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José Antonio Villasante and Luis Juste, Santander Universities

Santander is the only global bank with a dedicated arm supporting international education. José Antonio Villasante, director of Santander Universities, and Luis Juste, head of Santander Universities UK talked to The PIE.

The PIE: Why was Santander Universities division set up?

José Antonio Villasante (L) and Luis Juste (R)

"When we look for people to work with us, we are looking for people with global minds"

Luis Juste: Well it was an idea that was started 15 years ago and it was really the idea of Emilio Botín (head of Santander bank). He just came to the realisation that we were doing very well as a bank, we were increasing our presence internationally and expanding, so it was really about time we gave back to society what society gave us. Without any doubt the best investment any bank can make is to invest in the future, and the future is our universities.

Then José Antonio Villasante, who is the head of Santander Universities globally, together with Mr Botín in a very personal way defined the model which is very simple: we go to universities and say, How can we help you? That’s all we do.

The PIE: It’s become an enormous entity.

José Antonio Villasante: Yes, we have 1,020 universities worldwide, and 2,500 employees around the world dedicated full time to supporting universities. We have divisions in 18 countries to give service to universities, the staff and teachers, research and overall education. Over 15 years we have dedicated €800million to support higher education through sponsorship, and to help promote more than 40,000 university projects. It’s now a fundamental part of the bank’s brand.

LJ: Just last year we gave out more than 21,000 scholarships. It’s incredible if you think about it. But it’s not only about funds, not only about money. The value added through partnership is the essence of our model. We want to develop relationships between all the countries in which we are present, and try to bring together all the universities and make the most out of that.

“We go to universities and say, How can we help you? That’s all we do”

The PIE: Are you really the only university arm of a bank anywhere in the world?

LJ: Unfortunately in a way for us that’s true, and in 15 years not one other institution has followed us. It would have really been more easy if there had been someone else doing it, we would just have to copy. But in this case we just built it as we created it. But what better place to learn than with universities? They taught us everything we know, and this unique programme is really part of our image as a bank.

The PIE: Can you give me some examples of projects you run?

LJ: The way it works is quite simple. We believe that when you want to help someone, you want to let that someone decide what he wants. So each agreement is tailor made, by each university, using the funds and sources they need. Most will use this for scholarships to promote international mobility or entrepreneurship. It’s really loads of things because each of our partners has a tailor made situation.[More>>]

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