Santander has confirmed its commitment to stay in the UK after Brexit
The Spanish bank's executive chairman Ana Botin said its confidence in Britain as a place to thrive and do business has not been shaken by the Brexit vote.
And although she admitted she was "sad" about Britain's decision to leave the bloc, the Spanish-born banker said it was "very important" to stress that Santander was not looking to pull out of the UK.
Ms Botin, who lives in Britain, made the comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where she appeared on a panel alongside Dutch PM Mark Rutte and former EU Parliament president Martin Schulz discussing the EU's future.
The bloc endured a torrid 2016 with the Brexit vote, an ongoing migrant crisis, economic stagnation in the eurozone and the election of Donald Trump all rocking Brussels to its foundations.
Bank boss Ana Botin said she was 'sad' about the decision to leave the EU
She made the remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos
She said: "On Brexit, I regret the decision. It was for me a sad day. But we have a big business in the UK and we remain totally committed to the UK.
"We have 14 million customers and 18,000 employees so we’re a British bank and that’s very important."
The banking boss also welcomed the clarity on Brexit provided by Theresa May when she confirmed Britain will be leaving the EU single market, and praised the PM's remarks about ongoing cooperation with Europe.
We have a big business in the UK and we remain totally committed to the UK
Santander boss Ana Botin
She said: "It's important that we know it’s a clear exit. Now, a clear exit doesn’t mean we cannot collaborate and cooperate like the Prime Minister said.
"As we work to make this exit in the best possible way for all, we need to think about our customers about the people of Europe both on the continent and in the UK."
She pointed out that millions of Britons visit European countries every year and vice-versa, whilst Germany companies have "huge relationships" in the UK that they will want to maintain post-Brexit.
In comments which appeared to be urging EU leaders not to attempt to punish Britain over its decision to leave, Ms Botin called for a sensible compromise in the negotiations.
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She added that ordinary people on both sides of the channel will lose out if bitterness rules the talks and called for a transitional deal to be agreed swiftly to mitigate the economic impact of Brexit.
She said: "Let’s think about the people of Europe and small companies. They’re the ones who are trading on both sides and who are going to have a hard time.
"Having an implementation period that works for people and companies is the most important thing."
Ms Botas' remarks came a day after two large investment banks – HSBC and UBS – warned that they will be looking to move jobs out of London and to the continent because of Brexit.