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Santander chair Ana Botín says she ‘has all the transformation levers’ after the bank’s governance reforms

May 5, 2022, 1:23 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The EU announced plans to cut off imports for Russian oil, Dolly Parton will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Santander chair Ana Botín has the “transformation levers” after governance reforms at the bank. Have a thoughtful Thursday.

– Bank on it. Ana Botín is one of the most powerful women in global finance. As the executive chairman of Banco Santander, she leads the €46-billion-in-revenue ($49 billion) Spanish bank—and she’s the fourth generation in her family to hold the job.

But alas, power comes with scrutiny, and Botín—No 3. on Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women International list—recently relinquished some control at Santander. In February, the bank announced that Botín would delegate most operational responsibility to CEO José Antonio Álvarez, while continuing to run strategy and technology units that intersect with transformation. (The chair has traditionally held more responsibility than the chief executive at the bank.) The Financial Times reported that Santander had ceded power after facing pressure from European Central Bank regulators. Botín disagrees.

“The purpose was getting ahead of where we think governance is going,” the chair said in an interview with Fortune this week. Álvarez already handled much of the operational work before the announcement was made, she said. And, never fear, the management restructuring leaves Botín with plenty of influence: “I have all the transformation levers,” she says.

Banco Santander Chairman, Ana Patricia Botin.
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images

Fortune CEO Alan Murray and I met with Botín at Santander’s New York City office, where she made the case for the strength of Santander’s business model. (Alan discussed Botín’s views on the global economy in sister newsletter CEO Daily. Of note, she says a European recession in the next 12 months is unlikely.)

The bank’s strengths have been undervalued because “diversification was not valued,” Botín argues. She cites Santander’s presence in Europe, the Americas, and emerging markets as evidence that “diversification is hugely valuable.” The firm’s focus on retail banking has made it the largest by customers in Europe and the Americas, and it’s open to acquiring Banamex, Citigroup’s Mexican unit.

At Santander, Botín, who sits on the board of Coca-Cola, says the bank is on track for women to hold 30% of the firm’s top 2,000 management roles by 2025 (that number is at 26% today).

She makes the argument that Santander is stronger than some of its banking competitors thanks to a lower-risk business model. “We’re very different from others,” she says. “And we’d love to tell the world about it.”

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

​​Plus: registration is live for Fortune Brainstorm Tech. The conference is coming back to Aspen, Colo., July 11-13. As usual, we’ll convene leaders from Fortune 500 companies, the top emerging tech entrepreneurs, and the most important investors who finance them. We’ll hear from Flex CEO Revathi Advaithi, SoftBank Americas managing partner Lydia Jett, Spring Health CEO April Koh, MagicLeap chief technology officer Julie Larson-Green, Away CEO Jen Rubio, and more. To apply to attend, please use this link.

The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Today’s edition was curated by Paige McGlauflin. Subscribe here.

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Cut off.  European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced a proposal to ban imports of Russian oil to the EU. The policy aims to diminish Russia's financing for its invasion of Ukraine. The proposal, which would ban crude oil in the next six months and refined products by the end of the year, has been met with requests for exemptions from Russian oil-dependent countries like Hungary and Slovakia. Guardian

- Dangerous tech. The location data of anyone who visited Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics in the U.S. was reportedly available for purchase for $160 from location data broker SafeGraph until this week. SafeGraph now says it has removed locations classified as family planning clinics from its store. Vice

- Making progress. A new report from Heidrick & Struggles monitoring board composition in Fortune 500 companies saw positive, yet incremental, progress on board diversity last year. Women filled 45% of new board seats in 2021, a record high after dipping to 41% of seats in 2020, while Black directors filled 26% of new board seats. Asian and Hispanic or Latinx directors filled only 9% and 6% of new seats respectively. Heidrick & Struggles

- Back pay. LinkedIn will pay $1.8 million in back wages to nearly 700 women as a part of a settlement agreement with the Department of Labor. Investigators found that the career networking platform paid women less than men in comparable roles in engineering, product, and marketing from 2015 through 2017. Associated Press

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Walgreens has hired former Calvin Klein global chief marketing officer Linh Peters as senior vice president and chief marketing officer. Epicore Biosystems has added former Time Inc. CEO Laura Lang to its board. Laura Peterson was named office managing director for New York metro at Accenture; she will continue in her role as senior managing director, communications media and technology business lead. Mary Maples was appointed as the first female CEO of University Hospital, the largest public hospital in New Jersey. Norwest Venture Partners appointed Lisa Ames as chief marketing officer. Headspace Health has hired Wizdom Powell as chief social impact and diversity officer and Jodi Bryant as chief commercial officer.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Rock ‘n’ roll. Country legend Dolly Parton was elected as one of this year’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees. The singer initially requested her name be withdrawn as she didn’t feel "rock & roll enough" to be considered, but said earlier this week she’d accept if chosen. Carly Simon and Annie Lennox’s Eurythmics are also among this year’s inductees. New York Times

- Primary politics. Election results from Indiana and Ohio's primary contests on Tuesday show the potential for gains in women's political representation on both sides of the aisle in this fall's midterms. In Ohio, Nan Whaley won the Democratic nomination in the state's governor's race; if she defeats Republican incumbent Mike DeWine, she would be the state's first female governor. In Indiana, both Jennifer-Ruth Green and Erin Houchin won Republican nominations for the 1st and 9th Congressional Districts, respectively; Green would be the only Black Republican woman in the U.S. House if elected. Center for American Women and Politics

- Hosting duty. Actor Ariana DeBose has been tapped to host this year’s Tony Awards on June 12. The actor recently won her first Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and was previously nominated for a Tony award for her role in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Hollywood Reporter

ON MY RADAR

The new season of Slow Burn tells the story of how we got Roe v. Wade Slate

How women can identify male allies in the workplace Harvard Business Review

She put the Met on the map for contemporary art. Now she’s moving on New York Times

China’s doomed fight against demographic decline Foreign Affairs

PARTING WORDS

I made the best decision for me because mentally and emotionally I was not in a good place. It changed my life because it gave me the space to be able to take care of Cori first.”

- Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) on making the decision to have an abortion at 17.

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