Santander has signed a €100 million (£93 million), two year IT services deal with Accenture to help it handle vast IT integration projects following a string of large acquisitions.
The bank has been integrating Abbey onto its proprietary banking IT platform, Partenon - which is Microsoft-centred and sits on an IBM database - after buying the UK firm in 2004. Work continues on that project.
Santander has also been integrating 2007 acquisitions Banco Real in Brazil and RBS’ consumer finance unit. As the credit crunch hit the UK hard last year, Santander made quickfire acquisitions of Alliance & Leicester and the savings and branch activities of Bradford & Bingley, and it was faced with a massive IT merger programme, moving those banks onto Partenon too.
Accenture will work on the integration of all those companies’ IT systems, as well as providing general IT consulting, business process management, IT outsourcing and business process outsourcing.
Santander did not immediately comment on whether this deal indicated a contingency plan to speed up the mergers.
Among other targets, Santander is aiming for £65 million savings from IT initiatives, £30 million from “efficiency best practices”, £25 million from operational improvements, and £35 million from central office and support service rationalisation, as part of the A&L takeover alone.
But observers have noted that a particular challenge may lie ahead in dealing with Bradford & Bingley's IT systems. In June, newspaper the Financial Times blamed B&B’s “hopelessly antiquated” IT, outsourced to IBM, for failing to provide proper visibility of the company.
In the UK, Accenture will focus on change management, likely to affect Abbey, A&L and Bradford & Bingley. It will also develop “strategic initiatives” for systems in Britain and elsewhere.
Jose-Maria Fuster, general technology and operations manager at Santander, said that with the work with Accenture, “we can significantly strengthen our execution capabilities to continue implementing our strategic systems vision”.
Santander has 80 million customers and 14,000 branches globally.