Replacement at Santander: Héctor Grisi replaces Álvarez as CEO

Ana Botín with Héctor Grisi, in a file image. / CR

The until now CEO leaves the position after seven years, which will be assumed from 2023 by the executive of the bank's Mexican subsidiary

Jose Maria Waiter

Change of draft in the dome of Banco Santander. The until now CEO of the entity, José Antonio Álvarez, will be replaced in the position by Héctor Grisi, current CEO of the subsidiary of the Santander México group and responsible for the North American region as of January 1, 2023. The board of directors has been proposed "after a rigorous succession process carried out by the appointments commission", as reported by the bank.

Grisi will succeed José Antonio Álvarez, who joined the group in 2002. In 2004, he was appointed CFO and in 2015 CEO. After the transition period, Álvarez will continue on the board of directors as non-executive vice president.

The succession in this executive position, with the president of the entity Ana Botín at the helm, comes just three months after Álvarez was endorsed in the position by the entity's shareholders' meeting, in which a new distribution of powers was defined between the president herself and the CEO, who since then reports directly to the board of directors, and not to the president, as she has been doing until then, as requested by the ECB.

Botín has expressed Álvarez's "enormous contribution to the bank" in a statement: "Under his leadership as CEO, the group has increased the number of clients by almost 40 million, improved all business metrics and significantly strengthened its capital. We are very pleased to continue to have his experience and knowledge on the board of directors». In addition, she has expressed »she is delighted that he will continue on the board as non-executive vice president and I am sure that he will continue to be key to Santander's growth in the coming years«.

The succession at the top comes after several episodes in which Santander has tried to take over. In September 2018, the bank announced that Álvarez was going to be replaced by Andrea Orcel, an Italian banker signed by Botín. However, just three months after making it public, the group decided to stop the signing, claiming that it could not assume the amount of its remuneration for that movement. Orcel sued the entity, although it claimed that the offer letter was not a valid contract. However, a court in Madrid has lowered from 68 to 51 million euros the compensation that Banco Santander must pay to the Italian banker Andrea Orcel for the failed signing of him as CEO of the entity.

Since then, the rumors about the replacement of José Antonio Álvarez have been continuous. The bank kept this succession process open, although, it indicated, it was a common practice that also extends to other directors of the group. «It is an obligation, a responsibility, if something happens to him tomorrow [...] to the CEO or to me, the board has to know what is happening", Ana Botín has come to affirm,

I have a lot of confidence in Hector. He has decades of experience and a deep understanding of our markets and our lines of business. In addition, in these years he has demonstrated his leadership, teamwork and ability to create value for our clients and shareholders. His excellent results as CEO of Santander Mexico and head of North America speak for themselves and are the best example of why the board has chosen him to lead the bank in this new phase of growth and transformation”.

The new CEO, Héctor Grisi, joined Santander in 2015 as CEO of Santander México. In 2019, he was appointed regional manager for North America, whose main markets are Mexico and the United States. Grisi's professional career began more than 35 years ago. Before joining Santander, he worked for 18 years at Credit Suisse, where he held various positions of responsibility, including director of investment banking for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean and later general director and CEO of Credit Suisse Mexico. He studied in Mexico and Canada, and has a degree in Finance from the Universidad Iberoamericana.

José Antonio Álvarez stated that "it has been a privilege to be part of the Santander team in the last 20 years" and that "in the next few months I am going to work with Héctor so that the transition is orderly and from next year I will continue to support the growth and development of the group as non-executive vice president.” For his part, Grisi wanted to »thank José Antonio for everything he has done for the bank throughout his career and for all the support he has given me since I joined Santander «. “I am looking forward to starting to work with the entire team and I have no doubt that we have the strategy, the business model and the talent necessary to generate value and unleash our full potential”, he indicated.

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