Standard Chartered Bank will continue to develop and introduce new products and investment in Bangladesh to cater to growing consumer banking, buoyed by people’s rising purchasing power, its top human resource strategist said.
The demand for consumer banking in Bangladesh is 10 times higher than supply, thanks to leaps in people’s purchasing power, making Bangladesh a lucrative market for retail banking, which is expected to grow by around 15 percent annually.
“There is a lot of focus on the growth potential that exists here,” said PK Medappa, group head of human resources for consumer banking of Standard Chartered Bank Ltd. “We are also focusing on maintaining and growing our position in Bangladesh. We hope we will have support to tap growth.”
He said Bangladesh is one of the top markets of Standard Chartered, thanks to its huge growth potential. “The business is very important for us. Today, Bangladesh is among our top 15 markets and fast going up the ladder.”
“To be able to sustain growth and growing our people are important, but the biggest challenge is how we meet our future potential,” he told The Daily Star last week.
Medappa, who joined Standard Chartered in 1991, said the bank’s Bangladeshi staff should be given more international exposure to help them contribute further.
“We have 30 people from Bangladesh working elsewhere in the group. Our intention is to continue it.”
“Perhaps in consumer banking, we can take people out and give them the exposure, so that in a couple years, when they return, they can help our business and meet our future human capital needs. It will not only develop people but also make sure they are adding value.”
He said when people go into other markets and add value, they create a reputation for Bangladeshis. “It creates kind of a brand. That is why we are very careful about the kind of people we put out.”
Standard Chartered Bank has operations in more than 70 countries. Among them, about 35 countries have proper consumer banking. Bangladesh is one of them.
“We actually look at Bangladesh as one of our universal markets, which means that it is one of our top markets that offer our full products range.”
“We see it as a growth market, and we will continue to invest as the opportunity arises to make sure we maintain our competitive position. Bangladesh is an integral part of our global business.”
The banker said the bank could grow significantly in the current market.
Medappa credits his staff for growth of the business. “In the bank, it’s all about people. The bank today is in such a strong position in this market because of the people we have. That is why we give so much focus to the kind of people we bring in, how we train them and keep them engaged.”
He however admits there are one or two areas in compensation practices that need to be looked at and should do better.
Many other local banks are making a foray into the lucrative consumer banking business. But Medappa said his group is well equipped and strong enough to offset any challenge.
“We are leading the market. The strength of our group is our product development capability. I do not see losing that competitive advantage at all. We will definitely continue to introduce newer and newer products. We have a structure to maintaining the advantage.”
“We will become much more customer-centric, that is what drives us.”
“We know the next stage of our growth in the next few years is going to come from our much more stronger value proposition for our customers. As an organisation, we are becoming much more customer-centric.”
He said any competition is healthy and the bank would continue to develop innovative products. “We will differentiate our products and services from others so that customers come back to us.”
Medappa, a South Indian, said the restriction on opening branches has restricted their growth. “For foreign banks operating here, the disadvantage is the restriction on growth. We cannot expand freely. There are regulations on the number of branches being allowed to open, which restricts our growth.”
“Moreover, there are opportunities for us as it is a fast growing market. We have fantastic franchisees. We have very good products, good people. Besides, the economy is booming. If there were no restrictions then growth would have been much higher.”
The restriction has not however dampened the bank’s enthusiasm to grow. Among the foreign banks operating in Bangladesh, Standard Chartered is the largest with operations in six major cities in the country, whereas other international banks have concentrated on Dhaka or Chittagong — the two major cities — or both.
“We have quite an expanded network, which will give our customers better experiences.”
Consumer banking makes up 50 percent of total revenues generated by Standard Chartered in Bangladesh. The bank however says this segment of banking in Bangladesh is still in its early stages and demands will mount as purchasing power goes up.
Medappa also voices satisfaction about its team in Bangladesh. “We have a very talented team. Our measurement of annual staff engagement shows that they are happy and content and willing to go the extra mile for the organisation, which also shows that we are good employers and the employer of choice.”
On recruitment plans in Bangladesh, he said, “It will be driven by our business strategy and growth aspirations.”
Medappa also discussed how they prepare employees for the competitive market.
“We, as an organisation, believe in leveraging on people’s strength. So, the basic philosophy is to identify people’s strength and give them the necessary skills and knowledge to make them world-class.”
“That’s the overall strategy on how we actually develop our people.”
“To make this happen, you have got to change the way you recruit, develop, train, pay and keep people engaged. That is what we are trying to do here.”
“So, in the whole range of what we do, I think we are quite sophisticated and have the tools and processes to meet each of their needs in the whole employee life cycle. The issue for us perhaps is how well we implement.”
Medappa, who has a master’s degree in personal management and human resources, said there is a long way to go to give the customers the real experience about consumer banking.
“We are on a journey that is going to be long. We have completed 60 percent of the journey. Once we actually complete it, I think people will be able to distinctly see us differently from the other banks and realise that we have really provided them with differentiated services.”
He said the bank has incorporated technology advancement to take its services to the people.
“In some of our markets, we have significantly moved to that route. But the pace with which we move, depends on internet usage and population and how comfortable the people are in being online.”
By Md. Mojahidul Islam