April 19, 2018

Santander Group Executive Chairman Ana Botín Delivers Keynote Address Regarding Social Responsibility in Finance

Santander Group Executive Chairman Ana Botín offered her thoughts on financial inclusion and social responsibility in the digital age during a conference on “Responsible Growth: A Shared Future.”

Santander Executive Chairman Ana Botin delivers keynote address
Santander Executive Chairman Ana Botin delivers keynote address

Sponsored by the Georgetown University and Santander Social Economy Partnership, the conference convened directors and CEOs from across the financial industry as part of the annual “Finance and Human Development” series.

Botín’s remarks capped an afternoon of insight into financial risk and regulation, as well as the critical role of technology in promoting financial inclusion. “We really believe in the transformational power of finance,” said Botín. “Achieving financial inclusion, and even beyond that, international empowerment, is something that is not just important for us, but important for the world.”

Expanding Financial Services

Prior to Botín’s remarks, two panels contemplated ongoing efforts to strengthen worldwide financial inclusion. The conversations included World Bank Group Senior Director for the Finance Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice Ceyla Pazarbasioglu and MasterCard President and CEO Ajay Banga.

Pazarbasioglu and Banga discussed topics such as improved trust and streamlined knowledge sharing, consumer-centered approaches and cash-light solutions, as well as public-private partnerships.

“Private capital is not going to come into this space if there is a continuous era of mistrust between the public sector and the private sector,” said Banga.

The panelists also highlighted each organization’s efforts to expand financial services in places that lack them. The World Bank’s Global Findex database provides an empirical benchmark of financial inclusion measures to help countries develop their financial inclusion strategies. MasterCard has recognized that small businesses need channels through which they can register and display purchases to receive loans from commercial banks. 

“Let’s create some Q.R. codes, the ability for a small merchant in a little village shop to both accept payment for his water through a Q.R. code, but also pay for the water he buys through a Q.R.,” said Banga.

“Combining Digital with People”

Following the afternoon panels, Botín’s keynote speech highlighted the difficulties that small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) face on a daily basis. The former head of an SME herself, Botín underscored that she assumed her post at the Santander Group with a particular desire to assist small businesses.

“My partners in my SME would never go to the bank and tell them what was happening with our company,” said Botín. “When I came back to banking after having run my own company, I was determined that helping small companies would be the one thing that I would focus on.”

Through her work, Botín has discovered that new technology alone cannot bolster financial inclusion. For example, microcredit depends largely upon agents working alongside the community to gather a picture of a borrower’s financial profile.

“If we just rely on data or digital, we would never give the loans,” said Botín. “One of the ways we believe we can actually accelerate this inclusion and financial empowerment is by combining digital with people.”

Botín also emphasized the importance of reinventing banks with an eye towards social responsibility. “The biggest change we’ve done, and the biggest change we’re doing, is cultural change,” said Botín.

“We want people who really want to work for companies that have, as a mission, profit with purpose, and want to have an impact.”