Lender to expand fintech moves

28 August 2019

Visitors interact with a service robot developed by Standard Chartered at a recent industrial expo in Hong Kong. [Photo by Zhang Wei/China News Service]

StanChart plans to use innovation hub in Shanghai for delivering the next generation of financial products

Standard Chartered Bank Plc is planning to deepen its financial technology footprint in China by bringing its dedicated innovation hub to Shanghai.

The eXellerator lab, an in-house program powered by the United Kingdom-based bank's innovation, fintech investment and ventures unit SC Ventures, aims to co-create and deliver the next generation of financial products and services, according to Alex Manson, global head of SC Ventures.

"Given the strategic importance of China to Standard Chartered, our eXellerator lab in Shanghai will play a crucial role in helping us proactively reinvent ourselves and the banking industry," he told China Daily in a recent interview.

The Shanghai facility, opened in early August, will add to the bank's existing lab portfolios across Hong Kong, San Francisco, London, Nairobi and Singapore, bringing solutions tailored to local market needs.

Under the initiative, the bank's retail banking, wealth management and business banking units will engage with corporate clients to jointly create new business and operating models. A recent example is the completion of the first deeptier supply chain financing transaction using blockchain with Digital Guangdong, a joint venture formed by a suite of tech companies in China digitalizing government services.

Another example is the establishment of a strategic joint venture with telecom providers PCCW and HKT, as well as the financing arm of online travel agent Ctrip, to deliver a new stand-alone digital retail bank in Hong Kong.

The stand-alone bank plans to offer telecom, entertainment, and travel propositions from partners all in one place. Additionally, it will enable customers to open accounts and apply for financial services on-the-go in real-time.

SC Ventures is also looking to work with promising Chinese fintech startups to not just improve their products, but potentially scale their solutions across the bank's footprint.

"We have partnered with Ant Financial to launch the world's first blockchain-enabled cross-border remittance service from Hong Kong to the Philippines, and are piloting the service from Malaysia to Pakistan," he said.

Chinese companies are making strides in fintech innovation and are shaping up to be the emerging force empowering counterparts in less developed nations. For instance, Ant Financial is powering Pakistan's first cross-border remittance service using blockchain technologies, marking a major milestone in the country's journey to promote financial inclusion.

While total fintech deals in the first half of 2019 declined 29 percent to $22 billion, the drop was mostly due to lack of giant deals recorded in the previous year, according to global consultancy Accenture. Meanwhile, increased activity in many markets is a good indicator of the level of confidence in the sector, experts said.

"Startups and the solutions they offer are maturing, which bodes well for traditional institutions partnering with fintechs and for innovation in the financial services industry as a whole," said Piyush Singh, a managing director at Accenture who leads its financial services practice in Asia-Pacific and Africa.

Manson remained optimistic about fintech development in China. Chinese companies hold a leading position in the mainstream application of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, biometrics and mobile payments, he said.

"We see huge potential for winwin partnerships which would improve client products and experiences, not just in China but across some of the fastest growing markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East," he said.

Article: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201908/28/WS5d65c05ba310cf3e3556834e.html

Inside Standard Chartered’s eXellerator

12 August 2019

Bank accelerators typically tap the startup world for their next ideas, but not Standard Chartered. Fiona McFarlane sits down with man in charge Dominic Maffei,  SC Ventures Lead for Financial Markets and UK/EU, at the bank’s London offices to hear how this specially created business unit manages to successfully strongest innovation from its very own staff.

I run Standard Chartered’s UK/EU eXellerator and, in addition, I cover our financial markets fintech activities. It’s the culmination of almost 10 years with the firm, in financial markets and then the COO’s office, not to mention a fair bit around the world. I joined the bank in Hong Kong right after the financial crisis, when the bank was growing somewhat counter-cyclically to our peers. Then I moved to Singapore, and now London. 

