Santander is set to launch a rights issue to raise 7 billion euro ($7.89 billion) to support the buyout and the subsequent shoring up of its junior peer’s balance sheet as part of the 7.9 billion euros Santander is setting aside to cover the target’s non-performing assets.

Turning to mergers across the broader European financial sector, Gilbert said that given the number of headwinds facing fund managers, such as the rise of passive, more regulation and fee pressure, being bigger certainly helps.

His own firm is currently in the process of merging with domestic rival Standard Life to create an £11 billion asset management giant, described by Gilbert as a “financial powerhouse”.

“The common wisdom in the sector is you either want to be very big or small. The place not to be is that middle ground where you don’t have the revenue…to cushion you against these headwinds which are hitting the sector,” he asserted.

The merger has faced criticism for its intention to retain both existing CEOs to serve as co-CEOs – a structure which many commentators say has a long track record of poor outcomes.

Yet the complimentary skillsets each boss brings to the table – with Standard Life’s Keith Skeoch focusing on internal asset management and Gilbert preferring external facing lines of work such as distribution and strategy – means this will be a success, declared the Aberdeen CEO.

“It’ll work, it’ll work – I’m absolutely certain this will work. And I suspect if it doesn’t we’ll both be going!”

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