12/10/2010

Steve Pateman,
Head of UK Corporate and Commercial Banking,
Santander

At the risk of upsetting anyone at Microsoft, there is only so much a spreadsheet can do. While Excel has undoubtedly revolutionised — and improved - how many businesses run their finances, there is a limit to what aspreadsheet can tell you. The profit and loss may be there in black and white, with the yearly figures all present and correct, but what even the cleverest formulae miss are the deeper questions around a business. After all, a forecast is a spreadsheet and anybody can produce them. What they can’t tell you is how the management are assessing and facing up to future challenges. They can’t tell you what opportunities the company sees in its marketplace. And they certainly won’t give any hint as to what keeps the Financial Director awake at night.

Naturally, we’re as comfortable with spreadsheets as the next bank, and certainly we expect our customers to be able to produce clear and comprehensive numbers, but if the last few years has taught the industry anything, it’s that you have to get behind those numbers. While different sectors present similar challenges across the board, there is no doubt that any sensible bank must get under the skin of its customers in order to design the right solutions for its needs. So you have to spend the time in order to look at the business and be able to make that judgement.

Previously there was a danger that the thinking went, “if you’re a hotel, you get one of these; you’re a dentist, you get one of these; you’re a telecoms company, you get one of these” and so on. At Santander we make sure our Relationship Directors regularly shut down the spreadsheets and get out there to meet their customers, to find out exactly what they’re up against, what they need and how we can help. It’s the only way to really add value. And no spreadsheet can do that.


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