Standard Chartered is tailor-made for China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The bank, which has a strong focus on emerging markets, opened its first branch in Shanghai in 1858, and in Singapore and Hong Kong a year later. It has a footprint in all 10 Asean nations, with 26 branches in Indonesia, 27 offices in Thailand, and more than 40 in Malaysia, not to mention a presence in 28 cities in mainland China.
But size and strength-in-depth is one thing; it’s what you do with what you have that counts. Over the last 12 months, Standard Chartered has boosted the number of staff on its China desks in belt-and-road countries by 50%, and encourages corporates with yuan settlement trades to tap China’s onshore foreign exchange market for conversion and hedging purposes.
And it leverages to the hilt its strength across the board, holding regular ‘China Day’ events in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and hosting country-specific roadshows that focus on the needs of Asean-based investors and state officials, in the likes of Beijing, Shenzhen and Hangzhou.
Over the last year, it has enabled a host of China-based corporates to expand into Asean and helped southeast Asian companies and sovereigns to raise capital in China’s currency. In March, it underwrote a Rmb1.46 billion ($212 million) bond issue by the Republic of the Philippines, marking the first yuan-denominated bond by a regional sovereign. In July 2017, it was a co-manager on a Rmb1 billion sale of panda bonds by Maybank, the proceeds of which were destined to be ploughed into BRI-related projects by the Malaysian lender.
“I’m a big believer in the Belt and Road Initiative,” Simon Cooper, chief executive, corporate, commercial and institutional banking at Standard Chartered in Singapore, tells Asiamoney. “As the journey continues, we are going to see more projects funded in more markets, involving more currencies and more complex capital structures.”