NAUSHID MITHANI, HEAD OF GSAC EMEA AND PRIVATE BANK HEAD, UAE PRIVATE BANKING CLIENTS AT STANDARD CHARTERED
What is your focus this year?
Our focus is always on the client and making sure that we anticipate their needs and help them navigate the uncertain market conditions. To this end, we continue to look into digitisation initiatives to improve our offerings to clients.
For example, we recently introduced the ADVICE Platform to deliver faster and more effective advise to our clients. We are also increasingly moving towards sustainable investing, supporting the five key United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Our recent survey shows that more than 50 per cent of investors in the UAE currently have between 10 per cent - 25 per cent of their assets allocated to sustainable investing. In terms of outlook, 78 per cent of investors in UAE said they would consider shifting philanthropic contribution to sustainable investments.
A recent study found that private high net worth wealth in Middle East and Africa is expected to grow at an annual rate of six per cent to 2023. Do you share the same view?
Our growth across the MEA region comes mainly from family business growth. Family-owned conglomerates in the GCC have a significant impact on the development of the region—in fact, they generate more than $100 billion in revenue annually, according to a study by Gulf Family Business Council and McKinsey & Company.
When it comes to family offices in this part of the world, one cannot help but note that countries such as Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates hold most of the family businesses in the region.
What is your take on technology and the role it plays in increasing efficiency for wealth managers?
Wealth management today has evolved from what we used to know. Again, technology plays an increasingly important role in shaping the future of the wealth management industry. Technology is a critical enabler of our business.
We embarked on our digitisation journey three years ago and have launched several industry-leading platforms that have helped us improve the client experience. For example, we introduced Connect Suite, a platform that operates across asset classes, improves speed of response to clients and allows relationship managers (RMs) to have richer conversations.
The SC Private Banking app, with its instant messaging and file-sharing capabilities, provides clients the ease of managing simple tasks on-the-go, while keeping interactivity with RMs. Nevertheless, it is crucial to strike a balance between personalisation and use of technology.
Close RM-client relationship is still key. We still see a need for a personalised financial advice from our client base. The more sophisticated the product, the more need for a human touch to address their needs.
What is your approach in managing client on-boarding, KYC and antimoney laundering issues? Underpinning our business priorities is the focus on conduct and governance.
We constantly conduct reviews to simplify processes and meet regulatory and market requirements. RMs undergo mandatory training on AML modules, and in addition to that, we partner with various academies that provide bespoke training programmes to our colleagues.
For instance, in 2017, we launched our Private Banking Academy, and partnered with Fitch Learning, a pre-eminent training and professional development firm, and INSEAD, a leading business school, to create a bespoke training programme for our global front-line colleagues.
The academy equips them with the skills they need to deliver an exceptional level of service and advice to our Private Banking clients.
What are the biggest risks to your business this year?
Clients are concerned about the overall global market volatility. They are apprehensive about their returns and protection of their capital. However, we at Standard Chartered help by managing the information overload, breaking down the complexity of investing so that our clients can better understand the investment opportunities.
With a reduction in the IMF’s projections, the slowdown of global trade growth is also an area of concern. According to the IMF, higher trade policy uncertainty and concerns of escalation and retaliation would reduce business investment, disrupt supply chains, and dampen productivity growth. As a result, the depressed outlook for corporate profitability could dent financial market sentiment and further hamper growth.
The US and China are locked in an escalating trade battle. Fears about a further escalation has rattled investors and hit stock markets. The IMF has warned that a full-blown trade war would weaken the global economy.
The US-China Trade war continues to loom over the market sentiment. Given the rise in US dollar interest rates in the last two and a half years, after a long pause, investors are still anxious about the performance of the fixed income asset class, which has provided impressive return over the last 10 years.
In the region, the lack of performance of assets such as equity and real estate over the last couple of years may provide some opportunities for investors locally over the coming months. We are committed to staying close to our clients and helping them to navigate the opportunities across our footprint.
In terms of growing the business, what do you have in the pipeline?
We aim to provide differentiated value to our clients across relationship management, digital channels and the quality of investment advice and global insights we offer. Digitisation is a crucial agenda for us to meet the expectations of our increasingly tech-savvy clients.
Our clients need fast and relevant investment advice to meet the challenges of fast-moving markets. The increasing demand for unbiased advice has shaped our open architecture approach. Our impartial decision-making process aims to provide clients with bias-free investment solutions.
Given that most of our clients are still the first or second-generation business owners, they are concerned about the transfer of wealth and their businesses to the next generation, so succession planning is a major need.
Across our key markets, a lot of wealth is set to change hands to the next generation. Our clients can tap our strong legacy planning and trust solutions. Additionally, we offer a unique next generation programme which is focused on helping the next generation of our ultra-high net worth clients to hone their talents across leadership and entrepreneurship, philanthropy, sustainability and communication.
There is a rising interest in more socially responsible investments. Research has shown that millennials are twice as likely to invest in companies or funds with ESG outcomes. Next generation investors are mostly millennials who have different perspectives in terms of investment expectations and demand.
They are more astute in investment and financial planning, seeking more digital capabilities and demand for more sophisticated advisory and personalised services. It is therefore critical to recognise this and transform our products and services to cater to this new set of expectations.
What is your leadership style?
I like to lead by example. I lead from the front by taking action, demonstrating what needs to be done, and keeping my team organised to make sure we’re all on the same page and contributing equally.
People who interact with me know well that I am great at delegating and finding the strengths of other team members. I try to give each person a chance to do what they’re best at and create a team effort that delivers a result that is greater than the sum of its parts. Everyone has a great role to play in delivering the bank’s products and services, that is my motto.