StanChart to axe costs by $700m as it pulls back from Indonesia and India

Pedro Gonçalves
StanChart to axe costs by $700m as it pulls back from Indonesia and India

Standard Chartered said it would improve its returns dramatically in the next three years by slashing costs by $700m and pulling back on some activities in markets including India and Indonesia.

The emerging markets bank will focus on India, Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia and several other countries as it attempts to remove a "drag" on its revenues and profits.

The new three-year strategic plan came as the bank reported net profit for 2018 of $618m, down from $774m in 2017. Revenue of $15bn was up 5% on $14.3bn the year before.

We had some dark days, and we felt them very acutely"

Chief executive Bill Winters now aims to achieve a return on tangible equity (RoTE) of at least 10% by 2021 despite only reaching 5.1% last year, short of the 8% by 2018 goal he set himself three years ago.

Winters said that he was confident that Standard Chartered could hit its targets because the better parts of its business were already performing at the improved level.

The bank will distribute surplus capital to shareholders.

The bank said it would cut around $9bn from risk weighted assets by marking its 45% stake in Indonesia's Permata as non core and sees scope for another $9bn in RWA reduction by 2021. Winters said the bank needs to improve returns in Indonesia, where it has its own bank too, and in India, Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

"We had some dark days, and we felt them very acutely," said Winters on a call with analysts.

He said, "StanChart will not look to exit those four countries completely. Having reach into 60 countries is a key reason why multinational companies and other international clients use Standard Chartered."

The plan now is to focus focusing on higher-return business such as wealth management and connecting clients with its international network rather than lower-return mass market retail banking, Winters explained.

The results were dented by a $900m provision the bank took to cover the impact of regulatory investigations in the United States and Britain. The bank said last week that the provision related to the potential resolution of US investigations into alleged sanctions violations and foreign exchange trades.