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Standard Bank plots a path out of South Africa

Standard Bank is cultivating alliances in a strategy of expanding outside South Africa. How worried should competitors such as Standard Chartered be? Dominic O’Neill speaks to Standard’s chief executive and head of investment banking about the bank’s future as a global emerging markets institution.

STANDARD BANK’S TIME seems to have come. Like rival Standard Chartered it is focusing on a global emerging markets strategy. Both banks’ biggest shareholders are state-owned Asian institutions and until 1987 they were part of the same group. Based in Johannesburg rather than London, Standard Bank is focusing more exclusively on links between emerging markets, and on "connecting Africa to the world and the rest of the world to Africa", as its latest slogan puts it.

The announcement last month that China intended to provide $10 billion in new concession lending to Africa over the next three years could be good news for the continent, where infrastructure financing is a big problem. It could also be good news for Standard Bank, in which Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) holds a 20% stake.

Having received approval this autumn for an alliance with Troika Dialog, one of the biggest securities firms in Russia, Standard Bank’s international business is shaping up nicely. And what could be a more fitting celebration of Africa’s new global relevance than South Africa hosting the 2010 football World Cup? Standard Bank also exorcised a ghost in November when it announced that Fred Phaswana had agreed to become its first black chairman.

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