In its 36 years of operation, Standard Chartered Bank Nepal Limited (SCBNL) has set some important benchmarks in Nepal. The bank is credited for introducing international practices in organizational management and branding and marketing in the banking business. Pranu Singh is the bank’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand & Marketing. In a conversation with the HRM, she talked about the current challenges and opportunities for SCBNL, the bank’s focus on branding and marketing, among other topics. Excerpts:
The banking sector in Nepal is going through hard times amid the economic slowdown in the country. How is Standard Chartered Bank Nepal Limited (SCBNL) facing this situation?
Standard Chartered is one of the oldest foreign direct investment (FDI) ventures in Nepal operating for more than 35 years in the country. The bank has been in and with the country through thick and thin be it natural disasters or fluctuating economic patterns whether systemic or induced by global pressures. Standard Chartered has absolute confidence in the prospects of Nepal and therefore we are committed to continuing to contribute to the financial sector as the only international bank here. We are working to best serve our clients, elevate the brand of Nepal in the international financial markets and make our organization an employer of choice.
What major challenges are there for an international bank like SCBNL currently?
From a branding perspective, I think it is to create an awareness that even if Standard Chartered is a listed Class “A” financial institution in the country, we have a very different operating model being an international bank. It is very important that there is a general realization of how important it is for an international organization to be present in Nepal which has the potential to become a brand ambassador for the country abroad, easily import global best practices, use its network for expansion of local Nepali businesses and even become the bridge for the much-needed FDI in the country. We tend to be usually compared to other players in the market in terms of mass clientele, branches, etc and I think it is an uneven comparison given our purpose.
What are the major focuses of SCBNL in terms of business operations at present?
Our strategic focus lies on our network clients, Nepal’s major trade corridors with other countries, SME/ Business Banking and Specified Sector Lending in accordance with the priorities of the Nepal Government which fits in snugly with our focus too.
The liquidity situation has eased over the past month, but demand for credit is yet to gather momentum. How do you see the prospects of economic recovery in the coming days?
As I alluded to earlier, as a bank, we are very positive about the economic prospects of this country. We fully believe that there are structural strengths in Nepal’s macro economy that act in the favor of the country. We also believe that Nepal has a tremendous opportunity to leverage itself as an example in the sustainable finance space due to its natural assets. A few fundamentals need to be sorted out to better manage risk, tenor and deepen capital markets so that investments to long term projects are easily available
How important do you think branding and marketing have become for banks in times like these?
Branding and marketing should be important ‘at all times’ to companies that are looking for the meaningful deployment of resources and the ultimate creation of value. Unfortunately, still people limit the meaning of branding to its aesthetic facade like name logo design, etc but in essence, it is much more than just those. Branding and marketing can change people’s perception about your company, it can bring in new business directly contributing to your numbers, improves staff engagement and pride, increase brand value and trust, and needless to say, can also do the opposite if done in a wrong way or not done at all.
How SCBNL is focusing on its branding and marketing strategy to reach out to customers?
Our branding and marketing strategy is completely aligned with the business objectives and areas of focus that I mentioned earlier. This also includes the channels that we use for reaching out to our intended audience.
The rise of social media and digital news mediums has eclipsed traditional mediums in recent years. How do you observe the prospects of branding and marketing for banks and financial institutions in this context?
In recent times, branding and marketing have become more important for businesses to create a strong presence online and build trust with their customers. Through digital marketing, businesses can reach a wider audience, create more awareness about their products and services and most importantly digital mediums provide us the KPIs against which we can track our progress and measure the success of our campaigns.
How is SCBNL utilizing branding and marketing opportunities in this regard?
Branding and marketing has always been at the forefront for Standard Chartered alongside mainstream businesses right from the conception of a prospective client’s journey. I have seen that for most organizations, branding and marketing is still a tertiary and optional function which is not an ideal space to be in if we have to create a sustainable brand and value for stakeholders. I am happy to be working for a company where Brand & Marketing is provided their due share and credit for the organization’s success.
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