Behind The Idea: Standard Chartered by Richie Santosdiaz for The FinTech Times
Behind the Idea Editor's Choice Fintech Middle East & Africa

Behind The Idea: Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered is a leading international banking group, with a presence in 60 of the world’s most dynamic markets and serving clients in a further 85. The bank’s purpose is to drive commerce and prosperity through its unique diversity, and its heritage and values are expressed in the bank’s brand promise, Here for good. Standard Chartered PLC is listed on the London and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges as well as the Bombay and National Stock Exchanges in India.

Mohamed Abdel Razek is the CIO - Africa Middle East at Standard Chartered Bank
Mohamed Abdel Razek is the CIO – Africa Middle East & Islamic Banking at Standard Chartered Bank

Mohamed Abdel Razek joined Standard Chartered in May 2015 as global head of the Technology Operations and Collective Intelligence & Command Centre (CnC) and head of technology for Malaysia – Global Business Services. Since September 2019, he has also held the post of CIO for the bank’s Islamic Banking business. He is a highly accomplished Senior IT Executive with over 26 years of globally acquired multi-national experience focused on Global IT Management, Strategy, Operations, and Major Transformations. He is based in Standard Chartered’s office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

What has been the traditional Standard Chartered Bank response to financial technology innovations?

We have embraced technology with open arms. From retail and mobile banking, to digital-only banks, technology has its hand in seemingly every aspect of the industry and, the quicker banks adapt and implement technology within their operations, the further ahead they’ll be. In my opinion, the influence of technology will only increase and further launch banking into a digitised future.

At Standard Chartered, we have championed a digital-forward approach for decades. We also vigorously monitor trends across our markets, in order to effectively address consumer demands. A great example of this is the launch of our digital banks across Africa, first launched in Côte d’Ivoire in 2018. Since then, we have rolled-out eight digital-only banks across key African markets, providing easily accessible and convenient banking services. This marked the most extensive digital rollout of its kind in Africa by an international bank.

Moving ahead, we will continue to invest in technology to stay ahead of the curve and keep up with the rapidly evolving needs of our clients. We’re committed to magnifying our position as a market leader in financial technology through the introduction of first-of-their-kind services and offerings across the markets we operate in.

How has this changed over the past few years?

The banking industry has certainly evolved over the past few years and has become an everchanging landscape, underpinned by disruptive technologies and intense competition. We’re seeing significant demand from consumers for a more comprehensive suite of offerings, in addition to superior banking products and services. Today’s consumer wants access to a highly personalised and inclusive experience, as well as access to a wide variety of services from the comfort of their homes.

In fact, the demand for digital services was only further amplified due to the impact of COVID-19. From the outset of the pandemic, the bank was well-prepared to address the needs of its consumers and leverage its robust digital capabilities to do so. As a direct result of our digital readiness, by July, up to 50 percent of fixed income transactions were completed using the mobile application.

As mentioned, innovation in technology is evolving every day and we are continually re-evaluating how we can best implement new advancements to provide a seamless customer experience. We will continue to invest in expanding these functionalities to evolve with our customers’ changing lifestyles and needs.

Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?

In line with our stature as a leading global digital services provider, we have reflected this progressive mindset through our corporate culture. Across our various markets, we’ve championed the implementation of a digital and flexible working model, which ultimately translates into our outward performance. Through training programmes, communicative efforts, progressive technological tools, and internal policies, we were able to adopt a digital approach to our workplace and reap a myriad of benefits in this regard.

We’ve also translated this shift to our hiring processes as we look to employee individuals that thrive in an increasingly technological workforce, one that Standard Chartered has meticulously curated. As we strive to stay ahead of the curve with our customers, this applies to our employees, as well. Afterall, they are our most important asset.

What Fintech ideas have been implemented in Standard Chartered UAE and across Middle East & Africa (MEA)?

In addition to our digital-only banks which were rolled out, we also launched SC Keyboard across key African markets. SC Keyboard is a banking solution which allows customers to access a variety of financial services from within any social or messaging platform without having to open the banking app.

Looking at the UAE, specifically, Standard Chartered rolled-out Real-Time Onboarding (RTOB), a first for the market. The solution allows new and existing customers to receive digitally delivered cards in as little as 10 minutes and was truly a game changer for the market.

Similarly, we were among the first international banks in the UAE to launch major wallet solutions, including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay, giving customers the flexibility to complete mobile transactions faster, and through their wallet partner of their choice.

What benefits have these brought?

Regarding the success of our digital banks in Africa, the bank has opened over 200,000 accounts across these markets, three times the number of accounts opened in 2018. We’ve also mobilised $52 million in deposits and, ultimately, increased the digital adoption rate to 54 percent.

Of course, while we have seen significant benefits from our investment in technology, both operationally and financially, we are also finding the balance between the power of digital and the human touch. At Standard Chartered, we strongly believe that we do need to retain the ‘human element’ of banking and discover how technology and digital services can compliment our products and services, rather than replace them. Finding this balance between cutting-edge, digital services and the human touch is how we can best provide a seamless customer experience.

Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?

The challenges facing businesses, and specifically financial institutions, do not comply with one defined archetype. There are numerous obstacles we must tackle to maintain the integrity of our operations and reinforce our positions as market leaders. The biggest challenge, in my opinion, that the industry is continuously attempting to overcome and satisfy is that of changing consumer preferences, and more so, the changing technological landscape in which players must navigate. With the COVID-19 pandemic inciting a transformation in the way consumers conduct financial activities, these challenges have been accelerated and subsequently brought to the fore.  With a higher level of digitisation there will be an inherent challenge around Data Management, Information & Cyber Security elements, and the pace/consistency of regulation on Digital.

Can these challenges be aided by Fintech?

Of course. Disruptive technologies allow banks to perform a suite of services that address the aforementioned challenges. For instance, through open banking, a widely popular and progressive financial technology, banks can utilise their platforms to make certain customer data available to non-bank third parties, such as retail stores. This gives banks the extraordinary opportunity to expand their ecosystems to cater to the retail industry, which satisfies increased consumer demand and introduces an additional revenue stream.

Similarly, banks that are quick to action comprehensive digital strategies and introduce variant and efficient consumption methods of financial products and services will ensure their growth and position as leaders.

At Standard Chartered, we address these challenges by continuing to champion our digital agenda, specifically in the MEA region, and enhancing our consumer offerings with the latest advancements in fintech and digital banking services.

Final thoughts?

At Standard Chartered, we have championed a digital-forward approach for decades. We also vigorously monitor trends across our markets, in order to effectively address consumer demands.

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