William Vereker will be charged with helping to implement a €1bn cost-cutting programme across Europe © Thomson Reuters

Santander is close to naming William Vereker, the former business envoy of former prime minister Theresa May, as its new UK chairman, tasked with overseeing one of the country’s largest high street banks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Vereker, who joined JPMorgan only five months ago, will replace Shriti Vadera when she steps down later this year to become chair of British insurer Prudential, according to two people familiar with the appointment. The Spanish bank was expecting to receive final regulatory approval for his candidacy by the end of this week, they said.

The UK’s Cabinet Office also needs to sign off the appointment because he left a senior government role less than two years ago.

Santander and JPMorgan declined to comment. Mr Vereker could not immediately be reached for comment.

At Santander, the 53-year-old will be charged with galvanising sluggish performance in the UK and helping implement a €1bn cost-cutting programme across Europe, a region that has failed to keep up with surging profits across Latin America. Mr Vereker will work closely with Santander UK chief executive Nathan Bostock, who has run the country division since 2014.

In the first quarter, Santander’s pre-tax profit in the UK more than halved to £114m after projected loan losses related to coronavirus lockdowns surged threefold to £165m. In the final period of last year, before coronavirus hit, the UK was Santander’s only global market where underlying profits fell, reflecting intense competition in the mortgage market.

In February, Mr Vereker joined JPMorgan as vice-chairman of investment banking for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Mr Vereker was named Mrs May’s business envoy in September 2018 in an attempt to improve relations between the ruling Conservative party, and the City and corporate Britain, which had fallen out over Brexit. However, he lost the position under Mrs May’s successor, Boris Johnson.

Before his stint in government, Mr Vereker had a three-decade career as an investment banker, working at Schroders, Babcock & Brown, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Nomura and latterly as co-head of UBS’s investment bank.

He was a candidate to replace Xavier Rolet as chief executive of the London Stock Exchange Group in 2018 but lost out to another former banker, Goldman Sachs veteran David Schwimmer.

Mr Vereker is the second high-profile hire Santander has made in the UK this year. In May, the lender recruited London-based HSBC executive António Simões as its regional head of Europe, overseeing the country heads of Spain, UK, Portugal and Poland.

Meanwhile, Santander is involved in a €100m lawsuit brought by former UBS dealmaker Andrea Orcel against the Spanish bank and its executive chairman Ana Botín. 

Mr Orcel is demanding compensation for the botched attempt to name him group chief executive last year, which collapsed in a dispute over pay and profile. A preliminary court hearing has been scheduled in Madrid for September 16.

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