Interview with Alan Mathewson, Managing Director at Santander

04/12/2016By Alan Mathewson
The digital revolution is changing the way we interact with our customers every day and this new world has a profound impact on how we structure, distribute and service our customers, says Alan Mathewson, Managing Director at Santander
Alan Mathewson Santander

What are the biggest opportunities for Santander UK in the next 3 years?

As a scale challenger bank – our biggest opportunities are building on our success in both the retail and corporate (SME) banking markets. We’ve had great success in growing our primary current account customers, through the success of our 1I2I3 current account proposition; and we’ve seen double digit growth in our SME loan book.  Our opportunity is to develop deeper relationships with the customers that we’ve attracted through our best in class products and services.

In addition – the digital revolution is changing the way we interact with our customers every day and this new world has a profound impact on how we structure, distribute and service our customers.

Finally – we have an opportunity to better segment the markets in which we operate.  This is in part driven by the growth in the digital capability, which allows banks to offer more bespoke products, but also by customer expectations of a new service.

What plans do you have to maximise on these opportunities?

In terms of broadening the digital side of the business, we are working with a third party to launch an investment platform, which will make it easier for customers to invest on-line.   But we also recognise that for some decisions, our customers will want face-to-face advice.  To meet this need, we are growing our Financial Planning Managers and locating these professionals in our biggest branches.  In addition, we will be launching a Private Banking offer to better serve the needs of our most affluent customers.

What do you consider the key challenges that your business will face?

We expect the UK economy to continue to recover, and are well placed to take advantage of this. More wealth in the economy is good for the banking sector, and Santander is busy ensuring it has the product, services and capability to take advantage of the improving outlook. There is no doubt that banking has suffered a lowering of trust, amongst customers; and we need to work with the industry, policymakers and regulators to help rebuild trust.

If you look at the world of banking and finance, what single issue do you see most often?

Providing a proposition and service to meet the needs for those with smaller amounts to invest. The biggest unintended consequence of the RDR is that there is now an advice gap in the UK where some smaller investors can’t access affordable advice. The average pension pot in the UK is £30k not £300k, this is the biggest change in a generation and people need help post the Pension reforms. The Financial Advice Market review led jointly by FCA and HMT will help I am sure come up with a more pragmatic regulatory framework to solve the advice gap with simpler, straightforward automated solutions.

Looking back at your career what have been the pivotal moments?

In my mid-20s, a senior sponsor saw potential in me, took a chance and appointed me to run Abbey’s Supermarket Banking operation. The real game changer came in 2004, when Santander acquired Abbey.  Many people forget that Lloyds Bank as it was then was also in the frame to acquire Abbey. Personally, the perspective of an international bank, and the expertise Santander brought to the UK has helped really broaden my horizons.

What other business leaders do you admire?

Jeff Bezos at Amazon for the business he has created. Amazon are the standard in the market, simple and easy to use – banking needs to be as seamless.  Sir Alex Ferguson for his ability to build and rebuild high performing teams, and for his sheer desire and will to win.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Stop kidding yourself that you were ever going to have a career in professional football and focus on studying / qualifications!


Alan Mathewson Santander

Alan Mathewson

Managing Director, Wealth Management & Private Banking Division, Santander UK

Alan was appointed Managing Director of Wealth Management & Private Banking in November 2014. He has been with Santander since 1995 and has worked in a number of roles, including Managing Director Intermediary Distribution, Managing Director Branch Distribution, CEO Santander Cards and CEO Santander Insurance.  Alan is 45, married with 2 children.