Standard Chartered goes on hiring spree

Didier von Daeniken, global head of private banking and wealth management at Standard Chartered, says the bank plans to increase its assets by over $30 billion in the next three to five years. (Reuters)
Updated 15 August 2019
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Standard Chartered goes on hiring spree

  • Private banking business caters to wealthy individuals across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe

HONG KONG: Standard Chartered is targeting growing its private banking assets by half to about $100 billion in three to five years, whilst hiring dozens of bankers in Hong Kong and Singapore to do so, a senior executive at the lender has said.

The moves show StanChart has big growth ambitions for the private banking unit that had until recently weighed on the lender’s earnings, with its small size stoking speculation it would be put under review for possible divestment.
The lender will recruit 30-40 private bankers every year in the next two to three years to add to its roughly 300 existing relationship managers, and the bulk of the additions will be in Hong Kong and Singapore, StanChart’s global head for private banking and wealth management Didier von Daeniken told Reuters.
With $65 billion worth of private banking assets, London-headquartered StanChart is a small player compared with UBS which, as per Asian Private Banker data, had assets worth $2.3 trillion and Credit Suisse, with $770 billion last year.
The private banking business accounted for just 3.8 percent of StanChart’s total profit before tax in the first-half of this year.

"Our ambition is to see us cross the $100 billion mark. That makes us a meaningful player in this landscape.”

Didier von Daeniken, StanChart’s global head for private banking and wealth management

“Our ambition is to see us cross the $100 billion mark. That makes us meaningful internally for the group, that makes us a meaningful player in this landscape,” Daeniken said. “Hitting $100 billion can give us credibility internally, help us to attract talent.”
StanChart’s private banking business caters to wealthy individuals across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, through booking centers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, India, London and on the island of Jersey.
The unit had weighed on the group’s earnings in the recent past, as it sought to reposition the business to target rich individuals with at least $5 million in investable assets amid stiff competition in Asia, which brings in bulk of its revenue.
Underscoring a potential turnaround, StanChart’s private banking business posted a pre-tax profit of $100 million in the first half of this year, compared with a loss of $5 million in the same period last year.

HIGHLIGHTS

• StanChart to hire 30-40 private bankers per year.

• Bank currently a small player in private banking, with $65bn assets.

• Speculation earlier that small size would force bank to review business.

StanChart’s private banking return on tangible equity, a key measure of profitability, increased to 15.7 percent in the first half of the year compared to a negative 1 percent in the year-ago period, its latest financial report showed.
As part of the plans to bolster assets under management, the private banking unit plans to tap more of the group’s corporate and institutional banking clients in Asia and other emerging markets where it has existing banking networks.
“With $65 billion we are definitely not among the largest, but we are part ... of a company with a large balance sheet, with an unmatched presence locally in all the markets, which really matters when you cover the emerging markets,” Daeniken said.
In the near-term, however, concerns about the global economy and 10 weeks of protests in Hong Kong that have plunged the Asian financial hub into its worst crisis had made clients “more prudent” in their investment decisions, he said.
Daeniken added StanChart’s private banking unit had come a long way “but the task before us is as difficult because we really have to maintain the momentum in a difficult market environment.”


Squabbles erupt as G7 leaders open summit in French resort

Updated 25 August 2019
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Squabbles erupt as G7 leaders open summit in French resort

  • Disputes on trade, climate may eclipse Macron’s agenda
  • EU’s Tusk warns of lack of global unity, spars with Johnson