The overarching mantra for SC Ventures is to rewire the DNA in banking. The team was formed in early 2018, but looking at innovation and working with clients is not something new for us – we’ve been doing that in pockets for years. In order to do that more efficiently and exponentially though, we needed to bring it together.

Supporting that vision are three underlying pillars. The first is all about client co-creation and fostering internal innovation through intrapreneurship. We have our Intrapreneurship Programme at Standard Chartered, in which we invite ideas from the bank’s entire staff. We employ around 85,000 people across some 60 markets. Why wouldn’t we see it as a vast pool of subject-matter experts? If you have this huge body of talent that you can utilise, why have seven people in a room trying to come up with a solution in an isolated way, when you can open it up to your network?

To date, we have 20,000 employees on our ideation platform, with around 1,800 ideas submitted, 11 regional/business challenges, 49 Pitch Days and 25 boot camps. Some of these ideas are already being introduced as new product offerings or being launched as business ventures. Also within this first vertical is client co-creation, where we work with clients to develop new solutions or even new business models. This has been a focus for some time and we have done it well with a few select clients, now the trick is to broaden that to a larger segment of our client base.

“To date, we have 20,000 employees on our ideation platform, with around 1,800 ideas submitted”

You know, we’re not trying to pull innovation away from business, and we’re not saying that the business doesn’t need to worry about any of this stuff because someone else is doing it. The way I see it is this: what we’re doing is facilitating and enabling the business to push forward innovative areas that help the business model and help our clients. 

The second vertical is the fintech engagement piece. Obviously, people at the bank have been talking to fintechs for years, even back when they were just called technology companies! However, this was also pretty fragmented, so we wanted a better understanding of who is in the various spaces that we’re interested in being in and who we could potentially partner with. Such collaboration with fintechs can range from arm’s-length vendor relationships, or it could be an investment, which we would make through our fund.  In order to institutionalise this engagement across the group, we recently launched an SC Ventures Fintech Bridge platform where fintechs can register and be matched with problem statements that the bank is looking to solve. 

The third vertical is one of the most exciting in my view – our venture vertical. This is about launching new, innovative disruptive business models outside the bank. We have a number at an early stage, with a good handful that are more advanced. One that is public is our virtual bank in Hong Kong, which is being built completely separately, with a different tech stack, different brand proposition and a completely different model. 

We’ve had an eXellerator lab in Singapore for a few years, and last year we launched the Hong Kong eXellerator, with the UK following later in the year. Most recently, we launched a lab in Kenya, to cover the African market, which is a key region for our bank. Due to our scope and scale in Asia, I think we know pretty much everyone in the fintech community or, at least, know of them. We have also had a scouting effort in the US for going on a decade, so we have good insights there, but here in the UK we have work to do to better understand the ecosystem and raise our profile, so that fintechs understand our value proposition as a partner and we understand the relevant companies for that partnership. I think it’s important to realise that, for us, this is still business-driven innovation and, again, because it goes back to our clients, it is still going to be driven by business.

London remains the fintech capital of Europe for us and we knew we needed to step up our engagement there. Over the past six months, we have put good foundations in place and have a much more developed sense of the UK ecosystem, but now we need to start thinking more about the other EU fintech hubs. That said, I would say we are still in the ramp-up stage, as there is a lot to do, explore and expand. Day-to-day is very much meeting with fintech companies, talking to clients, nurturing those intrapreneurs. 

“London remains the fintech capital of Europe and we knew we needed to step up our engagement there”

In terms of opportunities, we are looking for the companies that will be the future best-in-class for their respective areas – the best of the new, or something to that effect. As for the areas, that includes everything from pre- and post-trade infrastructure to data analytics, alternative data and regtech, all the way to automation and practical applications of DLT. The whole capital market space is really interesting right now, as we are seeing a real move from a view of disruption to partnership, especially in the bond space, as it is going through big changes. The advantage of working with a bank like Standard Chartered is how we are able to help fintechs scale up – we have a presence in more than 60 of the most dynamic and fastest-growing economies around the world. We have the ability to test proof of concepts and once successful, roll out very rapidly across our footprint.


