[HONG KONG] Standard Chartered PLC has shut its renminbi (RMB) solutions group in the United States and Europe, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, as part of major restructuring that has forced the lender to take an axe to one of the industry's fast-growing businesses.
The move to cut the department comes at a time of growing prospects for the Chinese currency in global international trade and as other financial institutions jostle to build up their China-focused franchise in the West. "RMB business is one of the top priorities for Standard Chartered as recently highlighted by our Group Chief Executive and we continue to invest in our RMB capabilities," the bank said in an emailed statement to Reuters. "We have the right people in the right markets to ensure we offer our clients, including those in Europe and in the United States, a full suite of RMB solutions from trade settlement and clearing, to FX trading and hedging, to offshore CNY debt raising," it said, referring to Chinese yuan (CNY), an alternative name for the renminbi.
In a landmark move this week, The International Monetary Fund admitted the yuan into its benchmark currency basket, in a victory for Beijing's campaign for recognition as a global economic power.
Standard Chartered formed its RMB solutions group in 2013 as part of a concerted push to create strategies for a range of investors including central banks, sovereign wealth funds and multinational companies who were seeking opportunities to profit from the opening up of China's capital markets.
To further that initiative, Carmen Ling was appointed as global head for the RMB solutions group in 2013 based out of Hong Kong.
Caroline Owen was appointed regional head of the Americas and Alexandra Gropp was appointed executive director in Europe. Both, along with two other employees in that group, have left the bank in the last three months, according to the person, who was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter and so declined to be identified.
Standard Chartered was one of the early movers in this space, helping McDonald's Corp raise 200 million yuan (S$44.1 million) in 2010 which opened the offshore market for foreign issuers borrowing in the Chinese currency.
It was also part of a series of other landmark deals such as the UK government with its inaugural dim sum issue which was the first issuance ever by a non-Chinese sovereign.
Last month, the bank said it planned to axe 15,000 jobs and raise US$5.1 billion by selling new shares as its new chief executive set out a plan to restore profitability after three years of falling profits and strategic mistakes.