When the British banking industry faced collapse amid the global financial crisis last year, the government turned to a man with a mere seven years of experience as a banker. Standard Chartered group chief executive Peter Sands became one of the architects of Britain's bailout plan for troubled lenders and is among the few bankers still wearing a smile during the worst global financial crisis in a century. The relatively young banker - he is 47 years old - has been one of the executive success stories in a sector beset by crisis. And his unconventional route to the top of the banking world has paid dividends. Standard Chartered reported net profit growth of 17 per cent last year at the same time many of its competitors in the United States and Britain suffered losses from huge provisions made for subprime mortgage loans. Mr Sands was a key adviser to the British government's much-praised bailout plan involving fund injections directly into lenders. In that role, he returned to his roots as a management consultant for McKinsey, where he worked for 13 years offering advice to the information technology and international banking sectors. Standard Chartered's business strategy has helped it escape from the crisis roiling most of its peers. Unlike most international banks, which have big exposure in markets such as the US and Europe, Standard Chartered focuses on emerging markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. While it is one of the largest banks in Britain and is headquartered in London, it has no retail network in the country. Hong Kong is its key profit contributor. Like the bank he works for, Mr Sands is also a touch out of the ordinary. While most other top bankers usually join their bank after leaving school and spend their whole career in banking, Mr Sands had a completely different career path. A graduate of Oxford University, he holds a master's in public administration from Harvard University, where he was a Harkness Fellow. Mr Sands started his career in the British Foreign Office before shifting to management consulting. Standard Chartered was one of his clients at McKinsey when the bank's then chief executive, Mervyn Davies, asked him to join as group financial director in 2002. Mr Sands was promoted to the top job in 2006 when Mr Davies became chairman. Mr Davies has since left and become British minister for trade and investment. After joining the bank, one of Mr Sands' first tasks was to arrange for it to have a secondary listing in Hong Kong. Two years later, he led the bank to locally incorporate its Hong Kong business. The bank has a long history in Hong Kong, starting in 1859, when the city was only a small fishing village with a population of 85,000. Hong Kong has since become an international finance centre, and the bank now employs 70,000 people in more than 1,600 branches in more than 70 countries. Standard Chartered was the city's first note-issuing bank in 1862, but that status may now be at risk as its key shareholder, Temasek Holdings, holds 18.81 per cent of the lender. That is close to the threshold set by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority at which it may revoke a note-issuing bank's status if any foreign government holds more than 20 per cent. Mr Sands said the Singapore government investment fund 'understands the commitment of Standard Chartered as a note-issuing bank in Hong Kong'. Mr Sands is not just in love with work. He is also a family man and a fan of literature and football. At home, he gets away from the spreadsheets to spend time with his three daughters and son or discuss literature and art with his wife, novelist Betsy Tobin. She has written the historical mysteries Bone House, The Bounce and Ice Land and is working on a fourth novel. 'I don't think my wife would like to write about banking ... it's just not interesting enough,' he said. You are the quiet architect behind Britain's bailout plan. How did you help come up with the plan? We were involved in devising the British scheme at the start. The successful implementation of the scheme was equally dependent on the political will of the government to drive it through, and we were very impressed by the speed with which they did that. Many international banks have been hit hard by the subprime crisis, but not Standard Chartered. What makes you different? I would point to three things that made us different. One is the fact that we have a very clear strategy and we stick with it. Second, Standard Chartered never lost sight of the basics of banking, the focus on liquidity management, credit risk management, operational control and customer service. Third, we have focused on emerging markets for a long time, so we understand we have to watch risk controls very carefully. This is why we have no subprime mortgage exposure at all. We have a very open communication style that is critical in turmoil. If people are worrying about something, they can speak out so that we can respond and take action quickly. To have bad news travel fast is critical in this kind of environment. As a former consultant, what advice do you offer to help restore the image of the banking industry? And what lessons can we learn from the crisis? We have to acknowledge the banking industry has failed and the failures have caused damage to companies and people. Many are angry about that. The industry has a significant duty to rebuild the public's trust in the industry. This is an important starting point. The industry needs to go back to focusing on customers and core products. The level of