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Release Date: 19th December 2018

To access the original FCA document, click here.

Summary

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has fined Santander UK Plc £32,817,800 for serious failings in its probate and bereavement process, which resulted in the bank failing to effectively process the accounts and investments of deceased customers. These failings led to Santander not transferring over £183 million to beneficiaries in a timely manner, directly affecting 40,428 customers. Additionally, Santander failed to disclose information regarding these issues to the FCA upon becoming aware of them.

Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, stated that while Santander ultimately fixed the problems once notified to the board and senior management, the recognition and initial response to the issues were significantly delayed. He emphasised the importance of firms quickly identifying and addressing problems to protect customers effectively.

Santander breached Principle 3 and Principle 6 between 1 January 2013 and 11 July 2016 by not organising and controlling its probate and bereavement process responsibly and effectively. Weaknesses in the process included:

These weaknesses resulted in some funds being held for years, depriving beneficiaries of their use for a considerable time. Furthermore, Santander took too long to address these issues and commence remediation exercises once aware of them.

Since 2015, Santander has undertaken remediation exercises to transfer funds to beneficiaries, including paying interest and compensation where appropriate. The FCA found that Santander also breached Principle 11 by failing to disclose information about the issues to the FCA, falling short of the expected standards of openness and cooperation.

Santander did not contest the FCA’s findings and agreed to a 30% (Stage 1) discount on the fine. Without this discount, the fine would have been £46,882,500.

Key Takeaways for Other Firms:

In conclusion, the FCA’s action against Santander underscores the importance of timely and effective handling of customer accounts in probate and bereavement, as well as maintaining transparency and cooperation with regulatory bodies.

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