10,000 in the bank.

The bank has issued a range of savings products with attractive returns in today's low-interest-rate environment. This includes a cash ISA offering 2.75 per cent and a tracker bond paying up to 3.25 per cent for existing customers and 2.8 per cent for new customers.

In addition, Santander offers competitive fixed-rate bonds and e-saver products. All investors, whether or not they hold savings with Santander, are eligible to take advantage of these offers.

The bank also has a range of investment products, all of which are capital guaranteed and include a minimum return.

With the financial crisis leaving many mortgage holders facing severe financial problems, Santander is assuring its clients that it views property repossession as a "last resort". It is striving, it says, to work with any of its customers who find themselves struggling under the weight of mortgage repayments.

Its prudent approach to residential mortgages and the work of a specialist team to help those who are struggling to afford mortgage payments has left Santander with half the industry average of customers with more than three months arrears and repossession.

Santander has remained "open for business" throughout the financial downturn, consistently lending money to home owners and personal loan customers alike.

Even before the crunch hit, says the institution, it was always a prudent lender.

This was based on a philosophy that it should lend money only to people whom it knew and understood.

"Being prudent can be seen in both the retail and corporate and commercial banking operations," says a spokesperson.

"Being prudent has meant that Santander has been much less exposed during the downturn."

Seeing its massive scale as an advantage, it says this allows it to offer attractively priced products and also invest in its business for the benefit of its customers.

This is vital in the present climate, when "service is becoming an increasingly important part of what customers want to see in a banking relationship - good value is much more than price".

Last updated: 12:15pm, December 13 2010