By Lawrence White
LONDON (Reuters) - Standard Chartered is targeting more trade-focused business from Chinese companies by hiring around 15 bankers worldwide, a source familiar with the plans told Reuters.
The move forms part of a broader StanChart strategy announced on Tuesday to boost profits in its corporate and institutional banking division by focusing on its network of 63 countries, mainly in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The London-based bank is pursuing the plan despite trade tensions between the United States and China and the new Chinese-speaking hires will be based in countries including Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates, the source said on Wednesday.
They will work in StanChart's Global Subsidiaries team to bank Chinese companies with business in those markets.
StanChart Chief Executive Bill Winters said a network was vital to financing trade and investment between regions, after analysts questioned why it remains in markets such as Indonesia and Korea where returns have been weak for years.
Around 20 of its 63 markets are delivering substandard returns, Winters said, but maintaining a presence in them is worthwhile for the ability to help global companies expand, invest and trade in those countries.
The corporate banking unit added more than 6,400 customers last year and 'network' income from firms operating outside their home market grew to 70 percent of the investment banking division's total income, head of that division Simon Cooper told staff in a memo seen by Reuters.
The bank's emerging markets and trade-focused business model has been hit hard in recent years by rising Sino-U.S. trade tensions and slowing growth in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, but Cooper said the bank will keep pursuing its strategy.
"We've talked a lot about trade tensions recently and they continue to be a concern. However, we might see some new winners emerge: Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand have great potential to capitalise on the shifting trade landscape," he said in the memo to around 12, 000 staff in the investment bank.
The new China bankers, which will also include hires in Pakistan and Britain, will help grow the bank's business with Chinese companies that are expanding globally, the source said.
(Reporting by Lawrence White; Editing by Alexander Smith)