Rewiring banking relationships

When it comes to reinventing banking, digital investment is almost a sideshow

9 August 2019

Banks have been locked in a digital arms race for many years, investing in tens of billions in their digital capabilities. So why hasn’t the dollar deluge managed to reshape how people and companies engage with financial services, the way it has in many other industries?

To reinvent banking, we need to go beyond throwing money in the future, hoping it will appear in shape and form that is agreeable.

To stay relevant, banks need to support and connect whole communities for success, blurring the lines between ‘partners’, ‘vendors’, ‘clients’ and ‘competitors’ on shared platforms.

This is potentially bad news for legacy bankers used to bespoke wealth management and capitalising on flows with platforms unique to their institutions. But for early movers who recognise the need to change – the disruptors – the opportunity is enormous.

In China, for example, banks have a chance to connect with some of the world’s leading tech companies, creative talent and fintechs to co-create the next generation of financial products and services. That’s the reason we have launched our China eXellerator in Shanghai, as part of our global network of innovation labs.

Successful survival

The platforms and tools that are making banking easier and more accessible will continue to require significant tech spend. But it must be complemented with a rewiring of relationships, transforming the way banks engage with their clients, both individuals and businesses.

First, building partnerships is critical: bringing in outsiders to help the behemoth become more agile and nimble and even take over some parts of it.

Until recently, fintechs were perceived as one of the biggest threats to banking.

Now they are becoming part of a shared future with incumbent players. Big banks (teeming with suits and ties) still have a distinct advantage in the scale and trust they offer. As challengers, the entrepreneurial (hoodie-wearing) “hipsters” in fintechs offer new ideas more relevant to changing realities and the ability to execute them at speed.

Perhaps a clash of cultures.

But disruptive ideas that work best come from clubbing together. These different strengths and early successes from this approach offer a preview into how the financial system of the future could be built.

For successful banks, it means establishing partnerships with the right fintechs, helping innovative ideas come to life by funding potential unicorns in win-win agreements and coming together to build new products and platforms.

That means offering ways to connects start-ups, investors and accelerators to the bank and its intrapreneurs.

Second, innovation is everywhere, so we need to allow for ideas from inside as well as outside the bank. A more entrepreneurial culture – beyond replacing suits with hoodies – can help capitalise on our knowledge. There is growing hunger and ability to innovate: companies can harness it by offering the platforms to ideate towards a purpose.

Third, and perhaps the most disruptive variable will be about creating more options.

Partnerships make for solid steps in the right direction for remaining relevant in a digital future. But we must also consider a complete rethink and look at alternative realities for financial services.

We need to think outside the bounded reality of a bank and meet the client needs of the future. Virtual banks, for instance, have a dual role to play: they are a defence by banks against disruptors, while also winning market share from other incumbents.

What does the future hold?

The way banks use technology will evolve, from a ‘do it yourself’ to a much more open model. Their architecture will become modular and connected via APIs, making it faster and easier to integrate new technology.

Banking could then emerge as ‘plug and play’ options where the nuts and bolts might be bank-built, but customers will engage with different services through different ‘skins’.

For individuals, we also need to fit into the future lives of digital natives as they move into greater wealth, careers and make more significant decisions. The same digital shopping cart could hold your breakfast eggs as well as a unit trust to invest for a comfortable retirement. This is already a reality in China.

For corporates, a company can access a single portal for all their needs: trade solutions; insurance; connections with new business avenues and perhaps even the ability to connect with independent experts to help them face challenges as they grow.

Standard Chartered’s new digital platform for SMEs in India, already offers a glimpse into this future.

The future of banking is bright, if we are brave enough to build it.

