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     Volume 8 Issue 70 | May 22, 2009 |

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Everyman's Banker

In an interview with The Star, Tracy Clarke, Group Head of Human Resources, Standard Chartered talks about how the bank hires people

Her life's two decades spent in the Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), human resource guru Tracy Clarke, who has recently visited Bangladesh, has been thoroughly impressed by the hospitality that the Bangladeshis has offered her. "Everybody has made me feel so welcome," Says Tracy, who has been running HR for three years, “Bangladesh is quite a big contributor to Standard Chartered, it is important for the Standard Chartered.”

Tracy thinks what makes the bank unique is that it's truly international; and because "Bangladesh is a great source of talent," she really wanted to come here to learn from the management team here about the country and its culture. "There is a massive energy and warmth to the place. In a market like this you really get the essence of banking," she says.

The name Standard Chartered comes from two different banks: James Wilson, a Scotsman founded the Chartered Bank in 1853; the SCB gets the first half of its name from another Scotsman John Paterson, who in 1862 founded the Standard Bank in the Cape Province of South Africa. The bank now works in over 70 markets, and Tracy thinks, of these emerging markets, Bangladesh holds an important place. "Strategically, when you look at our markets, which are in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, where the growth is likely to come, we are very strong about helping the economies grow. Look at Bangladesh now, which has 6 per cent GDP growth. There are many markets in the world that will want to have the growth rate Bangladesh has. As the middle class is developing with it is growing the bankable population," she says.

What does the SCB plan to do to use this growth to expand its market share? Tracy Clarke: "We have over 200,000 clients and within that customer base we have a very wide spectrum of clients. We are active in the card market; we are also increasing our participation in the emerging mortgage market. We are not entirely focused on the priority-banking sector segment. We got a good cross section of clients. We are very active in the micro finance area. Ours is not a micro finance institution but we are active financier to the micro finance institutions, which is an important part of our participation in the growth of the economy here."

At a time when many of the big guns of the world's finance and banking have fallen silent, Tracy believes the way forward is to build capacity of the organisation's leadership. "We are trying to make sure that we have got the right leadership capability across the market to ensure that they have got the right capability to drive growth," she says. A challenge, however, remains before achieving that goal: "Many of our leaders have grown in economies when they were buoyant, where the wholesale and consumer parts were both strong. Now is a test of leadership. We have a tailored leadership process to do that (meet that challenge)," she says.

The bank's return on assets in 2008 was 1.05%, compared to 0.31% for JPMorgan Chase, 0.37% for HSBC Holdings and 0.14% for Citigroup. She thinks that driving a high performance culture is necessary, but, at a time like this, the financial institutions must reward not what they do, but how they do it. She says, "One of the reasons why the banks have failed is because of risk management failure, taking risks the organisations didn't have the appetite for or the capability to handle."

Now the biggest challenge was to hang on to the talent that it has. "It is only 12 months ago when everybody was talking about the dearth of talents and how difficult it was to find talented bankers in many Asian markets. Take India, with banks paying crazy amount money to poach people from other banks, it’s only 12 months ago," she says.

She believes there are a few things that make the Standard Chartered an attractive employer. "A time when the banking industry has been highly criticised, those who want to work with the banks want to work somewhere which has a strong financial performance and high integrity. We are an attractive employer right now," she says.

She says that, as the SCB does not pigeonhole people, it is the place where budding bankers can hone their talent. "We don't box people; we don't think someone who has once been an accountant will always remain an accountant. Many people do that, we genuinely believe that we need people who are specialists and at the same time are broad-based general managers who have cut their cheese in many things," she says. Amidst the great global economic meltdown she thinks the traditional banking system has not yet failed. "This is what all of the regulators of the world are debating now--whether we should go back to the days when the investment banks are separated from the commercials banks. I think there will be more scrutiny by the regulators, but global economy sooner or later will turn round. Some institutions are too big to fail," she says.

Six years ago, the bank has launched a global community campaign across the world; one of its first projects that the campaign has financed is in the Islamia Eye Hospital in downtown Dhaka. Even though Tracy has been actively involved with the initiative, until now she has never got the opportunity to visit the hospital. "I was hugely touched and proud to see the fabulous work that has been done here," she says, "Today when I saw the bandage over the eyes of a child there removed, I felt we had been able to give something back to the society where we work."


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