What role does Standard Chartered play as far as services are concerned?
PIK YEE FOONG Standard Chartered has been present globally for more than 150 years. In the Middle East, where we have been for 90 years, we have a strong workforce of over 85,000 staff of 16 different nationalities in this region. We are also very committed to the region, and our brand promise is a very bold one “Here for good.” That speaks of our commitment to the place. Our commitment here and our competitive advantage is really a fact of combining international expertise and experience with local knowledge. It is about bringing that back to the local environment.
What is the perception of HSBC in the Lebanese market?
FRANÇOIS-PASCAL DE MARICOURT It is a bank that has been here for a long time. Customers know that it is a stable bank that is safe and secure. Also, it is a bank that can bring international creditability to its clients. I think the international profile of HSBC is something that is really important and makes it unique in the market.
What potential is there for growth in the SME segment?
PYF Lebanon is largely an SME market—around 90% of companies here are SMEs. Lebanon is made up of entrepreneurs, and this is reflected in the history of the country. For that reason, we are also an SME-oriented bank and work to support SMEs. We have green environment programs, special reserve requirements, relief programs for lending to certain SME sectors, and so on. All of these are very powerful forms of assistance for SMEs.
What is the strength of the Lebanese banking sector and what does it mean for an international company to do business here?
FM Local banks are quite strong and there is a good level of liquidity. For us, as an international company, business is focused on connectivity and the difference we can make for our clients. We have some clients that come to meet us in markets abroad, and we can help in the formulation of plans using our network. The advantage of HSBC is that it can bring best practices to this market and products that might otherwise not be developed for a market like Lebanon.
What is your overall vision for the future?
PYF Standard Chartered here in Lebanon is well positioned to grow. Our strategy here is informed by our brand promise. I am very positive about the outlook and the growth of our business here over the medium term, but I want Standard Chartered to be recognized not just for performance. We have three pillars that I would like Standard Chartered to be recognized for. The first is to be recognized in terms of our knowledge and expertise in delivering the right kinds of products and services to our clients, and to help them grow internationally. The second is about Standard Chartered being a force for good in the community. And the third pillar is really about our staff—it is about investing in our staff and being a force for good for them.
FM I am quite positive on Lebanon and the financial sector because I feel they have a very strong correlation. We need to operate in a financially stable environment. We can see strong progress liquidity wise. In 2011 we have seen a slowdown in the economy, but we will most likely recover quickly and this will benefit the finance sector. HSBC, as the leading international bank in Lebanon, will benefit from these niche markets and will be able to bring benefits to its clients for years to come.
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