StanChart CEO Talking to Saudi Regulators About Banking License

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  • Ground rules ‘are evolving,’ Winters says at Riyadh conference
  • Asia-focused British lender operates in 70-plus countries

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Standard Chartered Plc Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters said he’s talking to regulators in Saudi Arabia to understand the requirements to get a license to open branches in the kingdom, which could add another emerging market to more than 70 countries where the British bank does business.

“The ground rules for what is required for the banking license” are “evolving, as are so many other things in Saudi right now,” Winters said on the sidelines of a conference in Riyadh on Wednesday. “We continue to have conversations with the regulator to understand what the requirements are, and how we can best meet them, and can support the kingdom towards its 2030 vision.”

The lender already has a license from the Capital Markets Authority, which allows it to pitch for local advisory work, including IPOs and takeovers in which the target company is based in the kingdom. It’s now seeking to become more active in the oil-rich nation, Winters said.

Saudi Arabia, which is hosting a gathering of high-profile global finance and business figures this week, is becoming more attractive to foreign lenders as it overhauls its economy and plans to list Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Aramco, in what could be the largest-ever initial public offering.

‘Eye Opener’

Only a handful of international banks, such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Deutsche Bank AG and BNP Paribas SA, currently have licenses to open branches in the kingdom. HSBC Holdings Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Credit Agricole SA operate in the country through minority stakes in local lenders.

Winters said a session on foreign institutional investors he attended was “an eye opener on how quickly things are changing in Saudi, and tells us the role the international banks with deep local roots like us can play." Standard Chartered is looking for ways to deploy a "more substantial presence on the ground in Saudi Arabia," he said.

Standard Chartered, which has a big presence in the Gulf region, is looking to play an active role in cross-border payments and investments and wants a role in Saudi Arabian domestic capital markets, Winters said.

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