Business News of Friday, 9 January 2015
Standard Chartered has responded to shareholder calls to slash costs by cutting 4,200 jobs in an attempt to boost profits.
Shares in the Asia-focused bank rose on Thursday morning after it announced the job losses, which amounts to around 5pc of its global workforce.
Peter Sands, Standard Chartered’s chief executive, and John Peace, its chairman, have faced questions over their positions amid two consecutive years of declining profits and a steep drop in the bank’s share price.
Falling commodity prices, a slowdown in emerging market growth, increased competition and higher costs owing to the rising standard of living in Asia have all contributed to the decline. Amid three profit warnings, the bank’s shares fell by 29pc last year.
Standard Chartered announced on Thursday morning that it would close almost all of its equity businesses, which are sub-scale and lossmaking, cutting 200 jobs and saving $100m a year.
Shutting the business comes just over six years after it moved into equities by purchasing Cazenove Asia in November 2008. Most of its staff are based in Hong Kong, although it has smaller operations across Asia and in the UK and US.
The bank also said it had cut 2,000 jobs in its retail business in the last three months, and planned to remove another 2,000 this year. It is closing up to 100 branches as it focuses on key cities and a shift to online banking.
The cuts mean it will take at least $400m of costs out of the business this year, and possibly exceed the target it set at a shareholder meeting in November. One top 10 investor said Thursday’s announcements were “a small step in the right direction”.
Chirantan Barua, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said exiting the equity business would have a small positive impact on earnings, but that without the division, it may find it difficult to cross-sell its private banking services, which Mr Sands sees as a growth area for the bank.
“With the equities move, it will now be no different from the wealth management offering of any regional or local bank. And that will be bad for margins [and] growth,” Mr Barua said.
Standard Chartered’s capital position has been called into question by some market commentators, who believe it is facing heavy losses on commodity loans as the price of oil and iron ore slumps.
UK banks’ financial strength will be stress tested by the Bank of England for an emerging market downturn this year, raising speculation of a rights issue. Mr Sands (right) has repeatedly said Standard Chartered does not need to raise money.
Shares in the bank rose 2.6pc on Thursday morning, and have now risen more than 10pc since a low in mid-December.
“We are continuing to take significant action on costs by exiting or reconfiguring non-core and underperforming businesses, and by increasing the efficiency of our core businesses,” Mr Sands said.
“We are well on track to deliver at least $400m of cost saves for 2015, and we are now focussing on achieving further cost savings for 2016 and beyond as we continue creating capacity to invest in the Group’s core businesses.”
In a separate announcement, the bank said Richard Goulding, its chief risk officer, and Jan Verplancke, its chief information officer, would leave the business after eight and 10 years at the business respectively. It said replacements would be announced in due course.