Winds of change (Part 3)

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ACCORDING to managing director and CEO Mahendra Gursahani, Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd has always been a dynamic bank, one that is constantly evolving. 

“If you look at our history, we completely transform ourselves every five to seven years. This is what makes it so exciting for me to remain with the same company for almost 30 years,” he says. MAHENDRA-GURSAHANI-01-pw-1062

Despite the changes in the Malaysian market for the last 140 years, StanChart’s culture and values have stood it in good stead and will continue to drive the bank forward. “There are things that we have kept as our bedrock. They have become our guiding force and the compelling reasons why I stay with the company,” Mahendra says. 

One of those things is its strong culture of caring. “We still care very deeply about our people. We have had to be flexible with letting people go in some parts of the business. But if you do it well and with respect, having their best interests, then it softens the blow,” he says.

“The idea is to remain relevant to customers in terms of solutions and services, as well as to maintain a high level of trust and confidence through relationship building.

That is a core value of the bank — treating people the way you want to be treated. The same applies to our customers.”

But it is not only about the business. Another area Mahendra hopes will continue and grow is its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, which have impacted communities around the world. 

“I have asked customers whom I met here in Malaysia [what they think of StanChart], and have come to realise that there is a deep respect for this institution. Not just because we are the oldest in Malaysia but also how active we have become on the CSR side of things over the past 10 years,” he says. 

One of the things he cherishes is how the bank gets involved with the communities in the markets it operates in. “If you look at our footprint, we are in most of the emerging markets. In some of the poorer countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, many people have lost their sight to cataracts. Cataracts are the leading cause of preventable blindness,” Mahendra says. 

With this in mind, StanChart started its flagship CSR programme, Seeing is Believing, in 2003. “The [cataract victims] do not have the money for a very low-cost operating procedure that could restore their eyesight,” Mahendra says. 

StanChart worked out the numbers and found that the surgery cost only about US$30 per head. “There are millions of people living in blindness because they do not have that US$30. So, it was as though a whole society was being denied a workforce for what US$30 could cure. So, we adopted the cause,” he says. 

StanChart is the only bank in the world to support this cause. It has raised more than US$79.4 million and reached 65.8 million people since the inception of its CSR programme 12 years ago. “We fly doctors in and charter hospitals and equipment to get the facilities to the poorest and remotest areas in the world,” Mahendra says.

On the home front, StanChart works with schools and the British Council to promote financial savviness among teens. “These CSR activities are largely relevant and impactful for the markets in which we operate. That plays back into the values of the company,” Mahendra says, adding that this is a very motivating reason to stay with the company. 

A compelling culture also attracts younger talent, he points out. “Increasingly, the younger generation is looking at corporates that are active in CSR as well as clean and green energy. They are looking beyond the financial rewards to more and more about what the company stands for.”


This article first appeared in Personal Wealth, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on April 13 - 19, 2015.