Standard Chartered Sees Africa Future Amid Branch Network Review

Standard Chartered Plc, the British bank that has operated in Africa for more than 150 years, said the continent remains part of its consumer banking plans even as the lender reviews its global branch network.

While the lender is considering closing branches as more customers migrate to online and mobile transactions, it is still Standard Chartered’s “ambition to be the leading international retail bank within our footprint in Africa, Asia and the Middle East,” Diana Layfield, Africa chief executive officer for the London-based lender, said in an e-mailed response to questions on Jan. 23.

“With digital access comes a reduction in branch traffic, so it is only natural for us to review our current branches and optimize our digital platforms,” she said.

Standard Chartered said last year it may close 80 to 100 out of more than 1,200 branches globally and said this January it will cut about 4,000 jobs at its consumer operations to restore the bank’s profit growth. It hasn’t said where the shutdowns or job reductions will be. The lender rebuffed at least one potential buyer of its African operations, according to two people with knowledge of the talks.

“As this is an ongoing process, we are unable to provide a geographic breakdown at this stage,” Layfield said. “The realignment of our retail strategy is a global ambition to focus on cities that will experience significant economic growth in the future.”

About 100 jobs are under threat at the lender’s Botswana unit, Botswana Bank Employees Union General Secretary Lebogang Keabetswe said last week.

Standard Chartered has offices in 16 African countries and has been among the top three arrangers of syndicated loans in the sub-Saharan region since 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Operating profit at the Africa business fell 27 percent to $209 million in the first six months of 2014 from the year-earlier period.

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