* Says to hire another 2,000 in Singapore by end-2012
* Opens Asia's largest dealing room with 790 seats
* CEO says Asia in an "economic super-cycle"
(Adds further details)
By Kevin Lim
SINGAPORE, Jan 21 Standard Chartered (STAN.L),
the British emerging markets-focused bank, plans to continue
hiring aggressively in Asia despite rising costs and thinning
margins, it said on Friday, as it believes growth in the region
will outpace that of the rest of the world.
"We are in an economic super-cycle," Chief Executive Peter
Sands said at the opening of the bank's new Singapore office,
which includes a three-level trading room for 790 people that it
described as Asia's largest.
Stanchart also reiterated its commitment to hire another
2,000 people in Singapore by the end of 2012, adding to its
staff of over 6,000 in the city-state.
"Our sense of optimism about the opportunities across Asia
and our commitment to investing and building our businesses
across Asia hasn't changed at all," Sands told reporters.
Despite galloping economic growth in Asia, the region's
banks are struggling to raise earnings as stronger loans and
increased corporate activity are offset by tough trading
conditions, falling interest margins and rising staff costs.
DBS (DBSM.SI), Southeast Asia's largest lender, for example
saw net interest income decline 5 percent during the third
quarter ended September despite a 15 percent rise in loans from
a year ago.
The Singapore bank, however, managed to post a 28 percent
rise in net profit due to higher fee income and lower bad debt
Stanchart said in December costs were rising faster than
income as it sought to hire and retain staff across its main
Asian markets. [ID:nLDE6B80TV]
The British bank, which employs over 80,000 people globally,
added 7,000 employees to its headcount last year and expects to
make "significant hirings" in 2011, Finance Director Richard
Meddings said last month.
Stella Tang, division director for financial services at
executive search firm Robert Half in Singapore, said the current
low interest margins and weak trading conditions have not
stopped banks from hiring aggressively.
"There's a general bullishness about Asia. M&A activity is
rising, businesses are expanding and consumer spending is up ...
The banks are looking at the overall macroeconomic picture," she
Singapore is the world's fourth largest centre for foreign
exchange trading and the top Asian hub for private banking. The
city-state of 5 million people is also a major Asian centre for
asset management and oil and commodities trading.
Stanchart said its new Singapore trading room, more than
double the size of its previous space, reflected its growth
According to industry sources Stanchart currently has more
than 350 traders in the city-state, putting it on a par with the
likes of Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) and Citigroup (C.N) which have
historically been the largest players in Singapore.
The figure does not include sales, research and support
staff who also sit in dealing rooms.
In Hong Kong, Asia's top financial centre and the main
gateway to China, HSBC HSBC.L operates the single largest
trading facility with space for over 450 people.
"Stanchart remains an outstanding business positioned for
ongoing growth in emerging markets. However, we argue this is
already reflected in a premium valuation," investment analysts
at Barclays said in a Jan 12 report.
The report said Stanchart's wholesale bank, which includes
trading and investment banking, could see growth slow this year
as "own account earnings" or trading profits decline.
But it expects the consumer bank to rebound as interest
rates and lending margins improve in key markets such as Hong
Kong, Singapore and Korea.
Stanchart's wholesale bank has been the star performer over
the past two years, accounting for about 80 percent of group
(Reporting by Kevin Lim and Saeed Azhar; Editing by Greg