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StanChart wants to be the best

Mumbai, March 13: Standard Chartered Bank is drawing up ambitious plans for India which involves committing capital worth “tens of millions of dollars” and is also re-visiting its consumer banking strategy to emerge as the best bank.

However, the bank is still considering the option of operating as a subsidiary, though such a decision will largely depend on the lifting of the cap on voting rights. Finance minister Jaswant Singh had announced in this year’s budget that the 10 per cent cap on voting rights for the promoters of banks will be lifted.

“The bank, armed with a good talent pool and aggressive plans, may also set up specific subsidiaries for some businesses. However, a decision on this front has not yet been taken,” said chief executive (India region) Christopher Low.

The focus will be on organic growth though acquisition opportunities will also be evaluated, he added. Current conditions demand that every bank focuses on its customers and Standard Chartered will now try to beat competition in innovation and engage the customer so as to get a bigger share of his wallet.

“We will also invest in staff and train them further,” he said.

Low admitted that while the bank has a strong brand, we are not leveraging it successfully like a number of peer banks do. The bank is now reviewing its strategy in both consumer and wholesale banking. In consumer banking, the target areas are credit cards and mortgages.

In home loans, Standard Chartered Bank will be leveraging its personal and auto loan businesses in addition to introducing the Home Saver. In credit cards, the plan is to tailor specific credit cards based on the credit worthiness and track record of the customer.

Low said that the bank’s presence in the country is also set to get strengthened from the current network of 23 branches and 81 ATMs. StanChart will add 23 branches and 81 ATMs this year. The bank has obtained 14 licences from the Reserve Bank of India and has already opened nine branches.

With this expansion, the bank's total number of branches and ATMs would go up to 81 and 156 respectively, he added

The importance of India in the bank's global plans, he averred, could be ascertained from the fact that India now contributes to over 10 per cent of its pre-tax profits. Further, a board meeting of the bank will be held next month at Chennai. The group chairman and CEO will attend the meeting.

In the sphere of wholesale banking, the game plan is now to leverage its clientele of 300 companies to reach their suppliers and distributors as well via financing.

Prior to heading the India region, Low held senior positions with the bank in London, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Tanzania and Kenya.

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