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Santander considers future of investment advice arm

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Santander is carrying out a strategic review of its investment advice arm which could see the bank pull out of investment advice altogether, with 880 jobs at risk.

Money Marketing understands Santander is being investigated by the FSA following a mystery shopping exercise into the quality of investment advice at six major banks and building societies.

A total of 881 of Santander advisers, management and back office were summoned to a meeting in Birmingham last week, and were told the bank is carrying out a 90-day strategic review into how to offer investment advice in future. Options under consideration include continuing to provide mass market investment advice, offering investment advice purely for affluent customers and a complete closure of the advice arm.

Santander will continue to provide advice to existing customers, but will not be taking on new business until it can “find the right model”.

Staff will have an individual meeting with their immediate line manager before the end of February to discuss their options. Santander has frozen external recruitment for its retail division to allow affected staff to be redeployed elsewhere in the business. Around 130 adviser roles are available to provide advice to existing customers.

A Santander UK spokesman says: “There is never a good time to announce changes such as this and we are acutely aware of the uncertainty staff are facing.

“Santander UK will continue to review how and to whom it can provide face-to-face advice, within the new regulatory framework, in a way that benefits and protects customers, our colleagues and indeed Santander itself.”

The bank added it has delayed plans to resume its face-to-face advice service due to the “regulatory expectations post-RDR, the further investment that would be required and the length of time needed to complete that investment”.

In December, Money Marketing revealed Santander had suspended its investment advice service and pulled 800 advisers off the road with immediate effect because they were not fully trained to meet “RDR suitability and processes” requirements . At the time, Santander said the advisers would be put on a six-week “intensive training programme” to bring them up to speed.

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