Brand View: Sarmad Lone, Managing Director, Co-Head, Global Banking, Africa and Middle East, Standard Chartered Bank, gives his outlook for the year ahead and the key leadership qualities he believes will make it a success
What inspires you?
Working with an energetic team towards a value added solution.
What's one thing most people don't know about you?
I do not carry too many secrets, but, having said that, not many people know that I really enjoy classical poetry.
Quote to live your life by?
Always do the right thing, follow your instincts and take smart risks.
Finish this sentence, "the world would be a better place if only…."
If everyone is focused on leaving behind a better world for the generations to come.
What's the story behind your business?
For Standard Chartered Bank, the Middle East region is a huge capsulate of capital. We enjoy a history of around 100 years in this region. We’ve started our operations in Bahrain back in 1920 and in the United Arab Emirates, we celebrated our 60th anniversary last year.
The story for us is quite simple. One of the bank’s key differentiators is connecting the right corridors - in terms of the flow of capital into the region - through the bank’s project or export finance transactions and through our trade finance transactions.
These unique solutions, coupled with our unique footprint in Africa, add immense value to our clients and the economies that we operate in. This will ultimately play a major role in writing the story of our business in this region.
The other key differentiator that we have in this region is the fact that we are the only international bank that offers Islamic banking solutions to its clients. This is a great competitive advantage as we have sophisticated Islamic banking platform. This is also a key requirement in the Middle East region and we capitalise on that very well.
When it comes to trade and mirroring ancient trading routes, the Belt and Road poses huge investment in an array of large-scale infrastructure projects along the land and sea corridors. Once again, footprint is key and we are present in 25 markets from the 45 Belt and Road markets, covering almost 70 percent of our global footprint. No other bank can offer you the presence and experience we've built across these regions over the past 150 years.
The international expertise of major commercial banks like us in Standard Chartered will be important in determining the success of this initiative. A few years ago, to address the growing needs of our clients, we started direct trading between yuan, Saudi Arabia's riyal and the UAE's dirham, making it a first in this region.
At Standard Chartered we are well positioned to play a pivotal role in supporting trade finance between those areas especially with our strong presence in 15 countries in Africa, in addition to many emerging markets in the Middle East and Asia, which collectively contributed to success story of our business. We have strategic presence in UAE, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya, Oman, Ghana and many more.
How did your business start the year?
We’ve kicked off this year on high note. In the region, we had a good Q1 and we are ahead of our budget numbers. While it’s still too early in the year to call it a victory, the team’s dedication and effort was evident through the number of awards and industry recognition we’ve had.
The teams from Debt Capital Markets, Islamic Banking, Corporate and Institutional Banking, Transaction Banking, Corporate Finance, Project Finance, M&A, loan Syndication and Financial Markets have worked closely together to deliver financial innovations and best in class deals and structures to our clients. Something that I’m very proud of.
If all goes well, where do you see business going in the next five years? The next decade?
As a trade-focused global bank and being one of the world’s top-three trade banks, Standard Chartered is ideally positioned to benefit from the opportunities that the continuing recovery in global trade will bring. The bank’s heritage and footprint across Africa, Middle East and Asia provides, and will always provide, a differentiated advantage in forging and growing trade partnerships within the region as well as internationally:
Banking the ecosystem is part of our global strategy that reinforces our commitment to connect business communities, and further promote global trade, international commerce and investments across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. For one of the biggest markets in the region, the UAE, this country will always remain the nerve centre for our regional businesses and base for our Global Islamic Business.
We all have seen the government’s increased spend and focus on the completion of infrastructure projects ahead of Expo 2020 Dubai, such as key projects including the airport and metro expansion. With higher spending is also likely in the northern emirates, according to recent media reports. As a matter of fact, one can’t talk about this great milestone and its aftermath without acknowledging the overall strategy of the all emirates that binds this country together. Dubai’s Smart City initiative, Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030 and the Happiness Index are all engines of growth, during Expo 2020 Dubai and after it. Expo 2020 Dubai is certainly not the only focus; not by a long shot.
The government of Abu Dhabi is deep into a long-term plan for the transformation of the emirate’s economy, which is driven by reducing the reliance on the oil sector as a source of economic activity over time, and a greater emphasis on knowledge-based industries in the future.
What do you enjoy the most about working at your company?
My motto in life is to surround myself with good and positive people. Those of positive vibes and “a can-do attitude” will always be there when you need them. “Positivity is contagious”.
With that attitude and based on the bank’s extraordinary footprint and the talent of our colleagues, I am always confident that as the team and I execute the bank’s strategic objectives with discipline and energy, we will create long-term value for all our stakeholders and become the best bank we can be.
What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Let me share with you a story that I found it fascinating and I’m sure most of you have heard it or read about it. During a visit to the NASA space centre in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, "Hi, I'm Jack Kennedy. What are you doing? "Well, Mr. President," the janitor responded, "I'm helping put a man on the moon."
What a timeless story. To all potential leaders I say, always think of “your organisation/ business” in totality. Everything in this life is about perception and ownership. The moment you start taking ownership of everything you do, you will succeed. Take this advice from someone who spent most of his life in the corporate world.
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