Banco Santander’s CEO, Javier Marín, today announced the launch of Santander Advance, a project that places SMEs at the centre of the group’s business strategy and aims to make Santander their partner of choice for growth in all its markets. Under this initiative, which starts today in Spain and will be operating in all the group’s main markets by 2015, the bank expects to expand SME lending by more than 10% in each of its markets this year. It will also improve its internal processes to cut down response times and enable it to provide a more specialised service to the sector.
As well as the additional financing and specific product line for SMEs in each of its markets, Santander will offer a range of tools to help small companies develop and overcome obstacles to growth. For this, the bank is launching the Santander Advance Development programme with four basic pillars: recruitment and training, international expansion, employment and connectivity. The bank’s objective is to provide support to 200,000 companies under the Advance Development programme between 2014 and 2016.
With this project, which includes the group’s good practices in this segment of markets such as UK (Breakthrough), Santander aims to share the advantages of belonging to a global group with a strong international presence. As well as providing the services, products and tools that companies need to expand internationally, the bank will launch the Santander Passport in the next few months. This is an identifier that guarantees companies doing business abroad access to specialist local support and gives Santander customers the same advantages they’d have in their market at any of the group’s subsidiaries in other countries.
Santander’s chief executive Javier Marin said, “Santander Advance will become the new model for the whole group’s relationship with small and medium-sized companies. The bank is making progress in segmenting its business and deepening its focus on customers. It can now share with SMEs the advantages of being part of a well-capitalised and highly liquid international group, with a strong presence in key markets. SMEs are a strategic segment for Banco Santander and we want to be partners with them in their growth plans. We want more customers, who are also better linked and more satisfied”.
Within this comprehensive offer, Marín also announced the Advance Fund, a financing vehicle for medium- and long-term projects, mainly by investing in the SMEs through subordinated debt. It will start in Spain with EUR 250 million for projects of at least EUR 1 million. The model will then be extended to other markets.
Launch in Spain
Enrique García Candelas, senior executive vice president and head of Santander España, explained the plans for Spain, where the bank expects to provide EUR 30 billion of new lending, implying an increase of 24%. Its target is to grow its customers base by 22% on top of the 280,000 it already has (including small, medium and micro companies, but excluding retailers and the self-employed). The bank also wants to raise the number of linked customers by 29%. In addition to extra lending, lower interest rates for linked customers and competitively priced products designed specifically for SMEs, Santander España will make its approval processes more agile and provide specialist advisors exclusively for SMEs.
Regarding Santander Advance’s development programmes in 2014, over 20,000 SMEs will have access to training, internationalization and employment initiatives in Spain. Santander will offer 5,000 scholarships to university students for internships in SMEs.
“We have the most complete product range in the market,” García Candelas said. “We want to stand by SMEs as they grow, help them through all the financial and non-financial difficulties they encounter and accompany them in their internationalization.” To ensure the success of the strategy, Santander España has taken a number of specific steps in recent months to improve its model of customer service, its price and riskmanagement, its human resources structure, increasing the number of specialist sales staff for this segment, the technical platform and all the processes needed to guarantee faster response times.
Santander España will provide a digital platform, www.santanderadvance.com, where SMEs can find useful contents and tools to improve their training through online and classroom courses. The platform will provide information about credit lines and banking products, public sector financing available (through the European Investment Bank and Spain’s Official Credit Institute). It includes a link to www.santandertrade.com, a site designed for companies looking for opportunities in international markets.