By Jesús Aguado
MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's Santander bank said on Thursday it would hire 3,000 IT professionals worldwide this year to support its digital transformation and improve efficiency, at a time when lenders are focusing on cutting costs.
About 1,000 of the new hires will be in Spain, with a particular focus on individuals with a background in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As part of a digital drive unveiled in April last year, the euro zone's second-biggest lender in terms of market value said it would invest 20 billion euros ($23 billion) in technology by 2022.
Santander said the recruits would be in areas including security and operations, artificial intelligence, software development and cybersecurity.
Like many euro zone banks, Santander is trying to cut costs in Europe to offset a squeeze on margins due to rock-bottom interest rates, and the prospect of bad loans due to the coronavirus crisis. Meanwhile, it is looking to Latin America for higher profitability.
Santander said it aimed to achieve 1 billion euros in cost savings in the medium term in Europe out of its 1.2 billion euro global target.
As of end-March, the bank had an efficiency ratio of 47.2%, significantly better than Spanish lenders' 52.7% average and the 64% European average, according to data from the European Banking Authority.
(Reporting by Jesus Aguado, editing by Nathan Allen, Jose Elias Rodriguez and Kevin Liffey)