Santander has named Héctor Grisi its next chief executive, promoting one of its top regional executives to work alongside executive chair Ana Botín and drawing a line under the failed appointment of Andrea Orcel more than three years ago.
Grisi, who is chief executive of Mexico and head of the bank’s North American operations, joined Santander in 2015 from Credit Suisse, where he was an investment banker. He will start in January 2023 and replace José Antonio Álvarez, who has been in the role since 2014, the lender said on Friday.
The 55-year-old has helped turn around Santander’s US business and return it to profitability, which for years was found to have serious deficiencies in capital planning and risk management by regulators. He also improved earnings in Mexico and is overseeing the bank’s potential acquisition of Citigroup’s retail operations in the country.
“Héctor will be an outstanding successor to José Antonio. He brings decades of experience and a deep understanding of our markets and business . . . his track record as CEO of Santander Mexico and head of North America speaks for itself,” said Botín.
Lead independent director Bruce Carnegie-Brown said: “Héctor Grisi is a seasoned expert who knows our business and is the right person to lead the bank with Ana.”
Earlier this year, Botín gave up some of her responsibilities at Spain’s largest lender, delegating operational authority to the chief executive in response to pressure from European regulators to improve corporate governance. The chief executive now reports directly to the board.
Botín had previously tried to bring in Orcel as chief executive in late 2018, but fell out with the former head of UBS’s investment bank over the scope of his executive authority and who would be the public face of the lender.
The bank withdrew the offer and Botín reinstated Alvarez as chief executive. However, Orcel sued Santander for loss of earnings, in one of the most high-profile personal feuds in European banking. Last year the bank lost in court and was ordered to pay Orcel €51.4mn. It is contesting the decision.