Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered: Banking on Jordan’s future

The regional CEO of Standard Chartered says his bank is in Jordan for the long haul.

One of the UK’s biggest banks, Standard Chartered entered Jordan’s banking sector in 2000 when it acquired ANZ Grindlays’ operations in the Kingdom.

Standard Chartered is listed on the London and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges as well as India’s Bombay and National Stock Exchanges, the bank is present in 63 countries and territories, with over 1,000 branches.

Closer to home, Standard Chartered was chosen as the Best Foreign Bank and Best Foreign Investment Bank in Jordan by EMEA Finance magazine 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Ahmad Abu Eideh, Standard’s Chartered’s CEO for Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon, said the bank’s main objective was to drive commerce and achieve prosperity through its diversified offerings: corporate, commercial and retail banking.

Digitization has been a major drive in the banking sector. How has Standard Chartered developed its internal operations and services?

Corporations are looking beyond their organizational boundaries to ensure that supply chains as a whole are secure and equipped to deliver growth, and to manage risk and liquidity effectively. Meanwhile the client’s definition of a financial services pro­vider has changed in line with evolving tech­nology and shifting trading patterns.

As global supply chains continue to grow, supporting them is a very relevant and com­pelling proposition for our clients. We call this the ecosystem. It is where we connect clients’ ecosystems, their buyers and suppli­ers, and integrate their financial, informational and physical flows to optimize their working capital, helping them grow and compete glob­ally. We do this by using data and technology to leverage the combined value of our corporate, commercial and retail banking to support our cli­ents, their buyers and their suppliers. We con­tinue to play a leading role in digitization and innovation using distributed ledger technology, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Straight2Bank is the bank’s suite of electronic channels for corporate and institutional clients. It combines two key areas of our cash management and foreign exchange. Our clients benefit from an integrated workflow that allows them to achieve greater operational efficiency and gain more security and control over their transactions and processes.

As for retail banking, we continue to invest in our digital capabilities to bring convenience to our clients. In 2017, we started increasing our investment in our network by introducing mobile banking and changing the online banking interface to increase convenience and reach for our clients.

You have been the only international bank in Jordan with a custody license since 2014. What have been the achievements and the challenges?

We have always been committed to providing the regulators—Jordan Securities Commission (JSC) and the Securities Depository Center (SDC)—with our continuous guidance and support to help develop and improve the Jordanian market to ensure that we meet international investors expectations. On October 1, 2017 the SDC launched the new settlement model in the Kingdom, as the licensed custodians became part of the new model whereby the settlement of cash and securities is done directly with the SDC. Hence, we were ready and prepared to go live with the new settlement model within less than a month of the SDC’s announcement of the launching date.

Since 2014, we have been seeing a year on year growth in our market share, where it has increased from 34 percent to 80 percent and our asset under custody has reached more than $1 billion. 

You also launched a commercial banking arm in 2015. What does this segment bring to the market and how did it perform since its launch?

Commercial banking was formed during the fourth quarter of 2015 in line with the group’s strategy to ensure that we bring the best of the bank to rapidly growing and internationalizing corporate clients. The business now manages an expanded portfolio in Jordan covering various sectors within the local corporate segment.

The Jordanian market is characterized as a commercial banking market in the sense that most client revenues hover in the range of $20 to 500 million.

Commercial banking in Jordan has the potential to act as a growth driver for many of our other businesses, particularly our private banking and international corporate segments where many synergies exist.

What makes Standard Chartered a solid corporate bank?

Our corporate and institutional banking serves large companies, financial institutions and government agencies, with a focus on trade finance, cash management, capital raising and corporate finance. It concentrates on building long-term relationships with clients to support their growth. We also play a key role in developing the infrastructure.

We capitalize on the bank’s product specialization and structuring capabilities to position ourselves as a market leader in providing structured facilities and unique product offering. These were key to overcome the many challenges faced by the banking sector in Jordan, commencing with the large budget deficit caused by the energy crisis resulting from the increase in oil prices and the large dependency on oil imports for power generation with few available alternatives. The geo-political situation in neighboring countries has also impacted the Jordanian economy and Jordan’s position as a trade corridor in the region.

How do you deal with standards on money laundering and interna­tional sanctions?

We focus on four areas. Strengthening our conduct so that each and every one of us sees financial crime controls as a core part of the day job, and ensuring our com­pliance systems match the risks inher­ent in the markets in which they operate. We play an active role in combating financial crime, while providing quality service for our clients.

Our group and country financial crime risk committees were established to strength­en governance. We have launched the Financial Crime Compliance Academy, through which we hosted our first Financial Crime and Compliance workshop for finan­cial institutions and correspondent banking clients in Jordan.

In 2017, we brought together representatives from correspondent banking clients, regulators and law en­forcement from Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon for the latest in our series of Correspondent Bank­ing Academies.

One of the bank’s strategic priorities is to participate in and influence in­dustry initiatives in correspondent bank­ing. To that end, we have enacted pro­grams to address specific regulatory challenges and concerns and have made several hires to strengthen the function.

What are the bank’s most prominent sustainability initiatives?

The bank’s sustainability agenda is designed to impact the markets where we operate, through being a force that promotes sustainable lending policies, operates as a responsible company, and invests in the communities we operate in.

The bank’s staff supports our local communities by volunteering their time and skills, and seeking to maximize our impact by undertaking skills-based volunteering. Our volunteering peaks during the holy month of Ramadan with Tkiyet Um Ali to serve iftar meals to poor families.

Seeing is Believing is our global program in which we help in eradicating avoidable blindness. This year we are launching a locally developed project to screen 30,000 first graders in Irbid, in the northern part of Jordan. The project is in cooperation with the National Center For Women’s Health and we will focus on: providing screening for amblyopia and color-blindness, examining referred students with amblyopia and other diseases to doctors and specialists, providing eyeglasses to students and following up on them after six months; determining treatment for each case and transfering them to the nearest hospital if needed.

GOAL is the Bank’s global program that uses sport and life skills to transform the lives of adolescent girls. It was launched in Jordan on January 2011. Now the program has reached more than 15,000 girls in different rural areas across the Kingdom and is executed in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Injaz.

This year we launched Goal Employability and Entrepreneurship Fund to train 200 Goal champions on how to start their own projects and to be ready for the job market.