The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has caused challenges for businesses and requires them to have new ways to adapt to the new normal. However, firms with proper and flexible business strategies still take development opportunities during the pandemic. Michele Wee, CEO of Standard Chartered Vietnam, talks about the bank's strategy and its methods to overcome the challenges.
Michele Wee, CEO of Standard Chartered Vietnam
Amid the unprecedented impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have been seeking new ways to adapt to the new normal. What have been the changes at Standard Chartered Bank Vietnam?
We have been innovating and have adopted new ways of working since the beginning of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A hybrid model of remote working and work in the office has been put in place taking guidance from SBV and relevant authorities. This has enabled us to maintain seamless client service, even during the most serious periods of the pandemic, and ensuring the health and safety of our employees and clients.
To make it safe for clients to bank with us, substantial precautionary measures have been and continue to be in place. This includes enhanced sanitisation and cleaning hygiene, temperature checks, clear guidelines for client and employee interactions to ensure the health and safety of all. We have encouraged clients to use our market-leading digital banking platforms, as this allows for seamless transactions of everyday banking needs without having to visit our branches. We continue to see excellent traction for digital adoption.
Through new ways of working, receiving valuable insights from our clients and experiences has allowed us to introduce new product solutions for our clients and the community. Globally, the Group launched our inaugural COVID-19 “not for profit” financing commitment to support businesses helping the fight against the pandemic. In 2020, we extended credit limit of US$22m to 9 clients in Vietnam. This fund is being extended into its 2nd year as we continue to see resurgent of COVID19 across the globe.
We have a partnership with Việt Nam Women Entrepreneurs Council under Việt Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and had launched a $25mn financial support programme for women-owned enterprises. We have also donated over VNĐ5 billion in cash and in-kind items to various charitable purposes. Our efforts are ongoing to ensure that we can always service our clients, people and communities effectively. We continue to ideate on products and services to support businesses and individuals to alleviate financial burden.
The pandemic has changed the strategies of businesses, such as their operating model and supply chain diversification. What are the opportunities that you see from that? How is Standard Chartered Vietnam capitalising on these opportunities?
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with China's rising wages and the US-China trade war, has resulted in a shift in global supply chains as companies seek to diversify production. Việt Nam is among the countries that is strongly positioned to capture this production shift. Standard Chartered has an extensive global network, we are in fact the only international bank to be present in all 10 ASEAN markets. This puts us in an ideal position to facilitate our clients supply chain diversification and connecting businesses. Our clients leverage our footprints and network as they look to expand into the ASEAN region and vice versa. We take care of our clients financing, hedging and cash management requirements as they run their business operations.
Our most recent and exciting client proposition provides sustainable trade finance solutions across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. When implemented it allows companies to materially deliver more sustainable practices across their ecosystems to not only build more resilient supply chains but also to contribute to the sustainable development goals they want to achieve. The Sustainable Trade Finance Proposition, support the following products:
Sustainable goods: Working with customers and partners to finance underlying goods that meet agreed sustainability standards.
Sustainable suppliers: Supporting trade for suppliers who meet acceptable thresholds against ESG ratings or metrics such as gender equality, responsible sourcing criteria and water use.
Sustainable end-use: Focusing on trade financing in sustainable industries including renewable energy, energy efficiency, the blue economy, sustainable infrastructure, water management and clean transportation.
Transition industries: Helping industries transition and reduce their carbon footprint by offering trade financing that recognises efforts to help reduce emissions.
For a market like Việt Nam, which is playing an increasingly important role in the global supply chain and one of ASEAN's most open economies, I am excited about the opportunities ahead in working with our clients to support their sustainable development. The conversations we are having with clients is very encouraging and we are looking forward to delivering for our clients and for our banks Sustainable Development Goals.
What would be your focus to lead the bank through the challenges?
One of our main focus is on Sustainability, in which we aspire to become a leader and driver of sustainable development. We believe sustainable finance would be the defining moment of this new decade. The unprecedented pandemic has further highlighted the importance of sustainable finance for global and local economic resilience. Our top priority is given to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) criteria and look to drive clients' turn towards the green agenda. We also run a business model which is environment friendly.
We also focus on People because we believe that we need to be good from inside out, which is critical to our sustainable development. We want our people to be happy, capable and client oriented. We have been and will be investing significantly in our people's learning and development, which will help to make sure that their skills are always relevant to our clients' needs in the future. We create a truly diverse and inclusive environment where our colleagues can bring their true self to work, be motivated and recognised for their contributions. Happy employees will then translate into loyalty and also better service for clients.
Conduct and Compliance is another area that we pay special attention to. As an international bank, we want to set high industry standards by being transparent, treat our clients fairly and responsibly, at the same time, staying in compliance with the regulations set by ourselves and the regulators.
Last but not least, technology. We have made significant investment in technology to ensure that we always stay ahead of the game. It enables us to provide clients seamless, exceptional client services while maintaining an excellent level of operations, even in challenging time like this. We want our clients to enjoy banking with us anytime, anywhere at their own convenience.
Can you share about Standard Chartered Bank Vietnam's strategic sustainable development goals? What has been the progress so far?
We are living and working at an extraordinary moment in time, with climate change, rising inequality and threats to social stability and security affecting all of us. The world is being reset. Thus, we are taking the stand, which is the next step in our transformation, including the following key pillars:
Accelerating Zero: we aim to help emerging markets like Việt Nam reduce carbon emissions as fast as possible, without slowing development, putting the world on a sustainable path to net zero by 2050. We want to support and mobilise finance needed to provide people with clean energy, drive carbon-free transport and facilitate the decarbonising of the manufacturing industry.
Lifting Participation: we look to improve the lives of people and their communities by unleashing the full potential of women and small businesses. We will accelerate the provision of quality financial services to women across our footprint, purposefully connect SMEs to international markets and build partnerships to expand the reach and scale of financial services.
Resetting Globalisation: we will support companies to improve working and environmental standards and giving everyone the chance to participate in the economy, so growth becomes fairer and more balanced. We will do so by: Increasing transparency in supply chains to enable consumer choice and drive responsible trade; Bring new levels of security, tracking and confidence to financial activity; Provide access to the best and most innovative solutions to both private and public sectors.
To give an example, just recently, we have completed two transactions on green bond and renewable wind power, which is part of Accelerating Zero. Together with Standard Chartered Bank China, we successfully closed a $462 million trade finance transaction for four renewable wind power projects in Việt Nam. The other transaction is about the issuance of a debut $200 million Senior Guaranteed Fixed Rate Notes due 2026 for a project by BIM Land JSC, in which we acted as the Joint Lead Manager and Joint Bookrunner. We played a pivotal role in structuring this transaction, creating the green bond framework, devising the marketing and execution strategies and advising the Issuer on opportune windows in the market. VNS