StanChart CEO: Banking ‘Attacked’ From All Sides
While the banking industry is being "attacked" from all sides by regulation Standard Chartered's CEO tells CNBC that the Asia-focused bank is looking forward to the year, which has got off to a good start.
The British bank, commonly referred to as StanChart, last month agreed to pay $327 million to resolve allegations that it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran, a second penalty that followed a $340 million payment in the third quarter of last year and that is expected to weigh on profit growth.
Asked whether StanChart could tell investors that it was now done with lawsuits, CEO Peter Sands said: "The industry is being attacked from all sides. We've still got a lot of the regulatory agenda still to unfold in terms of the European Banking Union, the independent commission of banking in the UK," referring to new measures being taken to regulate the banking sector.
"We're very glad to have settled the U.S. issues, and we're very much focused now on the growth opportunities we seek...accelerating investments in Africa, in Southeast Asia, in China, and we stepped up investments in the second half of last year," Sands told CNBC on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
While much of Britain's banking sector has shrunk, StanChart, has continued to hire and increase its earnings on the back of growth in its Asian markets. The bank is listed in Hong Kong as well as London.
Banks globally, meanwhile, have been cutting jobs as they grapple with high costs and tighter banking rules that have dented their profitability.
British bank Barclays, for instance, is expected to cut around 2,000 investment bank jobs as part of a restructuring that is due to be unveiled next month, according to recent reports in the media. Citibank said last month that it would axe 11,000 jobs, while Goldman Sachs reduced its workforce by 3 percent in 2012.
"We're in a very different position from many other banks. We continue to grow headcount, continue to grow the business throughout 2012, we've almost doubled in size in terms of both profits and lending since the beginning of the crisis over the last 5 years," he said, replying "no" when asked whether there would be job cuts at the bank.
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Finance Director Richard Meddings was reported saying last month that the bank expected to add about 2,000 jobs in 2013, mostly in back office support functions, compliance and risk but also in consumer banking.
Sands said the year had got off to a stronger-than-expected start in terms of market optimism, which might be overdone given nagging concerns about the U.S. fiscal position and the state of Europe's weak economy.
"But make no mistake, it's good to have some confidence," he added. "Fundamentally our focus is on Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and there's no shortage of growth opportunities for us in these markets."