It takes a special kind of bank to deal with the needs of other financial institutions. It requires a bank truly consummate in diplomacy, with a highly developed sensitivity to the dynamics that often accompany such a delicate relationship.
The sensitive nature of the relationship arises from the fact that a customer in one market could be a competitor in another. "When a bank looks at another financial institution, it can be viewed as a competitor, a customer or a service provider," says Andy Charlton, global head for financial institutions at Standard Chartered Bank.
Sometimes, the same institution can be all three, with the only difference being the country or the product being considered. Charlton says Standard Chartered understands these issues thoroughly having been in the financial institution servicing business for a long time. "We always aim to build a deep understanding of clients' needs: to understand where we will compete, where we can supplement a financial institution's own capabilities by providing products and services, and sometimes where they can provide things to us."
Through focused relationship management, Standard Chartered is able to provide the right products and services to the right part of the client organization at the right time. "It is part of our client-led, client-centric approach," says Charlton. The bank leverages its footprint in more than 50 countries to serve all types of financial institutions.
Its strength as a servicing bank to financial institutions is well recognized by other institutions - and it's not just because of marketing savvy. The bank has developed a deep presence and knowledge of Asia, the Middle East and Africa, alongside its presence in Europe and the Americas
The bank's strong network in those regions has served as a vital bridge for clients in the US and Europe determined to penetrate Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In recent years, Standard Chartered has expanded the breadth of its local knowledge by acquiring well-established banks in high growth areas such as South Korea and Indonesia.
In partnering with Standard Chartered, many financial institutions in the US and Europe have successfully extended their reach into those markets without the accompanying high investment costs. Charlton says a European bank that does not have a large presence in the rest of the world may need to provide financial services to clients who are doing business in China and India. Being able to offer their clients a comprehensive range of financial services in these markets gives that bank a competitive edge and allows them to compete with global banks.
With supply chain financing solutions for instance, where a combination of network, technology, cash management and trade finance capabilities must come together, partner banks can leverage Standard Chartered's capabilities and network strength on behalf of clients. The bank has rolled out its supply chain financing solution in 16 countries, with plans to extend the offering to 30 countries by the end of 2005.
For a large-sized European bank partnering Standard Chartered for its transactions in Asia and elsewhere, competition and rivalry from the bank are rarely issues. Standard Chartered's stance of 'complement, not compete' in managing partnerships, mitigates. Given the highly competitive international banking scene, these partnerships and alliances are increasing growth areas, and financial institution clients are one of the cornerstones of Standard Chartered's wholesale banking business.
Meanwhile, banks in Asia, the Middle East and Africa in dealing through Standard Chartered, have the assurance that they have a knowledgeable and dependable partner to lean on. Vu Viet Ngoan, chief executive officer for the Bank of Foreign Trade of Vietnam, says his bank aspires to deepen its product and services sophistication, and Standard Chartered has provided strong expertise in many areas of banking such as trade finance and cash management.
Standard Chartered's strategy has always been to leverage sophisticated solutions devised in one market, and offering them to clients in another market. The bank constantly provides new ways for financial institutions to manage risk, liquidity and capital, and enhance profitability that can make these clients outstanding performers in their regions.
The bank's intimate knowledge of emerging markets and its reputation as truly one of the world's best is recognized by various publications. The Asset rated it the Best Asian Currency Bond House in 2004 and the Best Debt House in India and Thailand. In the same year, Euromoney recognized it as the Best in Cash Management in the Middle East and the Best Debt House in Singapore and India.
Global Investor has rated it the Best Regional Custodian in Asia-Pacific, while Global Custodian has ranked it a top rated Agent Bank in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.
No bank has anticipated as much the dramatic shift of the dynamics of the marketplace, especially when it comes to Asia and the Middle East, as Standard Chartered. Case-in-point, the bank's growing clout in the capital markets. In Asia, the team has brought numerous landmark deals to the market and ranks consistently high in league tables across Asia-Pacific, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.
Recent headline deals include a Residential Mortgage Backed Securities transaction for Cagamas MBS Bhd, which won Best Local Currency Bond title in the The Asset's Triple A Awards; a Fixed Rate Notes issue for the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, which is the first SGD bond offering by a Latin American issuer; and an asset-backed securitization (ABS) deal for Thailand's Siam Industrial Credit PCL which was the single largest ABS issuance under Thai Securitization Law.
Charlton, who has more than 20 years' experience in the banking industry, says the bank's intimate knowledge of developing markets has always been its key specialty.
Clients testify to the bank's value as a partner. "What makes Standard Chartered a brilliant partner is that they have the knack for being able to ask the right questions, drilling down as far as they can go to understand the requirements," says Edward Navarro, chief operating officer, Insurance Sub-Regional at Prudential Corporation Asia. "Everything they do is with quality at the highest level and with the deepest amount of conviction and commitment, and I think that makes us very comfortable knowing that we have the right partner."
"Where we think Standard Chartered really excels compared to the competition is in the knowledge and experience of the operational staff in the local branches, coupled with very proactive relationship management from the team in London," adds Mark Bosquet, vice president for Network Management at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Luxembourg SA.
Those words are what build a reputation for reliability and consistency that even money can't buy.