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Santander in turmoil as ‘next boss’ leaves banking giant

Santander in turmoil as ‘next boss’ leaves: Mystery over shock departure of deputy chief – just 11 months after he joined as boss’s heir

  • Tony Prestedge joined Santander last September on the understanding that he would succeed Nathan Bostock this year, according to sources
  • His mysterious exit was being kept shrouded in secrecy by the bank, which also failed to release a formal statement 
  • We questioned Santander UK repeatedly over the abrupt departure, but the bank steadfastly refused to comment
  • The deafening silence will prompt questions in the City over what happened behind the scenes at one of Britain’s biggest lenders 

Santander has been plunged into a leadership crisis after the shock departure of the banker who had been lined up as its next boss.

The sudden and unexplained exit of Tony Prestedge has left the bank in turmoil just five months before current boss Nathan Bostock is due to stand down. 

Prestedge joined Santander last September in the senior position of deputy chief executive on the understanding that he would succeed Bostock this year, sources said. 

On his bike: The sudden and unexplained exit of Tony Prestedge has left the bank in turmoil

His mysterious exit after just 11 months was last night being kept shrouded in secrecy by the bank, which also failed to release a formal statement. 

The Mail on Sunday questioned Santander UK repeatedly over the abrupt departure, but the bank steadfastly refused to comment. 

The deafening silence will prompt questions in the City over what happened behind the scenes at one of Britain’s biggest lenders. 

Crucially for Santander, Prestedge’s exit has left the bank without any obvious internal candidates to take on the top job. 

Susan Allen, chief executive of retail and business banking, had been seen as a leading contender before Prestedge joined, but she has just left the bank. 

The Mail on Sunday understands that her old role has been scrapped as part of a cost-saving overhaul. 

Before joining Santander, Prestedge served as chief operating officer of the Test and Trace scheme, working with former Talk Talk boss Baroness Dido Harding. He had previously worked at Nationwide Building Society for more than a decade, serving as deputy chief executive in his last role. 

A source close to Prestedge said: ‘Tony gave up a brilliant job at Nationwide and turned down another brilliant job at another big bank to take the Santander role.

‘All big organisations always have politics. Coming in from the outside, the probability of not fitting in with the culture or for the culture to reject you is always quite high.’ 

One former Santander banker said there were worrying signs for Prestedge in April when chairman William Vereker announced a ‘process’ to find the next boss – suggesting his promotion to chief executive was not a foregone conclusion. 

Prestedge had been appointed under Santander UK’s previous chair, Baroness Shriti Vadera. Vereker took on the role as chairman last November, two months after Prestedge had started. 

The turmoil comes ahead of a bigger shake-up that will see the bank work more closely with its European operations – including its Spanish parent. The banking group is led by Ana Botin. 

As well as scrapping the position of chief executive of retail and business banking, some of Santander’s senior UK bankers now report directly to Europe in addition to the UK chief executive. Santander UK will also begin to share more resources – such as contact centres – with the European business. 

Santander’s European boss, Antonio Simoes, also sits on the board of the UK bank. He was seen as a potential chief executive of HSBC until he joined Santander last September. 

The move to align the UK bank more closely with the rest of Europe has raised questions over the independence of the UK business, which has long been viewed as a tough market for the Spanish group despite its recent strong performance. 

Last week, the group’s earnings showed that the UK was one of its best-performing markets this year, boosted by the surging demand for mortgages. The UK bank reported that pre-tax profit was up more than 400 per cent to £751million, compared with the same period a year ago. 

Botin has always strongly defended the UK operation and its presence on British high streets. 

She was chief executive of the UK bank until 2014 when she became chairwoman of Santander Group after her father died.

The Spanish bank arrived in the UK in 2004 when it acquired Abbey National. It snapped up Alliance & Leicester and part of Bradford & Bingley in 2008 after the building societies ran into serious trouble during the financial crisis. 

The bank – then run by future Lloyds Bank boss Antonio Horta-Osorio – was seen as the biggest challenger to Lloyds, NatWest, HSBC and Barclays. However, the Big Four still dominate the market. 

Santander has also struggled to expand its corporate banking arm and it failed twice to buy Williams & Glyn, the business bank hived off from NatWest.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk