Santander Bans Investment Bankers from Using WhatsApp, Others

Santander has instructed its investment banking employees in Spain to cease using WhatsApp and other instant messaging services for work communications. This move aligns with actions taken by firms in the United States and the United Kingdom, which have implemented stringent measures to regulate employee communications.

According to Bloomberg, Santander has mandated the removal of unauthorised messaging apps from company mobile phones. Although such services were previously banned, some employees reportedly continued to use them, prompting the bank to enforce stricter measures.

“Santander has well-defined protocols regarding the use of communication channels and adheres to the specific regulatory requirements in each of the markets in which we operate,” the bank noted in a recent comment.

This decision follows a series of fines imposed on financial institutions for the misuse of instant messaging applications by employees. In the US, fines have exceeded $2.5 billion, affecting firms such as Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and BNP Paribas. These penalties, issued by the SEC and CFTC between 2022 and 2023, underscore the importance of recording communications to prevent the misuse of privileged information and manipulation of financial markets.

US regulations require employees dealing in securities to log their communications, including calls and emails, to ensure compliance and facilitate investigations. The widespread use of instant messaging apps had circumvented these protocols, prompting regulatory crackdowns.

In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) fined Citi, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Morgan Stanley, and Royal Bank of Canada for sharing confidential information about UK sovereign bonds in chat rooms between 2009 and 2013. Additionally, Morgan Stanley was fined £5.4 million last year for traders’ use of WhatsApp. The UK’s market supervisor has since engaged with the banking sector to enforce “effective policies” for monitoring employee communications.

Santander’s move to ban instant messaging apps reflects a broader trend among financial institutions to tighten control over employee communications and ensure regulatory compliance.

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