Standard Chartered Adopts Elite Banking for Nigerian Tough Times
By Chuks Emele
Concierge services, access to airport lounges, no waiting in queues, discounts on international hotel bookings, easy access to credit, and more await those who sign up to Standard Chartered’s Priority Banking.
“A world of benefits, yours to enjoy,” is how the British-owned international lender describes it’s offers. But that’s only if you keep a balance of, at least, 14 million naira with the bank.
Evidently it’s not intended for the leaky pocket. It’s part of Standard Chartered’s strategy to avoid emerging risks to banking in a Nigerian economy reeling from the shocks of its oil dependency amid, still, dim prospects. It’s a retreat from the mass branching of just a decade ago where banks saw virtue in opening as many branches as possible to sign up new account holders.
Two recessions in four years under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration are forcing a rethink. An increasingly debt-beleaguered Nigeria has fallen into deeper social and economic morass, characterized high inflation, shortages and widespread violence.
The situation has undermined the safe conduct of business. Standard Chartered in the last two years has halted it’s expansion in Nigeria and adopted the retreat mode. More than 60 percent of its branches across Nigeria have been shuttered since then as the bank sought to cut costs and make the most of technology to keep customers out of the banking hall.
To do this it has switched focus to richer Nigerians, catering to their need for international transactions, personal and business travel allowance and wealth-management investments to hedge against steep inflation and naira devaluation.
To this end, the Standard Chartered Mobile banking app is the new headquarters of the bank, catering for everything from routine requests for new cheque books, payment cards or address changes as well as transfers, loan repayment and local or offshore investment in bonds and mutual funds.
For the priority banker, there are additional benefits. You can also request to have protocol services provided to you, the so-called “meet-and-greet,” for people traveling through Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt airports. In Lagos, there’s easy access to Vetifly, a helicopter service that could help you to beat the city’s notorious traffic jams. The priority clients can also be afforded emergency cash withdrawal when needed while on international travel.
There’s also the additional professional minding provided to those who choose to invest to help them navigate the world of international fund houses such as Blackrock, Allianz GI, PIMCO, Schroeder, Franklin Templeton, Alliance Bernstein and many others. These offer a broad range of international investment opportunities including Japanese bonds and stocks, Chinese securities, European and U.S. stocks, bonds and treasuries as well as emerging market stocks and debt.
It’s noteworthy, however, than in a market downturn, such as we currently have globally, there may be few hiding places for investors. For instance, an overwhelming majority of the securities offered, except for a few betting on commodities, oil and real estate, are currently making losses. On the Standard Chartered app where the funds are listed, they present as a sea of red showing percentage declines against each fund whenever the market status is viewed these days.