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StanChart: too big to be niche

Its strength in emerging markets makes it a serious player in FX.

Foreign exchange market participants with long memories will recall that Standard Chartered was once considered to be a trailblazer in the industry. In the early 1980s it was one of the first banks to start trading currency options; and for a time it was the institution that brokers in particular used to go to if they wanted any products based on the European Currency Unit, the artificial construct that was to evolve into the euro.

However, as the market started to consolidate into the hands of a few big players around the turn of the millennium, the perception grew that StanChart was a spent force, at least on a global scale. Many dismissed it as a bank that had been reduced to a niche player catering for its clients primarily in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Although admitting that there was an element of truth in this, Richard Leighton, StanChart’s global head of FX, is swift to point out that the bank is a player in the industry. "I was amazed by the obvious potential the bank had when I joined in 2004," he says. Before that, he had spent 10 years at the organization that became JPMorgan, having joined Chase Manhattan from Midland Bank to set up an FX exotic option trading desk.

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