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Foreign banks find a base in Singapore

Article - November 14, 2018

Strategically located to serve the fast-growing Asia Pacific region, Singapore’s well-established business infrastructure, global connectivity and trade linkages have long made it an ideal location for international banks. Today, over 200 banks have a presence in the city-state, with a growing number basing their operational headquarters there in order to service their regional group activities.


This year, Standard Chartered announced its intention to fully consolidate its business operations in Singapore through the transfer of its corporate, commercial and institutional banking and private banking businesses to its Singapore entity. Upon completion, Standard Chartered will be the first international bank to consolidate its local business into its Singapore subsidiary. “As a bank that has been in ASEAN, including Singapore, for over a hundred and fifty years, we’re very committed to this region. We see the opportunity in this region,” says Judy Hsu, the bank’s regional chief executive officer for ASEAN and South Asia. “We felt that bringing all our clients under one entity will provide them much better support and service as they move up the continuum, across our business segments.”

To American banking group Citi, Singapore also provides the perfect springboard into the approximately four-billion-strong Asian market, as the world’s center of economic gravity shifts east with the roll-out of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

 “We see first-hand the opportunities that BRI brings to Citi’s clients across our network. BRI comprises over 65 markets which contribute around 30 percent of GDP and make up 40 percent of global trade. Our clients doing business in ASEAN are optimistic about BRI and the opportunities it presents,” says Amol Gupte, ASEAN head and Citi country officer for Citi Singapore.

Singapore’s effective regulatory environment, excellent infrastructure and highly skilled and cosmopolitan pool of finance professionals, remain top of the list for international financial institutions as they seek to tap the growing Asian market.

“The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is amongst one of the most progressive regulators that we have interacted with. On the one hand, they set the bar high when it comes to financial supervision and have in place strong governance, controls and standards. On the other hand, they are visionary and pragmatic, and have delivered transformative projects such as automating what happens around trade using blockchain,” says Mr. Gupte.

With growing competition among financial institutions to attract and retain talent, banks have applauded the government’s initiatives in ensuring the right people are available for the job, such as the SkillsFuture and Professional Conversion Programs which re-skill banking professionals into emerging roles. With a strong ecosystem of financial institutions and professional services providers as well as a booming fintech industry, Singapore’s financial services sector has today become truly global, and a place where the world’s banks can come to build solutions to take back to their home markets.