SEB: Putting Ser­vice Back into Bank­ing

Norway-Asia Business Review - - News - By Eric Baker

SEB has made a name for it­self in Asia, be­com­ing the largest Nordic bank in the re­gion af­ter open­ing its first Asian branch in Sin­ga­pore in 1979. It at­tributes that suc­cess to the way it views it­self, which is as a re­la­tion­ship bank. “The whole idea is we fol­low our clients as they grow, ev­ery­where they go. Growth in Asia has been much higher than other parts of the world for some time, so it was only nat­u­ral that we fol­low our clients here. Their growth helps lead to our growth,” said Jan St­jern­ström, gen­eral manager for the Southeast Asia and Pa­cific re­gion at SEB. “SEB set up shop in Asia af­ter our clients in Europe that we had strong re­la­tion­ships with came over here. The ma­jor­ity of our clients are Nordic or Ger­man, and of course Nor­way has long had a busi­ness re­la­tion­ship with Sin­ga­pore be­cause of ship­ping links. “But hav­ing said that, it still comes down to trust. SEB has been here for a long time, es­tab­lished in 1866. For ex­am­ple, Norsk Hy­dro was founded in 1904 and SEB started pro­vid­ing it as­sis­tance in 1909. Our cus­tomers know they can trust us, but the ad­vice still has to be sound. “A lot of our small and medium-sized en­ter­prise (SME) clients are from Swe­den, but we would wel­come more from Nor­way and Ger­many as there are sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties for them in this re­gion. Sev­eral SMEs feel they don’t have the re­sources to ex­pand over­seas, so we help them with that and pro­vide ad­vice on fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions. The re­gion can also be chal­leng­ing for new­com­ers from Europe, es­pe­cially in terms of at­ti­tudes to­ward cor­rup­tion.”

SEB con­ducted a re­cent sur­vey of lo­cal chief ex­ec­u­tives and found them to be gen­er­ally up­beat about the re­gional econ­omy.

“Lo­cal CEOs see some warn­ing signs, de­scrib­ing In­done­sia and Malaysia as a con­cern for the short term. But for the long term, ev­ery­one is pos­i­tive about the re­gion. The Philip­pines and Viet­nam are get­ting a re­ally good re­sponse,” said Mr St­jern­ström.

“For Thai­land, we see industrial pro­duc­tion signs im­prov­ing in some seg­ments, which is pos­i­tive go­ing for­ward.”

Lars Hagne, head of in­ter­na­tional cor­po­rate cov­er­age in Sin­ga­pore, said the bank’s cus­tomer- cen­tric ap­proach has three prongs. First, it wants to of­fer com­pet­i­tive terms and ser­vice lev­els to help build a re­la­tion­ship. Sec­ond, it works to foster that re­la­tion­ship over the long term. And fi­nally, it hopes to excel at ad­vice, al­ways putting the clients’ needs first. “SEB also works with part­ners in Asia be­cause in some mar­kets we are not al­lowed to com­pete,” said Mr Hagne. “We do a lot of cross-bor­der trans­ac­tions, which is chal­leng­ing be­cause we take risks on us­ing lo­cal banks as well as the buy­ers and sell­ers.” Thai­land is no­table for SEB be­cause of the large num­ber of pri­vate bank­ing clients it has living here. Many of them are re­tirees who have moved here from Europe, said Mr St­jern­ström. The bank’s Sin­ga­pore of­fice fo­cuses on cor­po­rate mat­ters such as cash man­age­ment, for­eign ex­change and lend­ing, with an em­pha­sis on the ship­ping in­dus­try. It has 110 em­ploy­ees. SEB also has an of­fice in Shang­hai opened in 2005, and an­other in Hong Kong spe­cial­is­ing in fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions that started in 2011. The bank’s branch in Tokyo has 200 team mem­bers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Norway

© PressReader. All rights reserved.