Spanish banker to take over at Abbey

Abbey National today welcomed the appointment of a Spanish banker at its helm as Santander Central Hispano (SCH) outlined its plans for the banking giant.

Abbey National today welcomed the appointment of a Spanish banker at its helm as Santander Central Hispano (SCH) outlined its plans for the banking giant.

Spain’s largest bank said its finance director Francisco Gomez-Roldan would take over from Luqman Arnold as Abbey’s chief executive from next month.

It also confirmed Lord Burns would remain chairman, working with Mr Gomez-Roldan to lead Abbey into a new era of Spanish control.

The appointment – which is subject to the £9bn (€13bn) takeover by SCH gaining regulatory approval – marks the first time Abbey has had a foreign chief executive.

Mr Gomez-Roldan was appointed finance director of SCH in 2002 after joining the company two years earlier.

He previously held positions at Banca Catalana and then Grupo Argentaria, which was a consolidation of all of Spain’s state-owned banks.

He said he was looking forward to moving to the UK and had been impressed by the quality of the Abbey team during the past two months.

“We have a big challenge ahead of us, but I am entirely confident that together we will realise the immense opportunity presented by combining the strengths of Abbey and Santander,” he said.

Abbey had already announced that Mr Arnold would leave his role upon completion of the deal. He will continue to work with SCH as a senior adviser to chairman Emilio Botin.

Lord Burns, who endured a rough ride from shareholders at its recent meeting to approve the deal, said Mr Gomez-Roldan’s extensive experience would be invaluable in ensuring the smooth transition to new ownership.

Investors in SCH were poised to give the green light to the takeover today, leaving it subject only to approval from the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Although no formal decision has been made, the FSA recently said it saw “no material impediments” to the takeover.

The deal will create the fourth-largest bank in Europe and the eighth-largest in the world.

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