Masters Resigns as Chairman of Santander U.S. Unit After a Year

  • Becomes the Spanish lender’s senior blockchain adviser
  • Masters deepens relations with bank as it focuses on fintech

Blythe Masters is stepping down as chairman of Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., one of the biggest subprime auto lenders in the U.S., a year after taking the position.

The former senior investment banker at JPMorgan Chase & Co. will take on a new role at Banco Santander SA as group senior adviser on blockchain, the decentralized database that underpins bitcoin, the digital currency.

For the last two years, Santander and virtually every other major bank around the world has been studying and testing blockchain technology to determine if it might provide a faster, cheaper, and more transparent way to move money and settle securities trades. In May, Santander’s U.K. division said it was using such software in an internal pilot program to make cross-border payments.

William Rainer, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1999 to 2001 and co-founder of RBS Securities Inc., part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Inc., is replacing Masters as chairman at Santander Consumer USA.

Street Backing

Masters, who ended her 27-year career at JPMorgan Chase in 2014, remains chief executive officer of Digital Asset Holdings LLC. The New York-based startup, which is backed by JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and other Wall Street stalwarts, is developing a suite of products that enables people to transfer assets to one another without verification by a third party.

In January, Santander InnoVentures, the Madrid-based lender’s $100 million fintech fund, acquired an undisclosed stake in Digital Asset Holdings. In today’s announcement, the bank said Masters would also join its recently formed seven-member International Advisory Board, which includes former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers. She is also joining the board of Santander’s online-only lender, Openbank.

"I’m looking forward to her focusing on digital banking," Santander Executive Chairman Ana Botin said in a statement.

Santander Holdings USA Inc., which encompasses the consumer finance unit, failed the Federal Reserve stress test for financial resiliency last month for the third consecutive year. The Fed said Santander’s U.S. division suffers from “broad and substantial weaknesses” in how it manages capital.

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