Santander Taps Summers, D'Souza as Technology Reshapes Banks

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Ana Botin, chairman of Banco Santander SA, has appointed a tech-heavy advisory board in a sign that information technology has become crucial to her growth plans at the Spanish lender.

"I can’t think of a precedent where you’ve seen a panel of this nature," says Julian Skan, a managing director at Accenture Plc in London who advisers banks on IT issues. "This decision recognizes the breadth of angles you have to cover to implement a tech strategy, and she’ll now have serious people providing input to the board."

Chaired by Lawrence Summers, the former U.S. treasury secretary, the seven-member panel features four leaders from the technology industry. They include Charles Phillips, the former president of Oracle Corp. who is now CEO of Infor Inc., a New York-based software maker. Francisco D’Souza, chief executive officer of Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., an IT consulting and business processing company in Teaneck, New Jersey, is also a member, as is Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat Inc., an open source software firm in Raleigh, North Carolina.

"What the members of this board share is the experience of managing the digital transformation of an organization," Botin said in announcing the new board to shareholders Friday. "The way we internalize and adapt to new technology in the coming years will determine our success."

Botin has made the adoption of new tech innovations a priority since taking the helm of Santander in September 2014. The bank’s $100 million London-based venture fund has acquired stakes in startups ranging from online lender Kabbage Inc. to Digital Asset Holdings LLC, the blockchain technology firm headed by former JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker Blythe Masters.

The new board will also advise Botin on broader business issues. Sheila Bair, the ex-chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and a one-time Santander director, has joined the panel. Marjorie Scardino, the former CEO of London-based publisher Pearson Plc, is also a member.