StanChart positive on loan growth

KUALA LUMPUR: Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd (StanChart) is optimistic on its loan growth prospects for 2020, despite anticipating a challenging environment for the banking sector this year.

Retail Banking country head Lai Pei-Si said the bank achieved about 50% of new sales volume for loans growth in 2019

“We expect to grow faster than the market for this year. We have the right products and solutions, the right capacity as well as the right competency to be able to deliver that, ” she told StarBiz in a interview.

“We’re a focused bank. We focus on emerging affluent as well as high net-worth, so for us our housing loans have actually grown, ” she said.

HLIB Research, in a report last month, toned down its 2019 loans growth estimate to 3.5% to 4% from 4% to 4.5%, while Alliance DBS Research said there may be downside risk to its 5% loans growth expectation.

Meanwhile, CGS-CIMB Research cut its loan growth forecast for 2019 from 5% to 4%, while TA Research maintained its 2019 loan growth projection at 4.5%, premised on consumer and business loan growth assumptions of 5.5% and 3.2% respectively.

Lai said the bank had invested significantly in digital products and solutions over the years and expects this portion of the business to continue growing.

“Currently, about 95% of our transactions are digital, ” she said.

Nevertheless, that does not mean the bank’s non digital transactions will be taking a “back seat” any time soon.

“The human interaction, the face-to-face, it still needs to exist.

“While digital transactions are high, our customers also feel that they have a need to have their transactions validated, to meet and talk with our people.

“So we admit that digital has to come with a human touch and our people will need to be relevant and competent.

“They will have to have the ability to actually listen, because every individual is different, ” said Lai.

Realising the importance of needing to engage its clients on a personal level, StanChart launched its integrated cafe banking branch as a social meeting place for visitors at its head office in Equatorial Plaza in November.

Having an integrated cafe within the branch is a first-of-its-kind of any StanChart branch in the world.

“With the cafe, we feel we can integrate into the lifestyle of our clients. This is a format that we’re going to replicate at another branch within the Klang Valley later this years, ” Lai said.

Feedback for the cafe has been positive, she added.

Lai was appointed to her present role on Jan 1,2019.

She is responsible for building a sustainable retail franchise, optimising market opportunities for targeted segments and the implementation of the bank’s digital services within retail banking.

As the country’s first and oldest bank with over 140 years of history, StanChart currently has over 7,000 employees.

With 32 branches, Lai said StanChart will be focusing on building on what it already has.

“We’re optimising our branches. With transactions mostly digital, customers don’t have a need to come to our branches as often as they once did years ago.”

Going into 2020, Lai said the banking sector will pose many challenges, but added that StanChart is more than capable to tackle them head-on.

“We think consumption is going to be flat this year.

“We also think that unemployment levels will remain stable and that actually bodes well for retail banking.

“Nobody’s going to lose their jobs, so they’re still spending. Competition will also intensify.

“The pie isn’t going to get bigger, but it means that we will need to find ways to out-compete and out-serve our competitors.”

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