March 20, 2014 00:00 By SUCHEERA PINIJPARAKARN
STANDARD CHARTERED Bank will realign its business operations in all five Asean countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) to leverage cross-border synergies and opportunities better ahead of rising economic growth.
The realignment forms part of the UK-based bank’s reorganisation strategy, under which the group implemented a simplified structure of eight geographic regions in January to enable greater efficiency and effectiveness.
In his first visit to Thailand yesterday – to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Standard Chartered Bank (Thai) – group chief executive Peter Sands said the bank was optimistic about the GMS. Thailand is well positioned in terms of serving investment flows, and foreign direct investment (FDI) in Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia has showed significant growth.
The GMS received about US$21 billion (Bt675 billion) of FDI in 2012, or about 19 per cent of Asean’s overall FDI.
Last year, intra-Asean trade surged by 26 per cent to $323 billion, he added.
“We are the only international bank with a network covering all five [Asean GMS] countries [Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos], therefore we are well placed to support the flows of businesses in Asean and leverage our experience to help strengthen economies in Thailand and the GMS,” he said.
Meanwhile, the bank has promoted Lyn Kok, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank (Thai), as CEO for the GMS.
As to the recent group reorganisation, StanChart now has three new customer segment groups: corporate and institutional clients; commercial and private banking clients; and retail clients. It is ready to offer services to these client groups across the GMS countries, Sands said.
He mentioned the rising per capita income of people in the GMS as an opportunity for offering wealth-management private banking.
Meanwhile, the influx of trade and investment from large and mid-sized companies also presents an opportunity for the bank in terms of facilitating lending.
The GMS’s large population and infrastructure investment are also attractive in the bank’s view, he added.
The group chief executive said the challenges for StanChart in dealing with a growth market like the GMS was how to select investment in each country, as well as the complications of working in each market, the capability of local human resources, and political and economic uncertainty in each country.
Although growth of gross domestic product in the GMS last year was affected by the slowdown in China, the rest of Asia and the United States, Sands believes this year’s growth could be slightly better because the trend points to a global economic recovery, while the Chinese economy will gradually recover its former momentum.
As to Thailand, although the country still faces political uncertainty, the bank has confidence in the economy and the Kingdom’s fundamentals, which is why StanChart has long-term investment here, he said.
“All countries have problems, and even the global economy has upward and downward cycles,” he added.