If you needed any more convincing that Standard Chartered is an ‘Asia-focused’ bank, its 2017 financial results should have put paid to that. The firm, while still headquartered in London, made more than three-quarters of its profits last year from Asian markets.
Does this mean jobs in Asia are more secure than those elsewhere at Stan Chart? Not necessarily. There are some Asia-based functions that you might want to avoid working in. The financial markets team in Singapore suffered in 2017, for example, as income fell in the ASEAN region, like it did globally.
By contrast, the bank’s annual report reveals some of the Asian roles that enjoyed a buoyant 2017. Here’s a selection.
Corporate banking RMs in Hong Kong
Corporate and institutional banking (CIB) income at Stan Chart was flat globally year on year, but in Greater China and North Asia (the SCB region dominated by Hong Kong), it rose 9%. Within CIB, however, corporate bankers appear to have the more secure jobs. Stan Chart is now looking to redeploy some of its Asian coverage investment bankers (others have been cut) into relationship manager roles in corporate banking, in a push to increase vanilla lending to key clients, according to a Reuters report earlier this month.
Transaction banking in Hong Kong
This bread-and-butter function, which is also part of CIB, is benefiting from Stan Chart’s efforts to shift its income mix toward “asset-light” businesses. While “high quality” account balances in transaction banking rose globally, the “momentum” in the department mainly came from Greater China and North Asia, according to the bank’s results.
Private banking across Asia
Not an obvious selection for this list, given that private banking posted a loss before tax of $1m in 2017, compared with a profit of $32m in 2016. The decrease, however, was down to Stan Chart investing “significantly in the business”. Translation: hiring. The bank added 60 relationship managers globally, its report states, in one of its only explicit references to recruitment. Most of these new RMs are based in Singapore and Hong Kong, says a wealth management headhunter. They include senior Singapore-based bankers Mo Choudhury and Abhijit Shetty, who joined from EFG and DBS respectively late last year.
Priority banking in Singapore
Priority bankers (serving mass-affluent clients who aren’t yet rich enough to use a private bank) enjoyed a prosperous 2017 in the ASEAN and South Asia region, for which Singapore is the core market. New priority clients grew 18%, while assets under management were up 25%.
It may be window-dressing, but bankers with big egos appear not to be wanted at SCB. The firm’s new report is littered with references to increasing collaboration between four of its main units: corporate and institutional, retail, commercial, and private banking. If you work in the firm’s front office, you must be willing to “leverage” the “capabilities” of other parts of the bank to support your clients’ broader business needs.
Bankers in larger Asian markets
Now is probably not the best time to take on a frontier-market assignment at Stan Chart. It exited retail banking in the Philippines and Thailand last year, and now one of its priorities is to reshape its business in “sub-scale unprofitable markets” and prioritise “larger or more profitable” locations. Where to work? Its top-five markets in Asia by revenue are: Hong Kong (operating income of $3,384m in 2017), Singapore ($1,419m), India ($1,008m), Korea ($967m) and China ($707m).
Global managers in Singapore
Stan Chart may generate more income in Hong Kong, but Singapore is home to most of the bank’s “global business leadership” within Asia, according to its report. We noted several senior Singapore-based hires at SCB last year, including Pedro Sousa Cardoso, who joined from Emirates NBD in August as global head of digital commerce, and Kevin Burke, who moved from Deutsche Bank in July to become global head of sales.
Technologists in Singapore
Singapore is also where Stan Chart bases “the majority” of its Asian operations. The bank also notes “encouraging early signs of digital adoption” among customers in the ASEAN and South Asia region. SCB took on about 300 technologists in Singapore in 2016, and it was also one of the Republic’s most prolific tech recruiters last year. Recent senior hires include DBS’s George Harrak, who is now global head of technology programmes and solutions for private banking and wealth.
Like many of its rivals, in particular Citi and HSBC, Stan Chart has been hiring China-desk bankers and support staff in countries likely to benefit from China’s Belt and Road (B&R) global infrastructure initiative. Its report states that it “added overseas China desks across the group’s footprint”, without naming the markets. The number of B&R projects it was involved in increased by more than 25% year on year.
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