Patrick Smith
Head of Consumer and Business Banking, Santander Bank
Age: 49 

Industry experience: 17 years 

After a stint at a consulting firm working in communications and high tech, Patrick Smith got his first job in retail banking. Smith loved it from the start, especially the opportunity to help people working through financial problems and building toward their financial futures. Smith was named Santander Bank’s head of consumer and business banking in April, where he’ll oversee branches, retail investments, small business banking and corporate social responsibility.  

Headquartered in Boston, the U.S. division of the Spanish bank has $95 billion in assets and about 480 branches on the East Coast, including 165 in Massachusetts. Smith reports to his predecessor Pierre Habis, who started a new role as chief consumer and digital transformation officer. In addition to an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Smith has a master’s degree in information technology management from the University of Virginia.  

Q: What are some of your goals for consumer and business banking at Santander?
A: Our number-one goal by far is to fulfill our vision and our purpose of helping individuals and businesses prosper. That is why we exist and that is why we wake up and go to work every day. We essentially want to be the bank of choice for our clients. In order to do that, we need to be able to provide the services that our clients need. We need to make sure that we can focus on deepening relationships, because that’s the ultimate expression of whether or not we’ve achieved our goal of having people rely on us for financial advice and guidance.  

We want to continue to complement that by growing and expanding our digital. We’re in the throes of a large transformation that’s going to help us enhance how we serve our clients. We want to continue to make things simple for our clients. I know that’s a watchword today, but for us, it’s something that we’re laser-focused on. We want to make sure that we have simple but valuable and easy-to-use products and services that our clients can quickly comprehend and understand and ones that are tailored and designed to meet their specific needs.  

Q: How does your background in information technology influence the approach you take to banking?
A: My background – not just the educational background, but probably more importantly, the practical experience – I think matters a lot because the center of the way our clients want to engage with us going forward is going to be more and more digital. I actually started my career in banking on the digital side, so I have a long background in digital with a real focus on trying to make sure that we are providing the kinds of services that our clients need from a digital perspective. 

What’s going to be valuable for Santander in our transformation is both the team that we built and the investments that we’re making, both in the U.S. and globally. We have some really advanced digital capabilities that we’re able to leverage as assets in our transformation here in the U.S. And then we have a team that has a really broad array of advanced skills that are going to help us be successful in designing the kind of collective experiences both in our digital channels and in all of our channels that are going to meet the needs of our clients. 

Q: What role do you see for branches?
A: Branches are going to continue to be critical. What’s really changing for branches is what clients want to do in those branches. No longer do they really want to come in and do transactions. What they’re looking for in branches is more and more human-centered advice and guidance for really complex financial planning topics. For us, we have always had an emphasis on providing high quality advice and guidance – that’s for a long time been the centerpiece of our retail banking franchise. That won’t change for us going forward. What we’re looking to do is complement that with more advanced digital capabilities with the way that we design our service interactions in the contact centers, our ATM experiences, etc. 

Q: With Santander no longer doing mortgage lending, how will the bank meet lending needs in your market?
A: Even though we’re no longer going to originate mortgages, we want to make sure that we are able to direct our clients to a really high-quality provider of mortgages. We are teaming up with [Rocket Mortgage], one of the country’s most reputable and leading brands in mortgages, so that we can provide our clients a warm handoff to a mortgage provider that can take good care of their mortgage needs.  

Outside of that we have lots of other opportunities to be able to serve our clients’ needs. We continue to be active in small business lending. On the consumer side, we have credit cards and personal unsecured lines and loans, and so we have a broad enough product suite where we can continue to meet a lot of our clients’ credit and lending needs 

Q: What approach will you take to corporate responsibility?
A: This is something that I’m particularly proud of for what we do. It’s something that’s been built into our DNA, and it’s something that we want to continue to do. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a company and a bank that’s very much close to its communities, and supportive of its communities. We take very seriously the obligation and the opportunity to strengthen low- and moderate-income households, as well as to continue to serve historically underserved communities across our footprint.  

We had a really ambitious five-year Inclusive Communities plan with a range of giving and lending and other forms of support to businesses and individuals across our community. We targeted $11 billion over five years. We’re just concluding that five-year plan, and we actually, in total, ended up at $14 billion. We’re in the process now of working on an even more ambitious Inclusive Communities plan. We see ourselves as very much a community bank at our heart and core, and so we’ll continue to be very much involved in our communities. 

Smith’s Five Favorite Movies: 

  1. “The Hunt for Red October” 
  2. “Black Panther” 
  3. Disney’s “Soul” 
  4. “Snatch” 
  5. “City of God” (Cidade de Deus) 

Large Bank Looks to Simplify Customer Products

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 4 min