IT is taking time, but Western investors are coming to grips with the concept that Asian banking is a growth business. The swoop on Midland by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp opened a lot of eyes to the financial strength that exists around the Pacific Rim. This week, Standard Chartered's results brought the attractions of our banks further into focus. End-of-week trading in London saw Standard Chartered shares shooting up towards its all-time high of GBP10 as buyers piled in. There was talk of a takeover bid, but analysts point out that the bank may already have built up its own self-defence mechanism with its latest results. Much of the real enthusiasm is due to this week's results, a 35 per cent jump in profits to $1.26 billion. But the Far East story is also fuelling demand. The appeal of China, plus Standard Chartered's network of branches throughout the region and in-depth experience of the booming Southeast Asian economies, are gaining recognition. Some analysts are now feeding their forecasts for economic growth in the region into the Standard Chartered spread-sheet and coming up with prospective earnings that would make the shares worth GBP2 more. The estimates would be even higher if the bank had fulfilled market rumours by announcing plans to spin off its Far Eastern operations through Hong Kong and Singapore listings. That would have cut away the ballast of the United Kingdom banking business, with its hefty bad debts and a still-struggling economy, and left the ballooning Asian business to float freely. That remains an option, and one that will add gloss to the shares until it is either exercised, or exorcised. In terms of attraction, what has further enhanced Standard Chartered's magnetism to European investors is its decision to reveal much more about its business than most Asian banks. It was a bold step to take, but by lifting the veil on its local operations it has shown that the arguments for banking secrecy are only so much voodoo. This move to greater transparency is all the more welcome given Standard Chartered's position as a note-issuing bank and an occupier of a crucial position in Hong Kong's financial market. Although the bank remains unlisted here, it is now disclosing much more information than any of its listed rivals - with the exception of HSBC, which had to bow to UK practices when it bought Midland Bank. Other banks, which still maintain an appalling record of disclosure, please note. They should look at their own skeletal interim statements, which are, unacceptably, limited to four items only: profit after taxation and transfer to inner reserve, interim dividend, earnings per share and interim dividend per share. They should then study the Standard Chartered report and note the depth of information it has provided. Then they should think deeply about following suit. Even so, while Standard Chartered Bank has provided a better picture of its operation, it is still far from being as comprehensive as the Midland Bank interim report. Inner reserves apart, the Monetary Authority has said it supports the call for better presentation and better disclosure by the banks. But the problem is, as executive director (banking) Albert Cheok asked: ''Who should be the right body to drive?'' The supervisory body is content as long as the banks under its auspices are operated in a prudent way, meeting all regulatory requirements. Why should they bother? As long as the integrity of the banking system is not in jeopardy, why rock the boat that the banks and supervisors are all sitting comfortably in? But investors' interests are at stake. Scanty disclosure deprives investors of a chance to make informed investment decisions. The stock exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission should shoulder the responsibility of providing the balance between protecting investors' interests and maintaining the well-being of the financial system. The Society of Accountants can upgrade the general accounting level in Hong Kong by eliminating the vast discrepancy between listed banks and other companies. Investors can also come out and advocate their cause. These steps should create enough momentum to change this ''right to silence''.