We have around 25 million customers in the UK, served through our network of 1,300 branches, UK-based call centres and 29 business centres. Putting customers at the forefront of our business is a key focus for Santander and our vision is to become the best bank in the UK by delivering a great service and competitive products.
The main corporate responsibility issues that we are addressing relate to Financial Inclusion and Capability, Managing Complaints and supporting Small Businesses. An outline of our main actions is detailed below, and further information is available via the links on the left or in our CSR Report.
Financial inclusion & Capability
Financial inclusion refers to the objective of ensuring that everyone, and in particular people living on low incomes, has access to the financial services and products that they need. Financial capability deals with the ability of people to understand the basics of money management, financial products and services. Santander Foundation provides grants to charities working with disadvantaged people and funds projects that address financial capability. Through our branches and call centres we provide access to our services for people on low incomes through our basic bank account. For more detail on our support in these areas, please see the links on the left hand side.
Supporting customers with financial
We recognise that our customers may find themselves facing financial difficulties at some point and we are committed to treating them sympathetically when they are experiencing financial distress.
On our internet site we have a support section focused on the theme of financial difficulties. This covers a range of topics from what debt means to working out a budget. Free money advice and debt counselling charities are promoted through the site, including those supporting small businesses.
Delivering excellent customer experience and improving customer service is a key strategic priority for Santander. We continually invest in our processes and systems to improve the experience for our customers and to strengthen our approach to treating customers fairly.
Our complaints handling is monitored through a quality assurance model which identifies areas for improvement in our processes and changes are introduced on an ongoing basis.
Customers who write to us with a complaint relating to core banking services or savings are contacted by phone (where a contact number is known) so that we can improve our understanding of their problem and speed up resolution. We also increasing the use of technology - such as text messaging - to help us better connect with our customers.
Helping small businesses
Our aim is to become the SME bank of choice and we are keen to build relationships with our customers based on understanding their business and their needs so that we can support them as a business partner, not just a finance provider.
We provide appropriate products and services at each stage of our customers' business cycle. Start-ups and businesses turning over up to £250k have access to support and advice via our branch based Local Business Managers and they can service their account through our ATMs, call centres and online. Larger businesses have a full relationship-managed service via our regional business centres while large corporates are supported by the expertise of specialist finance teams.
In 2011 our lending to SMEs continued to grow, increasing by 25%, with some £4.3bn of lending.