VillaseGolfe
· Personality · · T. Filomena Abreu · P. ©PMC

FERNANDO TEIXEIRA DOS SANTOS

«I have always striven to give it my all and to do my best»

Villas&Golfe Adv. PUB HOMES IN HEAVEN Adv.
Vidago Villa Adv.
PMmedia Adv Adv.
Calm, cordial and witty. This was how we found Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, former finance minister and current CEO of Banco BIC, during an interview made in the cool of a morning, which took no time to heat up. Sat at the wheel of a buggy, at Estela Golf Club, in Póvoa de Varzim, he calmly guided his words with every answer given. In the breaks, his shots were firm. During our conversation he didn't back down on a single subject. The nationalisation of BPN bank; the recently accepted invitation from Banco BIC; Portugal's bailout package, of which he was the enforcer in 2011; his passion for family and friends, who he would always bail out; his distant relationship with José Sócrates; his expectations in life; and his opinion of the current government. With no regrets as to the decisions he has made, he spoke of his most difficult moments while a minister and of the satisfaction of having done his duty. Fernando Teixeira dos Santos is the man who, whether in golf or in life, addresses the balls he hits with a smile, while never forgetting that everything depends on the effort and persistence employed in every act.

How long have you been playing golf?
I've been playing for two and a half years now. My friend Hernâni Teixeira spent many years trying to convince me, but I always thought that Ididn't have the life for this and I admit that I saw the sport on television and didn't think much of it. When I left government he continued to pester me and then one day I gave into the pressure (he laughs). It is indeed addictive. In a good way. 

What lessons in life can be taken from golf?
First of all that things depend a lot on us. Secondly, that things don't always work out well, and therefore you need to be able to live with adversity. And, thirdly, we learn that if things didn't work out well now, next time things will go better.

Do you see yourself as an ambitious man?
If you define ambition as wanting to do more and always better, then yes, in this sense I am ambitious.

Has life lived up to your expectations?
It has. Fortunately, coming to this point in my life, I don't believe I have any reason to complain. I feel that I have managed to evolve, whether in personal terms, or in professional terms and, in general, the things I have done have left me satisfied. Even in difficult times, in which not everything went well, in which I would have liked things to have gone differently, I have always striven to give it my all and do my best, given the circumstances.

Was having to ask for financial aid for Portugal one of these difficult moments?
Without a doubt, without a doubt! We went through moments of great difficulty. The international situation was very complicated. The perception that finance, both from the state and from banking, was becoming increasingly more difficult, in the situation in which we were living then, pointed towards the fact that we take no more risks. We couldn't depend exclusively on the financing of the market because it was very difficult and hence the need for us to have to request help from international institutions, in this case on a European scale and also from the IMF (International Monetary Fund). And, as we were able to see afterwards, these situations always place the country under external authority, which is politically troublesome and which, in a way, offends our sense of sovereignty and of independence, from a political and national point of view. It is always very severe and it is never an easy decision, hence there is always a great deal of resistance to taking one of these decisions, because it is something that can only be decided in extremis

Did this mean you suffered some restless nights?
Yes, they were difficult nights, without a doubt, with a great deal of weighing things up, but the decision had to be taken and I don't regret it. I am convinced that if the country had not taken that decision, at the time, it would be in a much more complicated situation today.

How was your relationship with José Sócrates, following this?
It became a distant relationship. At the time, he was aware of the difficulties and of the implications of the decision. That's why he resisted it. It wasn't something that pleased him and which affected our personal relationship, which afterwards improved with time. Time always helps to get over things and to look at things differently. But I haven't spoken to him for a long time now.

Are you someone who gets easily stressed?
I suffer under the pressure of situations, but I don't get stressed. I try to stay calm; I don't tend to lose my head and I am fully aware that this doesn't help in any way. Complicated moments require a great deal from you and losing your composure isn't going to help you resolve things. At difficult moments, when the people who are working with you feel that the person in charge is starting to lose their head, they become affected. Therefore you have to appear confident, that you are weighing things up, that you are in control; this is the best way for them to be able to respond.

But is José Sócrates someone who annoys people?
Sometimes. (he smiles)

Were you surprised when you were asked to be the CEO of Banco BIC Portugal? Why did you decide to accept?
It's still a surprise. I decided to accept because it is an area with which I have had contact, many years ago now, when I was treasury secretary, when I was on the CMVM (Portuguese Securities Market Commission), as a minister I always kept an eye on the situation in the financial sector and in particular banking. Secondly, I accepted because I think that it is an interesting challenge, for two reasons: one, because this is a relatively young institution in the Portuguese banking system, for this reason it has to make an effort to get its stake and to affirm itself; two, because it is a challenge taking place in a particularly difficult situation for banking in general, as we have come to see. Therefore, it's not going to be an easy task; I'm aware of this, but I've also got used to facing some difficult scenarios. The challenge, for the institution itself and for the context we find ourselves in, will require a huge effort in terms of team work. And I hope to be able to lead the team that will be at the forefront of BIC.    

