The Global CMO Interview: Juan Manuel Cendoya, Santander

'Size Is Not so Important; It's Enough to Be Competitive and Efficient'

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LONDON ( -- Best known in Spain and Latin America, Spanish banking group Banco Santander is working hard to make its brand name match its considerable size. Founded 150 years ago, it's the world's fourth-largest bank by profit, with 14,000 branches across Western Europe, Latin America and the U.S. It acquired Boston-based Sovereign Bank in January 2009 as part of an ambitious acquisition strategy.

Juan Manuel Cendoya
Juan Manuel Cendoya
The bank operated under more than 20 separate names in 2004, when the decision was taken to move to a single brand, Santander Group, recognizable by its trademark white flame on a red backgrounder. Santander's total group advertising spending in 2009 was $735 million.

Brand Finance calculates that Santander's brand value is $25.6 billion in 2010, more than double its 2009 value of $10.8 billion, making it the third-most-valuable financial brand in the world.

Its focus on solid retail banking has helped it to weather the recession better than most other financial institutions. As it pushes on with U.S. expansion, the challenge for Juan Manuel Cendoya, senior exec VP-communications, corporate marketing and economic research since July 2001, is to make the brand stand out from rivals without losing its dependable reputation.

Ad Age: How did you weather the financial crisis?

Mr. Cendoya: We are capitalizing on our values in this crisis and have been relatively unscathed. Santander has always stuck to the basics of retail and commercial banking: taking deposits, making loans and managing costs and risk very careful and prudently. In a crisis you need to take advantage of opportunities, and we doubled our capacity in Germany and made acquisitions in the U.K. and the U.S.

Ad Age: You have branches in Europe, Latin America and the U.S. Do you plan to extend your global reach?

Mr. Cendoya: No. We don't want to be in 100 countries, just 10. Five years ago we were a different animal: low-profile retail banking. Now we have 14,000 branches, more than any other international bank, and the top people want to join us.

But size is not so important; it's enough to be competitive and efficient. We stick to markets and businesses we know well, where we know we can compete. The U.S. is our big focus; it will play an important role in our future and we are looking to expand our presence there. It's important to have a balance between developing countries and mature markets with low growth but more stability.

Ad Age: Are there any countries where the challenge has been particularly great?

Mr. Cendoya: Yes, the U.K., where we have 25 million customers out of a population of 65 million. As a financial center, London is very important. There are lots of opinion makers, and it offers a lot of things, more intangible and not just business -- commitment and loyalty. It's given us confidence and self-esteem, made us more international and opened our eyes to the Anglo-Saxon market.

We entered through the acquisition of Abbey in 2004, and nobody cared that we were successful in Chile and Brazil. We had to work hard not only to turn around Abbey, which was losing money, but to make sure everyone understood how and how well we were doing it.

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