Stan­chart says Dubai is its spring board for Mideast

The Pak Banker - - Front Page -

DUBAI

Sir John Peace, chair­man of Stan­dard Char­tered PLC, was in Dubai last week to at­tend the bank’s global board meet­ing. Ahead of the board meet­ing, Sir John met with His High­ness Shaikh Mo­ham­mad Bin Rashid Al Mak­toum, Vice-Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. In this high level meet­ing, he ap­prised Shaikh Mo­ham­mad of the bank’s plans for the re­gion. In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Gulf News, Sir John spoke about the bank’s global and re­gional strate­gic di­rec­tion, in­vest­ment plans in the UAE and the chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties in the post-cri­sis global econ­omy.

Gulf News: You met Shaikh Mo­ham­mad dur­ing this visit. What were some of the top­ics dis­cussed and what was the key mes­sage you de­liv­ered to him and to the UAE lead­er­ship?

Sir John Peace: It was a great op­por­tu­nity for me to have met Shaikh Mo­ham­mad and let the gov­ern­ment know that this is a very im­por­tant mar­ket for Stan­dard Char­tered, a mar­ket that we have been in for a very long time. It was a very im­por­tant meet­ing for us to make him aware of our com­mit­ment to the UAE and we continue to in­vest here. In­deed, I came here for the board meet­ing and to visit our new re­gional head­quar­ter build­ing. We ex­pect it to be ready early next year. He made me feel very wel­come and was very sup­port­ive of what we are try­ing to do as a bank. I ex­plained to him that as a bank, we are al­most unique in terms of the im­por­tance we give to some of the emerg­ing mar­kets across Asia, Africa and the Mid­dle East and the net­work we have is very im­por­tant for the UAE as it expands its busi­ness re­la­tion­ships with some of these mar­kets.

What is the sig­nif­i­cance of the new re­gional head­quar­ters and its im­por­tance and mean­ing for the bank re­gion­ally and glob­ally?

I will break it (the an­swer) into two parts. The UAE it­self is a very im­por­tant mar­ket for us, but it is also a re­gional cen­tre. If you look at the strate­gic im­por­tance of Dubai and the UAE, I was ex­plain­ing to His High­ness that the op­por­tu­nity is for the coun­try. The hub we are de­vel­op­ing here is not just im­por- tant for Stan­dard Char­tered; it is a big op­por­tu­nity for the UAE. When you con­sider the fact that Africa is go­ing to grow, it is go­ing to be an im­por­tant mar­ket. Europe is con­tin­u­ing to be in tur­moil. As you can see, the trad­ing that is be­ing de­vel­oped across the world with the UAE as a hub, Stan­dard Char­tered is in a great po­si­tion to sup­port that ac­tiv­ity and of course, our op­er­a­tions in Dubai are a key part of that. For ex­am­ple, our trad­ing room in Dubai nearly 200 peo­ple. It is pretty sig­nif­i­cant.

Does this mean Dubai is emerg­ing as one of your key global hubs like Sin­ga­pore or Hong Kong?

Sin­ga­pore is a very im­por­tant hub for us in Asia. I think we could see Dubai in the same league as a hub which pro­vides a spring board into some very im­por­tant mar­kets. Dur­ing our meet­ings in Dubai this week, one of the things we fo­cused is Is­lamic bank­ing which is an im­por­tant part of our busi­ness. I wanted our board to un­der­stand what the new op­por­tu­ni­ties are.

Mov­ing on to a broader sub­ject, go­ing by the re­cent developments in the world of bank­ing, is the global fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try headed into an era of over reg­u­la­tion and lack of in­no­va­tion?

Fol­low­ing the bank­ing cri­sis or the fi­nan­cial cri­sis which started in 200708, ev­ery­one’s con­cern is how to pre­vent what hap­pened, if they can, from re­cur­ring in the fu­ture. So, strength­en­ing reg­u­la­tion and mak­ing it more ef­fec­tive is an im­por­tant part of gov­ern­ments’ ef­forts. And the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try has in­deed been go­ing through these changes in the last three to five years now. How­ever, there needs to be some bal­ance be­tween reg­u­la­tory ef­forts and the way we fund busi­nesses. For ex­am­ple, we al­most hold twice as much cap­i­tal to­day com­pared to what we did in 2006-07. That makes us safer; we have stronger bal­ance sheets. But at the same time, it is im­por­tant that the banks and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions can continue to lend par­tic­u­larly to smaller busi­ness. So, there has to be a bal­ance to be achieved be­tween safer and ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion and the ne­ces­sity for lend­ing to not just big cor­po­rates but also to small and medium en­ter­prises (SMEs).

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