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Friday, March 31, 2023
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    Opportunities abound

    Danial Norjidi & James Kon

    Sustainable financing, carbon markets and digitisation are three key areas of opportunity, according to Standard Chartered Bank’s (SCB) Cluster Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Indonesia and ASEAN Markets Andrew Chia.

    In a recent interview with the Weekend Bulletin, the Cluster CEO spoke with regards to the regional market outlook, saying, “Overall, the bank is positive about ASEAN, there’s no question about it. Last year, from the data we have seen, ASEAN as a whole, as a bloc itself, has grown by 5.5 per cent, and this year we do expect the growth to be around 4.7 to 4.8 per cent.”

    These numbers, he shared, are from the outlook the Asian Development Bank (ADB), but he said that for most of the market processors, it’s around that range.

    “So I think overall, how the bank feels, how global investors feel, is promising. Of course, some ASEAN markets are super big, like Indonesia and Vietnam, and are attracting a lot of investments. But even the medium, smaller economies too, we have a part to play, and the demographics are in our favour.

    “Foreign direct investments (FDIs) are coming in and we are seeing more investors in the real economy and in terms of the financial sectors viewing ASEAN differently. I think the prospects for us in ASEAN are pretty bright and exciting.”

    Standard Chartered Bank’s Cluster Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Indonesia and ASEAN Markets Andrew Chia; with SCB Brunei CEO Pengiran Aki Ismasufian bin Pengiran Haji Ibrahim. PHOTO: MUIZ MATDANI

    In terms of opportunities he foresees with regards to ASEAN and Brunei, Chia highlighted a number of areas, beginning with sustainable finance.

    “I think there’s a huge opportunity there. There are so many things we can do there, starting from how we transition from the brown economy to one that is green. There’s quite a lot of new infrastructure which means a lot of new investments into the greener technology. So these are all catalysts for growth.

    “Similarly, even for existing brown industries, such as the coal industries, there are talks to retire some of the coal-fired power plants early, including in Indonesia. If you can retire these earlier, then we can move the investments from these coal-fired power plants to renewable energies – hydro, solar and so on.”

    Other opportunities are in terms of carbon markets, said Chia, noting that besides oil and gas, Brunei still has primary rainforest spanning more than half the country.

    “Going forward, Brunei can actually monetise this in terms of carbon credits, with proper governance and proper frameworks.

    “You can sell these carbon credits globally, and there are more demands from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Lots of companies in the west have made commitments on net zero,” said Chia.

    “So one way to get to those numbers is to buy carbon credits to offset against your own emissions.

    “As a bank, we are committed to net zero in terms of our emissions by 2025 globally, and all our financing will be net zero by 2050,” he added.

    Chia also highlighted digitisation as another huge megatrend.

    “With digitisation, the bank is in your mobile phones. Today, you can lose your wallet but you cannot lose your phone. You cannot order all the food, your transportation, buy movie tickets, everything.

    “So as long as we can plug into this digital economy, the cost of doing business, acquisition, transacting and servicing actually would have come down. So this would translate to investment opportunities, lots of new opportunities for people to transact. It’s a new way of living too. Again, you can invest behind it, you can profit from it too, so that’s huge.”

    With regards to Brunei, the Cluster CEO noted that SCB is taking its role as the only international bank in the country “very seriously in terms of our banking business, corporate banking and customer banking”.

    “We are delighted to continue to serve the customers here in Brunei,” said Chia, noting that SCB Brunei has been awarded as the best digital bank in the country for the last nine years consecutively. “I think this speaks highly in terms of our investment and commitment.

    “In ASEAN, we are the only international bank and that is something we are very proud of,” he affirmed. “We are proud of the fact that we are in all 10 ASEAN markets and we see our value here.”

    Sharing a few key things for Standard Chartered, he said, “One of them is we want to be known to be strong and able to help a lot of economies in sustainability. Of course, network is a huge part of our business model.

    “We are in over 60 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle-East, Europe and the Americas. I think this is where we can add a lot of value to drive FDI into the Sultanate and help to bring some of the Bruneian companies outside to our franchises.”

    From a consumer banking point of view, Chia said that they will continue to serve digitally as the population is becoming digital-savvy, adding that wealth management is a big part of the bank’s role as well.

    He noted that Standard Chartered introduced Islamic investments through the first Islamic Window in April 2021 offering Syariah-compliant investments.

    “We see ourselves as a trusted advisor to all sorts of investors, especially those who want to invest according to their beliefs,” he said. “We also offer environmental, social and governance (ESG) products for those investors who want to be investing along the green and sustainable lines.”

    Noting the bank’s 65th anniversary in the Sultanate, the Cluster CEO said, “We plan to be here for another 65 years and more. I think the local team has done very well under the leadership of SCB Brunei CEO Pengiran Aki Ismasufian bin Pengiran Haji Ibrahim.

    “With the stability and affluence of Brunei, and the opportunities, I don’t see a reason why we won’t be here,” he continued.

    “After all, we are here to deliver profits and good returns on capital to the group. We will try to contribute to the economy. Given that we are a network bank, we bring in FDIs.

    “We try to drive thought leadership, change agenda and growth agenda, for example in sustainability, not just in terms of green but also in terms of social. And of course, we contribute from our employee volunteer events. We want to contribute as much as possible to the local community, and of course we work very closely with different government agencies.

    “We are here for good,” Chia added. “We are celebrating our 65th anniversary this year, making Standard Chartered Bank the longest serving bank in the country. As a franchise, we have been grateful to be part of the growth and development of Brunei, serving the people and being part of the fabric of this nation.”

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