Standard Chartered Bank is to relocate its chief executive officer for Asia to Hong Kong from Singapore to be closer to its new business focus across the border.
'Greater China will be by far the biggest growth engine for Standard Chartered,' said Jaspal Bindra, the bank's chief executive for Asia. 'It makes a huge amount of business sense for the Asian CEO to be headquartered in Hong Kong.'
Market observers said a commitment to Hong Kong and the mainland would help the bank maintain its image in the event it lost its banknote-issuing status in Hong Kong.
But Mr Bindra dismissed such suggestions. 'Under any circumstance, we don't want to lose our note-issuing bank status. [But] this is not a matter of choice for us.'
Standard Chartered may lose its 146-year banknote-issuing status in Hong Kong as Temasek Holdings, the Singapore government's investment agency, edges closer to raising its stake in the bank to the 20 per cent threshold from 19.03 per cent. The 20 per cent level could disqualify the London-based lender from issuing Hong Kong banknotes.
Mr Bindra said the bank's other governance heads, including the head of wholesale banking and consumer banking, would also move to Hong Kong, but the business heads and the operations they oversaw would still be stationed in Singapore.
Raymond So Wai-man, associate dean of business administration at Chinese University, said he believed the move reflected the bank's strategy to focus more on Greater China. 'I don't think the relocation of its Asian CEO office will have any impact on the government's decision to let it keep its note-issuing status,' Professor So said.
An economist, who asked not to be named, said the bank probably did not want its image tarnished if it were to lose its note-issuing status. In relocating its Asian CEO's office, it could show its commitment to Hong Kong and the mainland, which would help maintain business relations and public awareness.