Standard Chartered staff braced for big change under Winters

Fri Feb 27, 2015 10:35am EST
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By Lawrence White

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Incoming Standard Chartered Chief Executive Bill Winters will need to take tough decisions that predecessor Peter Sands deemed unnecessary, in order to reverse a two-year slump in the bank's fortunes, according to some insiders and bankers.

In a major boardroom reshuffle that signaled the end of an era at the Asia-focused bank, Standard Chartered said Thursday that Winters would take over in June, initially prompting a giddy reaction among investors, analysts and some staff.

The lender's shares (STAN.L: Quote) have risen nearly 10 percent in the last two days.

Winters faces challenges including cleaning up the bank's books following a spike in bad loans, raising at least $4 billion in capital, trimming costs further in an underperforming retail division and improving investment banking performance.

"There's a mood of borderline euphoria and excitement today... after six grim months where the sense of passion and urgency fell away a bit," said a senior Asia-based insider.

That mood reflects the expectation that Winters, 53, a seasoned American investment banker, will tackle some of the bank's problems head-on rather than argue, as Sands had done, that only smaller revisions to its strategy were necessary.

The biggest of those problems is the need to raise capital to cover the costs of a clean-up of the bank's books, which have been hit by rising bad loans in countries including China and India and by exposure to commodities.

"(Winters) has to do some very deep plumbing to understand the depth of the problems in asset quality, credit exposure, litigation risks, mismarked positions," said Michael Dee, former Southeast Asia CEO of Morgan Stanley and senior managing director at Temasek, Standard Chartered's biggest investor, from 2008-10.   Continued...

A man walks past the head office of Standard Chartered bank in the City of London February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh