- The General Meeting approves the management and the results for the 2020 financial year and the new non-executive role of the Chairman, whose work will focus on strategic aspects and the control and supervision of the Bank’s management
- The shareholders ratify the appointment of César González-Bueno as new Chief Executive Officer and of Alicia Reyes as a new Independent Director, and also approve the creation of the new Credit Committee and the Strategy and Sustainability Committee
- Josep Oliu: “In 2020 the foundations were laid for the Bank’s sustainable future as an independent, competitive and profitable institution. The challenge is to grow the balance sheet, while maintaining an adequate capital ratio and providing high quality and differentiated customer service”
The Banco Sabadell General Meeting of Shareholders, held in Alicante and represented by 61.14% of the share capital, has approved the management and annual financial statements of the institution’s 139th year. The meeting took place in the Auditorio de la Diputación de Alicante with limited numbers present and following all the requisite health and safety measures; it was also held through telematic means.
During the meeting, the non-financial disclosures and directors' remuneration reports were approved, as was the new non-executive configuration of the Bank’s chairmanship. From now on, the Chairman will focus on strategic aspects and on the control and supervision of the Bank’s management, while executive management will be the responsibility of the CEO.
The meeting also ratified the appointments of César González-Bueno as new CEO and Alicia Reyes as a new Independent Director. Reyes fills the vacancy created by the retirement of José Luís Negro. Also noteworthy is the creation of the Delegated Credit Committee, to be responsible for weekly analysis and approval of credit risk, and the new Strategy and Sustainability Committee, which will carefully examine and promote relevant strategic initiatives and pertinent social and environmental measures. The latter committee will be chaired by Josep Oliu.
The Chairman, Josep Oliu, began his speech with a reference to the exceptional circumstances of 2020: “We will always remember this as an extraordinary year, the year of the pandemic. Faced with this unexpected environment, the Bank acted as a critical infrastructure and responded with efficiency and speed”. In this respect, the Chairman highlighted Banco Sabadell’s role as a provider of liquidity and public guarantees for companies and individual customers seeking debt deferrals, and noted the Bank’s prudence in “making extraordinary provisions while at the same time offloading a backlog of older real or defaulted assets. All with the aim of strengthening solvency and fortifying the capacity to confront the effects of the pandemic in the immediate future”.
“We are facing an asymmetric crisis. Fortunately, scientists’ immediate reaction has enabled the creation of vaccines and treatments which will, without doubt, curb the spread of the disease”. The Chairman noted the role of central banks as liquidity providers and the European response in the form of the Next Generation fund, which he described as “a milestone in the European Union’s development process”.
Oliu stated that “in this context, the banking sector has been and is key to solving the problems of businesses, both by providing operational continuity of payment systems at all times and by serving as a vehicle to channel public aid”. The Chairman explained the Board’s view concerning the immediate future of the Bank and its ability to confront these challenges: “We have decided to focus on domestic activity in the coming years in combination with international diversification, which is also important, seeking value in businesses that produce a higher shareholder return”.
The Chairman also referred to the appointment of César González-Bueno as the Bank’s new CEO, highlighting his “successful experience leading innovation, digitisation and restructuring processes in different entities”, and he thanked Jaime Guardiola for “his key role as CEO over the last 14 years”. He also explained to shareholders his new role as non-executive Chairman: “My work – he explained – will be to coordinate the Board’s actions, ensuring appropriate checks and balances on executive management at all times, through the work of the Board’s committees”.
In the last part of his speech, Josep Oliu expressed a positive message, stating that “today the future is looking much more hopeful”. “In 2020, the foundations have been laid for the Bank’s sustainable future as an independent, competitive and profitable institution. Without a doubt, the great challenge facing the Bank is to adapt its product offering to a digital world”, he added. The speech ended with recognition of the effort made by the Bank’s team of professionals: “They have put the Bank on a launch pad to take it into the future, - he said - and I hope that the strategic path taken will soon prove its worth with successful implementation for shareholders”.
