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Ana Botin
Ana BotinChris Morris/For The Boston Globe

It’s a statistic that should startle traditional bankers. But not Ana Botin.

The executive chair of Banco Santander, the Spanish banking giant, sees the transition to digital banking as an opportunity, not a threat. She points to a study by Novantas that showed about 20 percent of checking accounts opened last year took place at digital-only banks, a.k.a. “neobanks.” That compared to about 5 percent in 2017. And she thinks Santander’s own digital bank, known as Openbank, could fulfill the role of disrupter in the United States.

Botin spoke with the Globe about her ambitions when she visited last week for a board meeting of Santander’s US arm, which is based in Boston, and a town hall-style meeting with employees at the Marriott Long Wharf hotel. During the town hall meeting, she cited a factor that gives her hope has her hopeful about the upcoming digital expansion: a dismantling of the internal silos that naturally formed at a banking conglomerate built via a series of acquisitions in multiple countries.

Another factor: Botin has largely resolved the US regulatory issues that once dogged her company. The former US chief, Scott Powell, all but completed that task before leaving in December to tackle a new set of issues for Wells Fargo. Tim Wennes took over at that point as Botin’s top lieutenant in the United States.


Like a number of other big banks, Santander is going digital to grow beyond its core branch footprint to capture a new generation of customers. Another good local example is Citizens Financial. The Providence-based bank now has more than $6 billion in deposits in its Citizens Access online business after launching it in 2018.

In the United States, the branches that Santander inherited through its acquisition of Sovereign Bank largely hemmed it into an eight-state footprint on the East Coast. Maybe not for much longer — if the Openbank concept crosses the Atlantic.


Santander revamped and relaunched its digital bank in Spain with a new Web platform and app in 2017. It began its global expansion by entering other European countries last year and now has $11 billion in deposits.

Santander is currently evaluating the logistics and the business case for a US launch and expects to decide in three to six months. Openbank would let Santander collect deposits anywhere in the United States. (Santander also makes business and car loans outside of the branch footprint.)

Most customers prefer to bank at a place where they can walk in and talk to someone, if necessary. But the statistics that Botin cites show an attitude shift’s underway. Openbank, as Botin puts it, offers the trust of a traditional bank, with the agility of a neobank.

Botin and Wennes are trying to mix things up in other ways, too. Santander is piloting a same-day loan program, for example, and its first US “work café” — more of a shared meeting space than a bank branch — is about to open in Brooklyn. Plans are in the works for one in Boston’s Seaport, too. — JON CHESTO

A brewing fight in the seltzer biz

Watch out, Boston Beer: The elephants are coming.

The maker of Samuel Adams beers has long been competing with brewing giants such as Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors on the beer front. Now, with the launch of Bud Light Seltzer, the competition is heating up in that world, too.


White Claw, owned by Mark Anthony Brands, dominates the spiked seltzer category, with Boston Beer’s Truly spiked seltzer a strong number two.

But how long will that last? Jefferies & Co. analyst Kevin Grundy asked about the competition during a Boston Beer earnings call last week. CEO Dave Burwick and chairman Jim Koch responded by saying, essentially, that there’s more than enough room.

Bud Light Seltzer is now the country’s third-most-popular spiked seltzer, even though it hit the shelves only in January. But Burwick said Boston Beer has actually gained market share since Bud Light Seltzer was launched. He also noted that the market is expected to double in size this year.

Koch talked about how the company is investing in improving the taste of Truly seltzers by spending more money on ingredients to develop more complex flavors.

“So the elephants are getting into the bathtub,” Koch said. “But we feel like we’ve carved out a space and . . . so far [have] held our share, actually grew it a little bit.” — JON CHESTO

Dunkin’ edges out Brady in poll

Tom Brady could be leaving New England. But Dunkin’ will never desert us.

The once-unthinkable possibility of a Brady departure might be why he’s trailing Dunkin’ in the polls. The pollsters at the University of Massachusetts Lowell asked 450 likely Democratic voters in the state about their presidential picks. (It looks like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders did well.) But we were more interested in questions asking about impressions of people and things with New England ties.


Sixty-eight percent said they had a favorable impression of Dunkin’. Brady? The beloved QB scored 61 percent. Political science professor Josh Dyck said he was surprised that Dunkin’ scored higher, even with rumors swirling that Brady might leave. He said he didn’t think anyone or anything else in Massachusetts was more popular.

Meanwhile, only 27 percent said they had a favorable opinion of the MBTA.

Don’t feel too bad, Steve Poftak. The T’s boss might take some solace in the fact that fewer people gave favorable ratings to Wynn Resorts and Columbia Gas: 15 percent and 11 percent, respectively. — JON CHESTO

Every dog has its day

If it’s true that one year equals seven dog years, then Brother Bailey has lived a full life, indeed.

PR guru George Regan decided that the sweet-sixteen bash he threw for his Pekingese pooch was so successful last February that he’d do it again if Bailey made it to 17. Sure enough, Bailey hit another milestone, and Regan hosted another crowd at his waterfront offices.

Regan named Bailey after a former Globe business columnist, Steve Bailey, who had irked Regan by writing about banker Chad Gifford (then a Regan client) in a less-than-flattering light. The joke — or insult, depending on your perspective — was that the dog and the columnist resembled each other.

More than 100 people crowded into Regan Communications Group’s offices this time around, including many returning guests from last year. Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, and blues legend James Montgomery led the obligatory “Happy Birthday” singalong. Someone played a recording of Daft Punk’s 2000 hit “One More Time.”


“The takeaway was no one could believe he is here for another year. He’s actually walking around,” Regan said.

So what’s Bailey’s secret? Maybe it’s his diet. He’s never had proper dog food, Regan said. Instead, he likes hot dogs, pizza, chicken tenders, and hamburgers. “I’m not a veterinarian,” Regan said. “But the head of Angell-Memorial says, ‘Well, you know, at this age, it’s working.’ ” — JON CHESTO

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.