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Standard Chartered: More work to do

The culture is changed and numbers are solid, but return on equity isn’t going to budge without progress on costs.

A year ago there was a sense that Standard Chartered had turned the corner after a series of difficult years. Numbers were moving in the right direction, the right staff had been hired and the culture had shifted. But, 12 months on, you couldn’t say the progress has been consistently upward.

It has been in some respects. Third-quarter net profit, announced in October, was dramatically up over the year, to $752 million from $557 million a year earlier. Pre-tax profit, at $1.1 billion, was up 37% over the previous year and has outpaced analysts’ expectations. Common equity tier-1 was up, to 14.5% of risk-weighted assets, well above the bank’s stated target range of 12% to 13%; non-performing loans were down, reflecting progress in digesting distressed debt.

“We set out the plan three years ago to get the bank repositioned and back up and running,” says Andy Halford, group chief financial officer at Standard Chartered, who has been instrumental in the bank’s transformation alongside chief executive Bill Winters.

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