By Steve Pateman, Executive Director of Corporate, Commercial and Business Banking, Santander UK Plc
One of the central and most powerful theories in the natural world is that of the ecosystem: the idea that everything in nature has its place and that all the constituent components thrive by working in harmony together. It’s rarely a simple system, and often hides a great deal of complexity in terms of how different parts fit together, but at its heart is the idea of balance. One could argue that the economic system shares some of the same characteristics: a delicate web of relationships where different groups rely on each other in order to survive and thrive.
The UK economy is, much like any other developed country, reliant on the free movement of capital to a large extent. And central to that is the banking sector, which acts as a crucial lubricant to the movement of capital around the system. But somewhere along the line many banks forgot their place in the ecosystem, stepping outside the usual roles. Instead of investing prudently, following consistent lending policies and identifying and managing risk, some took the opportunity to break out of the traditional banking areas and attempt to reinvent themselves as investment houses or hedge funds.
At Santander we have always tried to remain focused on what our role in the economy is: to work with good solid businesses, helping them to grow and in turn put more back into the economy. Ana Patricia Botín, our Chief Executive, spelt this out recently in a speech at the British Bankers' Association’s Annual International Banking Conference. She was at pains to point out the crucial role played by banks in maintaining a healthy economy.
After all, a flourishing business and corporate sector, supported by banks, drives economic growth through increases in employment, investment and tax receipts. This in turn provides an ideal environment for new businesses to spring up, and helps fund the public sector to deliver services to those that need them.
Like most of the best concepts, it’s a simple one that makes perfect sense. It does, though, require us as bankers to truly focus on what we do best. At Santander it is very much part of the corporate DNA. And if we lose sight of that, we really would be lost in the jungle.
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