Santander advisers in the spotlight as firms gear up for UK review amid global panel shakeup

Banco Santander

Santander is gearing up to overhaul its UK legal panel amid a review of the international firms on the bank’s global roster.

The bank is expected to kick off its UK panel review in the summer, according to partners – roughly a year after it started the process for its global review.

Firms are still awaiting the outcome of the global review, which is being run from Santander’s Madrid headquarters, after submitting additional information to the bank in December last year. The review is being led by the bank’s general secretary and board secretary, Jaime Perez Renovales, and his team.

A partner at one of the firms pitching for the roster described the review as a “very ambitious and sophisticated process”, with the bank asking firms to “provide capability statements for the countries and practices that Santander has a presence in”.

Meanwhile, the UK panel review, which is expected to start in the next few months after being extended for an additional year last summer, will be run by Aquanima, a Santander subsidiary that deals with procurement.

New UK chief legal and regulatory officer John Collins is also likely to be involved in the decision-making process, with the review set to mark the first since he joined the bank in July 2016. He previously worked at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) but handed in his notice in December 2015 – just 11 months after he was promoted to GC at RBS.

One partner at a firm on the UK panel said: “Aquanima takes the lead on procurement, but I suspect the new GC might want to have a say.”

Santander last reviewed its UK panel in 2014. The bank is known to work with firms including Slaughter and May, Eversheds, Gowling WLG, Hogan Lovells, Nabarro, CMS, Ashurst and DLA Piper.

The bank also has a ‘pass through’ panel of firms that it recommends to clients. That panel is reviewed separately and, according to one partner, the bank has a “much more relaxed approach to” its review process.

Commenting on the UK review, a spokesperson said: “As with any prudent organisation, Santander regularly reviews its legal panels and law firm arrangements to ensure they remain fit for purpose. However, there are currently no plans to review the make-up of the panel until later in the year.” The bank would not comment on the review of its global legal panel.

News of the Santander review comes as HSBC heads towards the conclusion of its UK panel review and as Deutsche prepares to finalise its global line-up, with the bank’s review documents controversially detailing plans to refuse to pay for firms’ most junior lawyers.