Article: https://e27.co/rewiring-banking-relationships-20190808/

We’ve launched our eXellerator innovation lab in China

6 August 2019

Shanghai – Standard Chartered Bank announced the launch of the eXellerator innovation lab in China, that brings together employees, corporate clients and fintechs to develop innovative solutions that meet the evolving banking needs of clients.

Located in Shanghai, the eXellerator in China builds on the Bank’s global network of innovation labs across Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Kenya and San Francisco. These labs are part of the Bank’s SC Ventures unit, designed to drive innovation, invest in promising fintechs and implement new business models to rewire the DNA in banking.

With the launch of the eXellerator, Standard Chartered aims to deepen its contribution and participation in China’s vibrant technology and innovation ecosystem. The country’s leading position in the mainstream application of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, biometrics and mobile payments, offer tremendous opportunities to tap into solutions which would improve Bank’s client products and experiences. It will also work with promising Chinese fintech start ups to scale their solutions across markets in the Bank’s footprint, while engaging with corporate clients to co-create new business and operating models which fulfil their cross-border needs.

As an incubator, the eXellerator will serve as a focal point for employees to test and develop new ideas and business models and be trained in human-centred design, to catalyse a culture of innovation and intrapreneurship within the Bank.

Commenting on the launch, Jerry Zhang, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank (China), said: “Rapid changes in financial technology are reshaping the future of the global banking industry, especially here in China which is home to some of the world’s most established companies leading the way in areas like artificial intelligence and Big Data. Given the strategic importance of this market to the Group, our innovation centre in Shanghai will play a crucial role to support us in proactively reinventing ourselves, by bringing together our people, clients and fintechs to co-create and deliver the next generation of products and services.”

Alex Manson, Global Head of SC Ventures, added: “To truly rewire the DNA in banking, we need to go beyond just offering a digital interface. Our eXellerators create an environment which combines innovation from both in and outside the Bank, to rapidly prototype and experiment with new ideas and business models that will allow us to better serve our clients with solutions that addresses their problems or needs.”

Standard Chartered has made significant progress in establishing new partnerships to drive innovation in the banking space. Most recently, the Bank announced the establishment of a strategic joint venture with PCCW, HKT and Ctrip Finance to deliver a new standalone digital retail bank in Hong Kong. It announced it will be launching an open digital platform for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in India, to help them grow by providing access to a range of financial and business solutions. It has made strategic investments in fintechs: Ripple to accelerate its digitisation agenda in distributed ledger technology, Paxata to enhance its data analytics capabilities, Symphony Communication to explore further applications of enterprise communication and collaboration, and soCash, for enhancing digital strategies which connect digital and cash ecosystems without conventional costly channels such as branch counters and ATMs. Last year, the Bank was appointed by Ant Financial to be the core partner bank to jointly develop its new blockchain cross-border remittance solution between Hong Kong and the Philippines. Most recently, the Bank said it would explore potential opportunities with Linklogis to co-create blockchain-enabled supply chain financing solutions for companies in China and has announced its first joint deep-tier supply chain financing transaction for Digital Guangdong using Linklogis’ blockchain platform.

For further information please contact:
Josephine Wong
Group Media Relations
+65 6596 4690

Article: https://www.sc.com/en/media/press-release/weve-launched-exellerator-innovation-lab-in-china/

Standard Chartered is building a team to ‘rewire’ the DNA in banking. You could be part of it.

23 July 2019

Standard Chartered is building a team to ‘rewire’ banking. You could be part of it.

Until recently, fintechs were perceived as one of the biggest threats to banking. Now they are forging a shared future with incumbent banks to build the future of the financial system. In fact, the best ideas are believed to come from combining the respective strengths of banks and fintechs, with clients emerging as the ultimate winners. 

