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StanChart increases investment in Singapore to improve efficiency

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STANDARD Chartered Bank on Friday said it has bought a second office building in Changi Business Park for S$45 million as it increases its investments in Singapore to improve efficiency.

STANDARD Chartered Bank on Friday said it has bought a second office building in Changi Business Park for S$45 million as it increases its investments in Singapore to improve efficiency.

Including the S$59.5 million cost of the first office building which StanChart bought in 2010, the bank has spent a total of S$104.5 million, consolidating its properties from eight different locations to ultimately house its staff in two main places, Marina Bay Financial Centre and Changi Business Park.

StanChart now has about 4,000 employees in Changi Business Park out of 7,000 staff in Singapore.

Judy Hsu, Standard Chartered Singapore chief executive, said the latest building marks one of the bank's most recent investments and reinforces its long-term commitment to Singapore.

"To continue growing our business in Singapore, we've focused on our two-pronged strategy of becoming more efficient and investing in long term growth," said Ms Hsu.

Singapore is the headquarters for StanChart's global business and operations. It is a key hub for clients in the region and is the second largest contributor to the group's income and profit.

The UK-based bank, which has the bulk of its business in Asia, posted a loss before tax of US$1.52 billion last year, versus a US$4.24 billion profit in 2014.

StanChart is stepping up its technology spending, even as it cuts overall costs by US$3 billion over three years. It is investing more than US$1.2 billion globally for the next three years in technology, with a significant portion dedicated to transforming its digital capabilities and providing faster and easier services to customers.

Last year, StanChart hired Michael Gorriz from Daimler AG to be its group chief information officer to head the 1,700-strong Information Technology and Operations (ITO) team based in Singapore, she said.

The bank is looking to hire another 100 more people for technology roles, said Ms Hsu in a press briefing following the opening ceremony of the new office.

Singapore will be spending 30 per cent more this year over 2015 in technology, she said. This includes more than US$40 million to create faster and better services for clients.

Turning to the Singapore business which posted a 33 per cent fall in profit in 2015, its fourth year of declining profits, Ms Hsu said the bank has a plan to reverse the slide though it will take time.

In 2015, profit before tax was US$567 million, down 33.4 per cent. The Singapore business has seen earnings fall every year since hitting a record US$1 billion for 2011.

"It'll take some time to get there, we want to do it in a way that's sustainable," she said.

The plan is to focus on its four main business groups - retail, corporate and institutional, private banking and commercial, she said.

The retail business - covering mortgages, credit cards, deposits and wealth management - has over one million customers ranging from the very affluent to mass affluent, she said.

Commercial business focuses on small and medium enterprises most of which operate out of two countries, she said, noting that StanChart's geographical network is an advantage here. "That's where we can help them," she said. StanChart operates in more than 70 countries and has a presence in all the 10 Asean nations.

Its corporate and institutional banking which serves multinationals also leverages its network.

US clients coming to Asia will base in Singapore, she said. Many are also investing in India where StanChart is the largest foreign bank, she added.

Its private banking business is doing well, despite the market being "crowded and fragmented", because Singapore is a huge wealth management centre, she said.

"We have sufficient scale and are profitable globally and in Singapore."