Santander UK plc is a British bank, wholly owned by the Spanish Santander Group. Santander UK plc manages its affairs autonomously, with its own local management team, responsible solely for its performance. Santander UK is one of the UK's leading personal financial services companies and one of the largest providers of mortgages and savings in the UK. The bank has circa 20,000 employees, 14 million active customers, with almost 1,010 branches and 50 corporate business centres.
The bank, with its head office in the London Borough of Camden, was established on 11 January 2010 when Abbey National plc was combined with the savings business and branches of Bradford & Bingley plc, and renamed Santander UK plc. Alliance & Leicester plc merged into the renamed business in May 2010.
Between 2007 and 2010, Santander was ranked as worst bank for customer service in the J. D. Power UK Retail Banking Satisfaction Study. However, its '123' product range was ranked third best in the UK in 2013 and in a moneysavingexpert.com poll in 2014 customers ranked their satisfaction higher than with any of other main high street banks.
In October 2011, Moody's downgraded the credit rating of 12 UK financial firms including Santander UK, blaming financial weakness. In June 2012, Moody rated Santander UK as being in a more financially healthy position than its parent company, Banco Santander. Less than 1% of Santander UK's business is held abroad.
The bank has its origins in three constituent companies—Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley—all former mutual building societies. Abbey National, trading as Abbey, had been bought by the Santander Group in 2004 for £9 billion. Santander purchased Alliance & Leicester in mid-September 2008, followed by the branches and savings business of Bradford & Bingley which had been nationalised by HM Government during the 2008 banking crisis.
Abbey National and the savings business and branches of Bradford & Bingley were rebranded as Santander on 11 January 2010, and Abbey National plc was renamed Santander UK plc. Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton unveiled the first rebranded Santander branch that day in central London. A further 300 Abbey and Bradford & Bingley branches in London and south east England were rebranded that day, with branches in the rest of the UK following by the end of the month, by which time there were 1,045 Santander branches. Alliance & Leicester plc merged into the bank on 28 May 2010, and was rebranded by the end of the year.
The bank retained the London headquarters of Abbey National and renamed other regional buildings under its own name. The Abbey name was retained initially for Abbey International (now Santander Private Banking), and Abbey for Intermediaries (now Santander for Intermediaries), the division of the bank offering Abbey branded mortgages provided by Santander UK plc. The charitable divisions of Abbey, Bradford & Bingley and Alliance & Leicester were brought together to form the Santander Foundation.
Due to the three-way merger, Santander was in the unusual position of having more than one branch in many British high streets. In Northumerland Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, for example, there were three branches, which were formerly Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley respectively. Plymouth city centre had four branches within 300 metres, two of which were adjacent to each other. In 2012, the bank began to reduce the number of duplicate branches, identifying 56 that would close. Staff in the branches selected for closure were moved to other nearby branches.
Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank merged into Santander's business banking division, Santander Corporate Banking, in 2009.
On 9 March 2010, Santander sold the investment and asset management business James Hay to IFG Group for £35 million. Later in the year, it was confirmed on 4 August that Santander would purchase the branches of The Royal Bank of Scotland in England and Wales, and the branches of NatWest in Scotland as part of a divestment of the business by The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. The deal collapsed on 12 October 2012.
Santander has frequently been rated the worst bank in the UK for customer service, although by July 2011 had sought to improve, notably by returning call centre operations to the UK from India. During 2011 the bank put aside £538m to cover claims from customers for the misselling of payment protection insurance (PPI), as did many other UK banks.
In December 2012, Santander reached an agreement to sell its store card business, which includes branded cards issued for retailers including Topshop, House of Fraser and Debenhams, to SAV Credit. The sale was completed on 13 May 2013, though Santander continued to service accounts on behalf of SAV Credit until 1 April 2014.
During 2014, the bank considered an initial public offering (IPO), expected to be completed within two years. In November 2014, the chief executive of the Santander Group admitted that an IPO would not be forthcoming until market conditions improved. This view was repeated in July 2015.
The bank provides a full range of personal, business and corporate accounts, including current accounts, mortgages, credit products and savings and investments. Santander operate online banking services, including mobile apps, and operate an internet-only banking division branded Cahoot. Mortgages are also provided through Santander for Intermediaries, a division of the bank used by brokers.
Santander's Corporate and Commercial Banking division operates from a number of regional business banking centres across the UK. In May 2013, Ana Botin announced plans to double the number of centres to 70 within three years.
Santander UK is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. It is a member of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, UK Payments Administration, Bankers' Automated Clearing Services (BACS), the Faster Payments Service, the Clearing House Automated Payment System (CHAPS), the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company, the British Bankers' Association and subscribes to the Lending Code.
The bank operates a branch on the Isle of Man, which is licensed by the Financial Supervision Commission. Santander's offshore private banking subsidiary Santander Private Banking operates in Jersey.
Six-digit account sort codes are used in the range between 09-00-xx to 09-19-xx. Sort codes for accounts formerly held by Alliance & Leicester use the range 09-01-31 to 09-01-36.
In 2009 Santander launched the UK's first current account without fees (including unauthorised overdrafts) for its current and future mortgage customers. Customers are not charged fees for using Santander's automated teller machines in Spain, which traditionally would incur fees for transactions in a foreign currency.
Santander has sponsored the McLaren Formula One team since 2007, and is also the title sponsor of the British Grand Prix. Santander said its sponsorship of McLaren had raised its brand awareness in the UK from 20 to 82 percent. The bank announced a second team sponsorship, with Scuderia Ferrari, in 2009.
Golfer Rory McIlroy signed a sponsorship agreement with the bank in September 2011, and in 2013 it was announced that British athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill would become a brand ambassador.
In February 2015, Santander was announced as the new sponsor of Transport for London's bicycle hire scheme, branded as Santander Cycles. Santander replaced Barclays as title sponsor.