BIARRITZ, France: Squabbles erupted among G7 nations on Saturday as their leaders gathered for an annual summit, exposing sharp differences on global trade tensions, Britain’s exit from the EU and how to respond to the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest.
French President Emmanuel Macron, the summit host, planned the three-day meeting in the Atlantic seaside resort of Biarritz as a chance to unite a group of wealthy countries that has struggled in recent years to speak with one voice.
Macron set an agenda for the group — France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — that included the defense of democracy, gender equality, education and the environment. He invited Asian, African and Latin American leaders to join them for a global push on these issues.
However, in a bleak assessment of relations between once-close allies, European Council President Donald Tusk said it was getting “increasingly” hard to find common ground.
“This is another G7 summit which will be a difficult test of unity and solidarity of the free world and its leaders,” he told reporters ahead of the meeting. “This may be the last moment to restore our political community.”
US President Donald Trump had brought last year’s G7 summit to an acrimonious end, walking out early from the gathering in Canada and rejecting the final communique.
Trump arrived in France a day after responding to a new round of Chinese tariffs by announcing that Washington would impose an additional 5% duty on some $550 billion worth of Chinese imports, the latest escalation of the tit-for-tat trade war by the world’s two largest economies.
“So far so good,” Trump told reporters as he sat on a seafront terrace with Macron, saying the two leaders had a special relationship. “We’ll accomplish a lot this weekend.”
Macron listed foreign policy issues the two would address, including Libya, Syria and North Korea, and said they shared the objective of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Trump later wrote on Twitter that lunch with Macron was the best meeting the pair has yet had, and that a meeting with world leaders on Saturday evening also “went very well.”
However, the initial smiles could not disguise the opposing approaches of Trump and Macron to many problems, including the knotty questions of protectionism and tax.
Before his arrival, Trump repeated a threat to tax French wines in retaliation for a new French levy on digital services, which he says unfairly targets US companies.
Two US officials said the Trump delegation was also irked that Macron had skewed the focus of the G7 meeting to “niche issues” at the expense of the global economy, which many leaders worry is slowing sharply and at risk of slipping into recession.
French riot police used water cannons and tear gas on Saturday to disperse anti-capitalism protesters in Bayonne, near Biarritz. A police helicopter circled as protesters taunted lines of police.
The leaders themselves were gathering behind tight security in a waterfront conference venue, the surrounding streets barricaded by police.

Spat over ‘Mr. No Deal’ Brexit
Macron opened the summit with a dinner at the base of a clifftop lighthouse overlooking Biarritz, where a menu of piperade, a Basque vegetable specialty, tuna and French cheeses awaited the leaders.
Adding to the unpredictable dynamic between the G7 leaders are the new realities facing Brexit-bound Britain: dwindling influence in Europe and growing dependency on the United States.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson will want to strike a balance between not alienating Britain’s European allies and not irritating Trump and possibly jeopardizing future trade ties. Johnson and Trump will hold bilateral talks on Sunday morning.
Johnson and Tusk sparred before the summit over who would be to blame if Britain leaves the EU on Oct. 31 without a withdrawal agreement.
Tusk told reporters he was open to ideas from Johnson on how to avoid a no-deal Brexit when the two men meet.
“I still hope that PM Johnson will not like to go down in history as Mr.No Deal,” said Tusk, who as council president leads the political direction of the 28-nation European Union.
Johnson, who has said since he took office last month that he will take Britain out of the bloc on Oct. 31 regardless of whether a deal can be reached, later retorted that it would be Tusk himself who would carry the mantle if Britain could not secure a new withdrawal agreement.
“I would say to our friends in the EU if they don’t want a no-deal Brexit then we’ve got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty,” Johnson told reporters, referring to the Irish border protocol that would keep the border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland open after Brexit.
“If Donald Tusk doesn’t want to go down as Mr.No Deal then I hope that point will be borne in mind by him, too,” Johnson said on his flight to France.
Johnson is trying to persuade EU leaders to drop the backstop from a withdrawal agreement that was negotiated by his predecessor but rejected three times by the British Parliament as the United Kingdom struggles to fulfill a 2016 referendum vote to leave the bloc.

‘Not the way to proceed’
Despite the Brexit tensions, diplomats played down the likelihood of Trump and Johnson joining hands against the rest, citing Britain’s foreign policy alignment with Europe on issues from Iran and trade to climate change.
“There won’t be a G5+2,” one senior G7 diplomat said.
Indeed, Johnson said he would tell Trump to pull back from a trade war that is already destabilising economic growth around the world.
“This is not the way to proceed,” he said. “Apart from everything else, those who support the tariffs are at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy, irrespective of whether or not that is true.”
Anti-summit protests have become common, and on Saturday thousands of anti-globalization activists, Basque separatists and “yellow vest” protesters marched peacefully across France’s border with Spain to demand action from the leaders.
“It’s more money for the rich and nothing for the poor,” said Alain Missana, an electrician wearing a yellow vest — symbol of anti-government protests that have rattled France for months.
EU leaders piled pressure on Friday on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over fires raging in the Amazon rainforest.
Even so, Britain and Germany were at odds with Macron’s decision to pressure Brazil by blocking a trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur group of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said not concluding the trade deal was “not the appropriate answer to what is happening in Brazil now.”
The UK’s Johnson appeared to disagree with Macron on how to respond. “There are all sorts of people who will take any excuse at all to interfere with trade and to frustrate trade deals and I don’t want to see that,” he said.