That’s the thinking behind SC Ventures, Standard Chartered’s innovation, ventures and fintech investments unit that was launched in March last year. Rather than competing with fintech firms, it’s partnering them to radically ‘rewire’ banking by re-inventing business models and using data and technology as enablers to deliver better customer experiences. As SC Ventures expands and spins off new business models, it wants to hire people – from technologists to fintech entrepreneurs – who will drive the growth of new ventures that will transform banking as we know it.

SC Ventures takes a holistic approach to innovation which captures the best ideas internally from the Bank and externally from the fintech ecosystem.

Firstly, SC Ventures encourages internal innovation. Its SC Innovate global platform allows employees to submit original ideas that could potentially go into production. To date it has 20,000 registered users, who have submitted more than 1,700 ideas, with some advancing to become real products of the bank. Intrapreneurs are supported from idea pitching to refining to funding so proof of concepts can be developed and rolled out. It operates eXellerator labs in Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Kenya and San Francisco. These are focal points that “facilitate innovation and culture change” across Standard Chartered and act as a bridge between staff and the fintech ecosystem in each region so we can co-create solutions which address client needs, says Singapore-based Alex Manson, Head of SC Ventures.

Secondly, it incubates new disruptive technology ventures that are wholly or partially owned by Standard Chartered. The bank provides a stable platform to test, incubate, launch, grow and spin off these businesses. “We help them scale up more quickly than if they weren’t backed by a large corporate like us. That’s a huge advantage over being a pure startup,” says Manson.

The first of these ventures is the new virtual bank that Standard Chartered is launching in Hong Kong later this year, run by a team independent of its traditional retail bank. Two other ventures are at seed-funding stage, including one to build a new platform to service SMEs, while seven ideas are currently being incubated.

Thirdly, SC Ventures runs an Innovation Investment Fund, which makes minority investments in fintech firms that have at least done a proof of concept with the Bank. For example, it has previously invested in Ripple, a distributed ledger firm, to co-develop applications for global trade and payments. “We aim to invest in the most promising businesses, whose technology is most relevant to transforming Standard Chartered and giving us a competitive advantage,” says Manson.

“Having innovation programmes, investments and ventures all under one roof is a rare combination which is organic and symbiotic and shows we’re committed to transformation and aren’t just paying lip service to it,” says Manson. All three parts of SC Ventures share the common thread of “rewiring the DNA in banking”, he says. “We’re making banking more relevant for future generations by changing our legacy technology, but also by changing the legacy ways we do business at a human level,” he adds. “We’re working within a big traditional bank and not afraid of disrupting ourselves. Instead of seeing fintechs as threats, we’re partnering with them to tap their technological and human-centred design expertise, and to learn from their agile ways of working.”

This “transformative strategy” has already helped SC Ventures hire quality candidates, says Manson, adding that his core team must remain lean (it boasts fewer than 50 people), while the bulk of the recruiting effort is for the ventures themselves. The multinational team includes technologists (e.g. CTOs, engineers, and DevOps professionals), former fintech founders, UX/UI designers, innovation coaches, project managers, and yes… bankers. “We’re remarkably diverse,” says Manson. “When you’re developing new business models to transform the bank, you really don’t want everyone to be the same.”

Manson says he will be taking on more staff this year, predominately in the ventures, mostly in Singapore (where most of the core team are based) but also in the ventures’ markets across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. But while the recruitment will be global, it won’t be overly aggressive. “It’s more about finding exceptional people,” he adds. “SC Ventures works with startups and is essentially a startup itself as we’ve only been operational for just over a year, so you need an entrepreneurial mindset to work here. Having an entrepreneurial job with the power of a big bank behind you is an attractive combination, but it is also not for everyone.”

SC Ventures’ flat hierarchy also makes it an appealing place to work. In true startup-style, the team is organised around tasks (including investments, venture incubation, innovation coaching, design, and project management) rather than strict job descriptions. “We’ve avoided the rigid organisational charts that are typically found in banking,” says Manson. “Our reporting lines are fairly fluid, so we can encourage all employees to think creatively and deliver impactful change. Ultimately, innovation is about people rather than technology,” he adds.