Speech of Jaime Guardiola
In his last appearance as CEO, Jaime Guardiola spoke about the general outlook and the key figures for the year. In the first part of his speech he stressed that 2020 has been “a complex year in which Banco Sabadell has strengthened its financial position and its balance sheet, has demonstrated excellent commercial dynamism and has supported its customers, and society at large, thereby contributing to mitigating the effects of the pandemic”.
Guardiola referred to the four extraordinary impacts on the balance sheet in 2020: the extraordinary provisions of 1,200 million euros “which have made it possible to cover the potential impacts of the COVID-19 crisis”; the extraordinary restructuring costs, amounting to 314 million euros in Spain and 101 million euros in the United Kingdom, “which enable substantial improvement of the cost base going forward”; the capital gain of 599 million euros from the ALCO portfolio, which have financed both the restructuring plans and the sales of non-performing assets; and, lastly, the capital gain of 293 million euros from the sale of the asset management company.
Concerning the sale of the asset manager, Guardiola highlighted the agreement with Amundi: “This partnership will enable us to boost our commercial savings-investment offering, which is a strategic priority for the Bank”.
For Guardiola, the five most significant milestones reached by Banco Sabadell in 2020 are its solid capital position, the liquidation of NPAs, the implementation of an efficiency plan in Spain, business growth and digitisation, and the consolidation of the Bank’s commitment to society and to sustainability. From the commercial point of view, some of the figures he highlighted were: 12,000 million euros in new lending to companies and self-employed under the framework of the ICO guarantee line; 65,000 debt deferrals extended to individuals and self-employed; the growth in household lending by 13 basis points; the increased number of large corporates that are customers of the bank, having risen to 71%; or the 8.6% year-on-year growth in Corporate Banking lending, among others.
The outgoing CEO also mentioned TSB, both in terms of the support measures rolled out to cope with the pandemic and in terms of its business performance: “commercial momentum at TSB has been excellent”. With regard to the execution of the British subsidiary’s strategic plan, he added that it “has been accelerated during the year and consequently TSB will return to profit in 2021, ahead of schedule”. Guardiola also referred to the bank’s activity in Mexico: “Sabadell – he stated – is in tenth place in the country’s business financing ranking. In just six years it has managed to reach a very significant position in the market”.
Jaime Guardiola ended his speech wishing good luck to the new CEO, César González-Bueno, and expressed his thanks to the entire team at Banco Sabadell “You are an example of professionalism, dedication, commitment and vocation to service. It has been a privilege to work side by side with you during these past fourteen years”.
Speech of César González-Bueno
In his speech, the new CEO, César González-Bueno, said “I take great pride in becoming part of the team at Banco Sabadell, a bank with 140 years of history, with a growth trajectory, and one that has understood, like no other bank in Spain, how to nurture customer relationships, particularly among corporates, SMEs and businesses”.
González-Bueno then referred to the new organisational chart: “The main aim of this organisational structure – he explained – is to align all of the Bank’s teams to further increase our focus on our customers, and to improve our capacity to respond to their needs”.
With regard to the business in Spain, he outlined the internal distribution of each one of the three major units that have been set up, Retail Banking, Business Banking and Corporate Banking, and placed emphasis on “the direct responsibility of each business line in Spain for part of the corporate functions and capabilities in the areas of Finance, Organisation and Resources, Operations and Technology, Risks and Legal Advice. This gives each business line greater autonomy and agility”. The businesses in the United Kingdom and Mexico will notundergo organisational changes and, as González-Bueno stated, “there are no plans to initiate any sales process in the near future, and they will continue with a clear focus on accelerating the path towards profitability and increasing their financial contribution to the Group”.
The CEO concluded his speech with a message of confidence for shareholders: “The Bank’s great team and I will focus our best efforts on increasing shareholder value and on projecting the Bank into the future, generating a positive impact on customers, members of the organisation, the economy and society”.