Santander Plans Hybrid Return for Some of 17,000 U.S. Staff

Banco Santander SA is planning to allow some of its staff in the U.S. to work from home on a more permanent basis.

While roughly 50% of the firm’s 17,000 U.S. employees are classified as site-dependent, about 45% will be able to split their time between home and the office, Tim Wennes, who oversees the company’s U.S. arm as chief executive officer of Santander Bank N.A., said in an interview. The remaining 5% will be fully remote, he said.

Madrid-based Santander, which operates more than 600 branches in the U.S., has found it’s been harder to invite workers back to offices in cities such as New York and Boston, which are heavily reliant on public transportation, compared with its operations in Miami and Dallas, where mass transit is less of an issue.

“We’ve been taking a city-by-city and even a building-by-building approach,” Wennes said.

Even so, like many of its banking competitors, Santander has begun unveiling plans for cajoling more workers back to the office as vaccines have proliferated across the U.S. and allowed much of the country to reopen. The firm joins Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in laying out such plans in recent months.

The Spanish lender this week started allowing its global headquarters in Madrid’s Boadilla del Monte neighborhood to be used as a mass vaccination site. The center will aim to vaccinate 1,000 people a day, according to Ana Botin, executive chairman of the company.

The firm in recent months hired a new global head of health and wellness as it crafts plans for returning its broader workforce of 190,000 globally to offices around the world, Botin said in a wide-ranging interview.

“I think everyone has struggled with this,” Botin said. “We need to keep people safe.”

Santander has set its sights on expanding its business in the U.S., which operates five divisions: wealth management, corporate and investment banking, auto lending, and consumer and commercial banking.

The firm opened a branch in Miami last year as part of its strategy to establish physical locations outside its traditional Northeast footprint.

“We have the key ingredients to be successful here in the U.S.,” Wennes said. “We’re focused on organic growth and keeping an eye out for inorganic opportunities.”

Santander in recent years has been buying up assets in the payments industry, including technology assets from Wirecard AG’s merchant-payments business in Europe as well as Getnet, a large Brazilian card processor. It also recently formed a new payments business it’s calling PagoNxt.

That’s one area the firm would consider for deals in the U.S., Botin said.

“We are now on a growth path, which we were not on up until six months ago,” Botin said of the U.S. business.

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