Manson says there’s already a startup mentality within the SC Ventures team. “For example, it’s ok to make mistakes here, if you own them and learn from them. People join us to broaden their job scope, build connections with fintechs, and interact with clients in a different way,” he adds.

Want to take up the challenge of building a brand new business that could revolutionise banking? SC Ventures is hiring for the ventures it’s incubating. While these are run independently, SC Ventures typically has a say in senior hires, such as heads of technology, product, and partnerships. “The ventures are attracting very good people who want to work for businesses backed by Standard Chartered’s large resources and customer base,” says Manson. “There’s also a two-way flow of talent. Sometimes we hire great people from them and sometimes our employees move to a venture. It’s something I encourage and it’s brilliant from a career progression perspective.”

Manson says his own career in transaction banking at Standard Chartered originally inspired him to set up SC Ventures. In that role, he had gained first-hand exposure to the trends that were shaking up financial services – from emerging technologies to new regulations and changing client demands. “I realised just how much banking needs to transform itself to keep up with these trends,” says Manson.

But overhauling a firm as large and international as Standard Chartered, in a sector as established and complicated as banking, was obviously not going to be straightforward. That’s what made Manson pitch his SC Ventures idea to Standard Chartered in 2017. Instead of trying to overhaul existing departments one by one, Manson wanted to create a new team and build partnerships across the bank and across the industry. “I was convinced that a truly effective and disruptive transformation could only work if we had a flow of external ideas as well as internal ones,” he says.

Manson’s career has taken unexpected turns since he took the SC Ventures job last year. “It’s been about unlearning and relearning for me. I’d become senior as a banker based on having clear management goals: we’re going from A to B in this particular way,” he says. “My job now is different because we don’t always know what B (the destination) is from the outset of each project. I’m not telling people what to do, but creating an environment where they can work things out and experiment with different solutions. Being part of Standard Chartered’s transformation journey means I’ve had to develop a startup mindset myself. I am learning every day which I enjoy a lot, and rewiring the DNA in Banking is a cause definitely worth dedicating myself to.”

Article: https://news.efinancialcareers.com/sg-en/3001532/standard-chartered-is-building-a-team-to-rewire-banking-you-could-be-part-of-it-sc

Fintech SOCASH raises US$6m to expand to Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong

22 July 2019

FINTECH startup soCash is gearing up to grow its Asian distribution network after raising US$6 million in Series B funding, it announced on Monday.

The funding round was led by Japan’s Glory Ltd, and participated by global venture capital fund network Vertex Ventures as well as Standard Chartered Bank’s innovation, investment and ventures arm, SC Ventures.

soCash’s mobile app turns shops into ATM alternatives, allowing users to withdraw cash or make loan applications at the checkout. This converts the retail outlets into “virtual branches” in its network, said Hari Sivan, co-founder and chief executive of soCash.

With its new funds, the Singapore-headquartered startup will expand its distribution network in Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong. It has obtained the relevant regulatory clearances in the three markets.

The startup said it is “aggressively” building its team in the three markets, to cater to demand from virtual bank players looking for a smarter distribution alternative to physical branches and ATMs.

It is looking to quickly scale up in South-east Asia and will seek to form partnerships to do so, soCash added.

“With the emergence of virtual banks and open banking, our network is well equipped to offer sales and distribution with flexibility and massive scale,” Mr Sivan said.

Glory Ltd develops, manufactures and sells high-end cash processing and retail automation machines. Minoru Higashiyama, leader of the long-term vision project team at Glory Ltd said: “We believe that the current supply chain of cash needs to transform as the transportation of cash across large distances costs billions of dollars each year, a cost largely passed on to consumers.”

“soCash’s approach of connecting retailers, banks and consumers on a platform for cash circulation is a perfect fit to Glory’s hardware and IoT (Internet of Things) business,” Mr Higashiyama added.

