Collaborate with BigTech and FinTech: Santander

Global incumbents should embrace partnerships with tech titans, as well as smaller FinTechs, in order to keep up with the emerging challenge posed by Silicon Valley, according to Santander’s chief digital officer.

Speaking at the Money 2020 conference in Amsterdam, Lindsey Argalas, chief digital and innovation officer at Banco Santander, underlined her focus on ensuring the financial services giant has the technology and talent to adapt to the rapidly changing financial services landscape.

Asked whether Santander felt under pressure to digitise as a result of disruptive challengers entering the market, Argalas said: “Yes, I would say that there is urgency, not panic, but urgency, and that tone is set at the top.”

She explained: “Ana, [Botin, executive chairman of Santander Group] to her credit, has fully embraced and educated herself on platforms and technology moving into financial services.”

Her comments come after Santander announced that its European divisions, which include Santander UK, will shoulder cost-cutting measures in the next four years, as the Spanish banking giant steps up plans to invest more than €20 billion in digitisation and technology.

Discussing her priorities for digital platforms and innovation when she joined Santander in 2017, Argalas said: “I remember when I arrived a little over 18 months ago I think at first they were all asking about what our peer banks were doing.

“I said ‘to be honest, with all due respect I don’t really care what they’re doing, I’m very concerned about the technology companies, with the engagement, with the speed with which they move the modern technology’.”

Looking to the future, Argalas predicted that Santander expected to accelerate the process of collaborating with FinTechs and other technology firms, as the trend for partnerships between incumbents and smaller digital-natives gains ground in the industry.

“We are very focussed on the notion of open”, she said. “We recognise there is a tonne of innovation happening in this space, we cannot nor should we do it all ourselves.”

Argalas added: “So we would like to tap into that innovation and work together, so I think you’re going to see at least from Santander, much more collaboration, both with big tech as well as FinTech, as well as the developer community, so that is something that ultimately that we are betting on.”

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