In an exclusive interview with the Dhaka Tribune's Niaz Mahmud, Standard Chartered Bank Regional Chief Executive Officer, ASEAN and South Asia, Judy Hsu, discusses the bank’s present status, its role in Bangladesh and vision.
Judy is a member of the Group Management Team and Regional Chief Executive Officer, ASEAN and South Asia covering 12 markets. Prior to her current role, she was the CEO of Singapore and ASEAN Markets (Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand & Rep Offices).
Judy has more than 27 years of banking experience and joined Standard Chartered in 2009 as Global Head of Wealth Management
Tell us about the activities of the Standard Chartered Bank in Bangladesh
SCB offers a full range of banking services across all segments. In the retail and SME segments, our services include deposit products, wealth management services, overdrafts, personal loans, credit cards, auto financing, and mortgages. Our services for corporate and institutional clients include trade finance, cash management, lending, securities services, foreign exchange, debt capital markets and corporate finance. Standard Chartered Saadiq, our Islamic Banking division, offers a comprehensive range of Shariah-compliant products and services. Priority banking services provides exclusive and personalized banking services through our world-class priority banking suites.
We employ over 2000 people in Bangladesh, with a network of 24 branches and booths, 96 ATMs, and four priority centres. We are the only foreign bank in the country with presence in 7 cities – Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Sylhet, Bogra, Savar and Narayanganj; in addition, we are also present in six Export Processing Zones, namely Savar (DEPZ), Chittagong (CEPZ), Adamjee, Karnaphuli, Comilla and Mongla.
What is your observation on Bangladesh's development?
Well, I came here last year in June. I always knew we have a fabulous franchise in Bangladesh. We have been here for 114 years, and we are the number one international bank. I always knew that the GDP growth of the country was very strong, but until you come to the country and interact with clients, you do not realize what big potential this Bangladesh has.
We spoke today morning with the ambassador and concluded that the country should do more to attract FDI. You have to be here to really see the development opportunities that exist here.
What roles has Standard Chartered played in the economic development of Bangladesh?
We oversaw the acquisition of the Akij Tobacco by Japan Tobacco Industries, worth $1.5 billion. We have been Bangladesh's partner in progress since the very beginning. Our franchise here is very important to us.
As Bangladesh diversifies its industries from RMG to pharmaceuticals, we want to play a role in that too.
Another big role that we have played is conducting the transaction for the entry of the Shenzen and Shanghai Stock Exchanges into Bangladesh as they partner up with the Dhaka Stock Exchange. These are very exciting times as companies are expanding outside Bangladesh and more and more foreign companies are looking to invest here.
We are the "corridor bank" for foreign companies. We are the biggest bank in China. If you look closely, you will see that most of the FDI in Bangladesh is China, Japan, Korea, etc., where we also have strong presence.
What role do you think the Bangladesh investment summits play in attracting FDI?
In the past, we have hosted summits in England, Singapore, and Hong Kong. This year we are planning to host one in Beijing, because the Chinese economic corridor is very important to us.
What is your observation of our banking sector?
It is quite a large sector with so many banks. The local banks play a very different role from us. Our role as an international bank in supporting the country in its development is quite different than the approach taken by local banks.
Please tell us about your experience dealing with the ASEAN countries.
ASEAN is a region that is developing very fast. Some of the countries are growing faster than others, such as Vietnam with its young educated population and economic boom brought about by high foreign investment and relocation of factories from China.
Then you also have Indonesia, which is going to be a one of the top five economies in the world at some point. we see big potential there as well. But the biggest challenge in Indonesia, as well as in Bangladesh, is the lack of infrastructure. In Indonesia we are working with many of our local clients there and financing infrastructure projects, as in Bangladesh.
Then you have a country like Singapore which is a financial hub, a very developed market. It has great infrastructure and very good legal framework. A lot of companies like to have head offices in Singapore and running their business from there.
So this is a very diverse region, with all kinds of opportunities.
How can Bangladesh attract more FDI by learning from Vietnam?
Doing business in Vietnam is much easier than many other countries in region. Additionally, the government's investment in education has developed a talented workforce.
The industrial zones that Vietnam has created has resulted in the creation of a convenient ecosystem for industries. Biggest investor into Vietnam is South Korea. Vietnam's export sector has very little restrictions and ease of doing business is better.
How do you suggest Bangladeshi banks to establish good governance?
It starts with a very strong governance framework and values of the bank. It starts from the top—the board. We have different boards to look after different matters of the bank. Start with a diverse board with only two executives, and the rest are non-executive independent directors. We have very strong governance in all our branches across many countries.
For instance, what everybody is now concerned about is cybersecurity. That is a n area for everybody to think about. We have an advisory council comprising of external experts, along with our security committee.
What is your next phase of facilities to ease business in the country?
We are currently working with BIDA and providing them a suggestive framework on one stop services. you need nine different approval forms to set up a business in BD, all which contain similar information. Why should this be the case? We are suggesting BIDA to streamline all necessary information into one form that can be submitted online.
All these make up a cumbersome process that takes more than a month to complete, but if BIDA takes our advice, it can be shortened to a week.
We have been the advisor for the single largest FDI that came into Bangladesh last year—JTI's acquisition of Akij—and that is when we found many problems. We found that cooperation between different institutions such as BIDA, NBR, Central Bank, etc. is very important.