Meanwhile, Standard Chartered was the first bank in Singapore to partner with soCash. The bank has integrated soCash into its mobile banking app in Singapore since 2017, enabling customers to withdraw cash from the network of retail outlets as well.

Alex Manson, global head of SC Ventures, said: “Our investment in soCash will give us valuable insights into the usage and the future of cash, without conventional costly channels such as branch counters and ATMs.”

Earlier this month, the startup added ICBC to its list of partner banks in Singapore, which also includes Standard Chartered, DBS and POSB.

Its cash network platform in Singapore now comprises more than 1,400 shops.

Vertex Ventures was the sole investor in soCash’s US$5.5 million Series A round in August 2018.

Article: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/garage/fintech-socash-raises-us6m-to-expand-to-indonesia-malaysia-hong-kong

SC Ventures launches first venture: Solv

22 July 2019


Standard Chartered Innovation Fund eyes FinTech investments in the region

The lender is building a venture portfolio focused on digital transformation in finance

13 June 2019

SC Ventures, a fully owned subsidiary of Standard Chartered, is currently in talks with potential partners to jointly invest about $100 million (Dh367m) each in three financial sector start-ups and is scouring Middle East and Africa for more co-investment options.

"We are now working on at least three ventures [start-ups] that could involve partnerships and third party investments,” Alex Manson, the head of SC Ventures told The National, without specifying the geography of potential transactions.

The ticket size of the joint investments depends on the nature of the venture but the funds raised for the deals being negotiated will be less than $100m, he said, adding that the bank is “resisting the urge to throw too much money” at any one company and wants to help scale the start-ups with the help of partners and co-investors.

Standard Chartered has already partnered with PCCW, Hong Kong Telecom Trust and Ctrip Financial Management to launch a new digital-only retail bank in Hong Kong, which was among the first to receive a licence to operate from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. Standard Chartered holds 65.1 per cent in the joint venture, while PCCW, HKT and Ctrip Finance hold 10, 15 and 9.9 per cent, respectively.

Mr Manson has met some of the bank’s strategic clients and investors in the UAE and sees potential investments in the second-biggest Arab economy.

“This place is ready,” he said.

“There’s lots of ideas and energy behind financial innovation in this market ... there are a number of things we want to follow up in the UAE” in terms of deals, he added.

The lender, Mr Manson said, is looking to co-invest in start-ups across its footprint of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

“I anticipate that at any point in time we will have 10 to 15 ventures in our portfolio [in different stages of growth] … But we are at an early stage of building that portfolio,” he said, declining to specify the total amount of funds earmarked for investments in ventures.

Banks are increasingly looking to establish dominance in digital services and next-generation technologies in a bid to simplify and speed up transactions. Conventional lenders are also looking to set up their own neo-banks – digital-only banks – or bring on board financial technology (FinTech) firms to incorporate their faster and cheaper solutions in their respective banking services.

Alex Manson, head of SC Ventures. Courtesy Standard Chartered Bank
Alex Manson, head of SC Ventures. Courtesy Standard Chartered Bank

SC Ventures, established in 2017, is also taking minority stakes in FinTech firms through its $100m innovation investment fund, which Mr Manson said is on course to be fully invested by the end of 2020. Increasing the size of existing FinTech investments is an option, he said.

SC Ventures has already invested undisclosed amounts in FinTechs such as Ripple and Paxata. Its typical investment at an early stage FinTech is $5m or less as it participates in follow-on funding rounds as well.

“In the FinTechs that we work with, we only take minority stakes and that is with the view to partner and help them scale,” Mr Manson said.

“Our objective is to rewire the DNA of banking and transform it … to bring the capabilities [of FinTech ventures] to the main [Standard Chartered] bank,” he noted.

Article: https://www.thenational.ae/business/banking/standard-chartered-innovation-fund-eyes-fintech-investments-in-the-region-1.873699