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StanChart eyes wealthier customers in retail revamp

HONG KONG, February 9, 2015

Standard Chartered will shift its retail bank's focus from mass market to affluent customers and urge more customers online as part of a broader turnaround strategy for the lender, a senior executive told Reuters.

StanChart's retail business is one of the first divisions the Asia-focused lender has targeted with cuts, announcing last month it would axe 4,000 retail jobs or 5 per cent of its global workforce and close 80-100 branches.

The moves come as chief executive Peter Sands is under increasing pressure to revive the bank's fortunes after a troubled two years, which abruptly halted a decade of record profits.

Key to fixing the retail division would be stripping out costs, Karen Fawcett, global head of the bank's retail clients unit, told Reuters in an interview.

She wants to reduce the division's cost-income ratio from 67 per cent to 65 per cent by the end of the year, and ultimately to 55 per cent.

"We have a fantastic business with 10 million clients in 34 countries...but the problem is high costs," Fawcett said.

The bank will close "a lot of branches in Korea and Pakistan and a few in most markets", Fawcett said, adding that some branches will be relocated to higher-yielding areas to reflect rapid changes in big cities.

StanChart's woes have prompted some of the lender's top investors to call for Sands to step down.

Sky News reported on Friday that Sands had said on an internal conference call with senior staff last week that succession planning has already begun.

Fawcett said she had not been present on the call or listened to the recording of it.

"Peter is a very competent chief executive and he is running the bank," she said. – Reuters

Tags: Standard Chartered | Retail banking | mass market |

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