Do you not see any conflict of interest in the fact that you played a role in the nationalisation of BPN?
There is no conflict of interest whatsoever, not least because I was never linked to the bank's administration; I only had to the take a political decision at the time, in a situation of great difficulty, in particular of the then BPN, which was a serious risk for the stability of the financial system. I wasn't responsible for the selling of BPN to BIC. I was not involved in this process and so I don't feel any conflict of interest.

Why did the government at the time commit itself to selling BPN, in a short space of time, when it knew that it would be hard?
What happened was that we were doing our utmost to abide by a commitment that had been made. BPN bank was nationalised to prevent the financial situation from worsening. We nationalised it to quickly return the bank to the private sector. It's not always easy to sell a bank. Selling it and selling it within a deadline, just so that we can meet a timeline that we had set ourselves, taking the risk of making a poor sale, makes no sense, and so for this very reason you have to wait for more favourable conditions for the sale of a financial body, as was the case of BPN and as is the case currently, with Novo Banco.

But why then make the commitment at the time?
It's obvious that BPN was nationalised, but this wasn't to stay in the state sector, it was the political message that we wanted to give. We weren't entering a phase of nationalisations in which the state was going to have the financial system on a leash. No. Hence the need to say: we have nationalised, but we are going to privatise. The state doesn't want to own banking and this was the political message that wanted to be given.

«I hope to be able to lead the team that will be at the forefront of BIC»

«I have the feeling that in general people respect me»
Can you comment on the controversy of state secretary trips paid for by GALP?
I think that it's obvious that holding public office always requires an attitude of full transparency, of independence and of detachment and I think that this episode reveals this.

And on how the problem was remedied?
I think that it is important to have a code of conduct? Independent of everything that has been said and done, in light of this, we cannot rule out a political fact that needs to be faced by the government, in my opinion. 

Do you consider that this case was well handled?
I think that it was handled in the way it could be.

What's your assessment of the current government?
The feeling I have is that, in spite of everything, the government has proved able, essentially speaking, to respect the electoral promises it made, to respond to the demanding challenges of our participation in the single currency, without breaking ties with the parties of the left, which are critics as we know and, even in some sense, anti-European. And it has managed to maintain the balance that has a lot to do with the unrivalled political skill of the prime minister for managing this situation. But the government still has important challenges ahead of it, especially when it comes to budgetary matters. It had an important victory, with the issue of sanctions, but the greater challenge will have to do with budgetary implementation this year and the budget proposal for the next year. And if the response to these two issues is appropriate, the government will manage to strengthen its confidence and its foothold.

What goals have you still set for yourself? Where do you see yourself five or ten years from now?
I'm about to turn 65 and I have this challenge of BIC, which I am concentrated on. I'm not thinking about anything else. I will be open, when healthy and up to it, to facing other challenges, but this isn't something that concerns me. I feel that I have already travelled my journey and I very much feel that I am on the final stretch of this journey.

To what extent have your passions fitted into your work life?
My great passion is my family. I always try to stay close to them, despite them being in Oporto when I have to work in Lisbon. Now that I have three grandchildren I want to see them grow and to be able to be with them. I also have a good group of friends and I would like to continue to spend time with them. Above all else, for me, this is what it all boils down to. We go all over the place and do so much, but at the end of the day, if you think about it, this is what we have. We have family, we have friends and we have the pleasure that this can give us and we can enjoy. I have always strived to reconcile this demanding professional life and this part that can be nothing but just as demanding. And I have never thought, nor will I ever think, about sacrificing what is for me more important for my professional life; never.

You have been one of the nation's politicians. Do you feel that people were fair on you, that they were able to understand how difficult your work was?
I think so, yes. I can't complain. The majority of people understood the problems the country was facing, the problems the government was facing, and the problems that I, personally, was facing. It's obvious that there are, as is only natural, differences of opinion and this should be lauded and I don't feel punished for the judgement they may make. There will certainly be those who think that I didn't do what I should have, or should have done more than I did; other that think that I did what was right and that I did it well. I'm totally fine with these opinions. This is what living in a democracy is all about: knowing how to coexist with these differences, which obviously greatly mark our public image. But I feel that I don't have any reason to feel badly treated. I have the feeling that in general people respect me.

You have been one of the nation's politicians. Do you feel that people were fair on you, that they were able to understand how difficult your work was?
I think so, yes. I can't complain. The majority of people understood the problems the country was facing, the problems the government was facing, and the problems that I, personally, was facing. It's obvious that there are, as is only natural, differences of opinion and this should be lauded and I don't feel punished for the judgement they may make. There will certainly be those who think that I didn't do what I should have, or should have done more than I did; other that think that I did what was right and that I did it well. I'm totally fine with these opinions. This is what living in a democracy is all about: knowing how to coexist with these differences, which obviously greatly mark our public image. But I feel that I don't have any reason to feel badly treated. I have the feeling that in general people respect me.

Are you a happy, fulfilled man, at peace with your conscience?
Yes and I also like to be on good terms with other people, despite facing the confrontations that we often have to face. Also, to be on good terms with myself, don't you think? Because, above all else, I want to be on good terms with myself.

«Complicated moments require a great deal from you and losing your composure isn't going to help you resolve things»

T. Filomena Abreu
P. ©PMC
Cookie Policy

This site uses cookies. When browsing the site, you are consenting its use. Learn more

I understood