Standard Chartered’s first half results have been hailed as a sign of the bank’s revival. Statutory profit before tax of $2.4bn at the Asia-focused lender exceeded analysts’ estimates, while chief executive Bill Winters said Stan Chart has made “good progress” in its turnaround efforts. Stan Chart has also been boosted by a $1bn stock buyback initiative, of which about $740m is complete.
There are still clouds on the horizon, however. Stan Chart is closely monitoring “geopolitical pressures” that could affect investor sentiment, such as the US-China trade dispute and the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. The firm announced in February that it wants to slash spending by $700m over the next three years. If you work for Stan Chart in its hubs of Singapore and Hong Kong (or if you’re looking for a job there), you’ll want to be in a unit that’s growing, not shrinking. Stan Chart’s H1 results provide some clues about its best performing teams.
e-trading in Singapore
Citi and UBS in Singapore are setting up new foreign exchange e-trading and pricing engines this year, with support from the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Now Stan Chart is doing the same. Its eFX trading hub will be up and running “early next year” and will provide clients with better access to trade 130 currencies and more than 5,000 currency pairs, according to its earnings report. Technology recruiters we spoke with in June expect the bank to take on more Java developers to build and maintain the new trading system.
Virtual banking in Hong Kong
As we’ve been reporting since August last year, Stan Chart’s new Hong Kong virtual bank (which won regulatory approval in March) has been on a hiring spree – taking on people from technologists to strategists. Earlier this year, for example, Andrew Farmer came on board as chief information officer, having previously been a CIO at Commonwealth Bank. Stan Chart is now “working hard” with its partners (PCCW, HKT and Ctrip Finance) to “prepare the new bank for launch”, according to its financial results. Expect more recruitment to follow.
There’s further investment in technology beyond virtual banking and e-trading. Stan Chart has, for example, signed a deal with Chinese company Linklogis to deliver “digital blockchain-enabled supply chain financing capabilities” to corporate clients in China. In Southeast Asia, for which Singapore serves as a hub, the bank’s report hints at more tech hiring. There’s going to be continued investment in “technology and digital capabilities to enhance client experience and build scale efficiently”. Stan Chart’s 2018 annual report, released in February, states that it spent $1.6bn on tech last year, up from $900m in 2015, but investment into its legacy systems flatlined. It’s now much better to be in a ‘strategic’ or ‘systems enhancement’ role (i.e. emerging technology such as AI) – costs in these two categories have trebled over three years.
Stan Chart is also increasing its development of technology systems that help to automate compliance procedures (ie ‘regtech’). This includes an “automated self-service information and advisory portal”, which will be further expanded by “adding a mobile channel and machine-learning chatbot”, according to its H2 results.
It’s not all about technology. If you want a stable job at Standard Chartered, look no further than transaction banking, where income was up 6% year-on-year in the first half. Within transaction banking, you’ll want to focus on the dominant cash management product, which enjoyed a “strong performance”.
Priority banking in Hong Kong
It’s a good time to be working as a relationship manager in priority (mass affluent) banking at Standard Chartered in Hong Kong. The firm attracted about 32,500 new priority clients in the year to end-June, according to its earnings report.
Image credit: danielvfung, Getty
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