leverage should come down. Banks should embrace better regulation. The group had a rights issue last autumn when the market was performing relatively better than now. Did you predict the market would go down further at that time? We did not have a crystal ball. We did think the market might change, but we did not predict the level of the decline would be so sharp and so sudden. We have people who can give us information on what is happening in the markets, and that helped us to make the decision to raise funds last autumn. It was just like when you see the clouds forming, you know a storm is coming, just not when it will arrive. We are happy with our current capital position. Standard Chartered was the first note-issuing bank in Hong Kong. Are you worried the Temasek stake may lead to the bank losing that valuable status? We have a very good relationship with our shareholder Temasek. They fully understand the Hong Kong regulations for note-issuing banks, and we are fully committed to being a note-issuing bank in Hong Kong. Standard Chartered Bank was established in Hong Kong in 1859. What has been behind the bank's success over the past 150 years? It is an important fact that Standard Chartered began in Asia. Our first branches opened in Calcutta and Shanghai in 1858 before coming to Hong Kong a year later. Although Hong Kong was only a small village with a population of only 85,000 when we started, it had a lot of opportunities. The key to the success over the past 150 years has the been long-term commitment to the region. Looking ahead, what would Standard Chartered like to do in its second 150 years? It would be difficult to look at a 150-year horizon, but we think we will continue to focus on Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as these are the markets we know very well. Any thoughts on expanding in the US or European markets? Not really, unless there was some compelling reason for us to diversify our strategy. We do not do domestic business in the US or Europe. The key to our success is we focus on what we are good at. I can come to Asia two to three times a month. If we have operations around the world, it would not possible for me to do that. Why did the bank list in Hong Kong in 2002 and then locally incorporate in 2004? The secondary listing of the bank in Hong Kong is to increase the visible commitment and raise our profile. It is also a good thing for the Hong Kong stock exchange. When we had the local incorporation here, it was a natural development, as we have a lot of business development here. Local incorporation also allowed us to be in a better position to capture the opportunities under the closer economic partnership arrangement. As Hong Kong is now your major profit contributor, will you consider moving your headquarters here to further strengthen your business in the city? We have our corporate headquarters in London, but our operational headquarters are in different parts of the world, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. We are comfortable about having the corporate headquarters in London. Will you continue with acquisitions? Our core strategy is organic growth instead of acquisitions. Our revenue growth is primarily driven by organic growth. We will look at acquisitions, but we will only consider them if they work well with our organic growth strategies. Based on such an approach, we will only look at acquisition opportunities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. You were a consultant when you decided to join the industry seven years ago. Why did you change jobs? Standard Chartered was my client. I think it is very interesting. I like the bank. I like the people. At that time, I was ready to make a change and start a new career. Standard Chartered was a bank with potential but it had not quite fully maximised its potential. Also, Mr Davies was very persuasive, and he is not someone who will take no for an answer easily. The banking industry is facing its worst crisis in a century. Do you regret joining the sector? I have been a banker for seven years this month and I think it has been a wonderful seven years. It may not be the best time in the banking industry, but it actually is a good time for Standard Chartered, which is doing well even during the worst of the financial crisis. I need to give credit for this to the teamwork of my colleagues. The Standard Chartered Marathon is a signature sports event in Hong Kong. Have you run in it? I am very proud of the success of our marathon in Hong Kong, which drew more than 55,000 entrants this year. As group chief executive, I would love to join this event. Unfortunately, it usually falls in February or March, when we are busy preparing the results announcement in London. How do you split your time between work and family? Not just splitting my time between work and family, but also football! I'm a great Arsenal fan. It is hard to strike a balance. But I try to protect weekends and avoid being out in the evening. I also try to save time to play football with my son and do homework with my daughters. Your wife is an author. Any chance that you will appear in one of her books? I don't think my wife wants to write about banking; it's just not interesting enough for her. It's very good to have a partner who does something completely different from you as it makes life more interesting. If you are a banker and your wife is a banker, there will be too much banking at home! Now I can go home and talk about literature and arts with my wife and my children, which is more interesting.