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StanChart targets wealthier customers in retail bank revamp

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Standard Chartered will shift its retail banking focus to affluent clients from ordinary customers and urge them to bank online as part of a broader restructuring led by embattled CEO Peter Sands, a senior executive told Reuters.

[HONG KONG] Standard Chartered will shift its retail banking focus to affluent clients from ordinary customers and urge them to bank online as part of a broader restructuring led by embattled CEO Peter Sands, a senior executive told Reuters.

StanChart's retail business is one of the first divisions the Asia-focused lender has targeted with cuts, announcing last month it would axe 4,000 retail jobs or 5 per cent of its global workforce and close 80-100 branches.

The costs cuts and the shift to wealthy clients in Asia, the Middle East and Africa come as Sands, who some investors would like to see replaced, is under increasing pressure to revive the bank's fortunes after a troubled two years. "We're steering away from clients who just want a personal loan to those who'll buy multiple products," Karen Fawcett, global head of retail clients at StanChart, told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

The bank's retail division contributes 30 per cent of its revenues. Affluent and business customers represent just one fifth of its 10.4 million retail clients but account for about half of the division's profits.

Revenues from those clients have grown by 10 per cent in recent years, compared with zero growth for revenue from less wealthy customers, Ms Fawcett said.

Amid calls from some of the lender's top investors to stand down, Sky News reported on Friday that Sands had told senior staff on an internal conference call last week that succession planning has already begun.

Ms Fawcett said she had not been present on the call. "Peter is a very competent chief executive and he is running the bank," she said.

On the impact of cost cuts, Ms Fawcett said she was aiming to reduce the division's cost-income ratio from 67 per cent to 65 per cent by the end of the year, and ultimately to 55 percent.

By comparison, HSBC Holdings had a cost efficiency ratio of 64.5 per cent for its retail division, according to its 2013 annual report.

In addition to previously announced closures in South Korea, the bank has closed many branches in Pakistan. Most other markets will also see a few closures, Fawcett said, adding that some branches will be relocated.

Another key time-saving initiative will be the rollout of an iPad-based platform for recruiting new clients in 10 markets this year and another 10 markets in 2016, she said.

StanChart's Hong Kong shares ended down 1.4 per cent. They have lost more than a third of their value in the past 12 months.

REUTERS