A leading British banking company is expecting to capitalize on the growing U.S. bank interest in Hong Kong.
Malcolm Williams, chief executive of London-based Standard Chartered, is working to supply trade finance processing, cash management, custody, and other services to U.S. banks with limited presences overseas.
"We see the U.S. as a feeder for doing more business in Asia," said Mr. Williams.
"We expect the number of relationships with U.S. banks to grow."
Although based in Great Britain, Standard Chartered does most of its business in Asia. It first moved into Hong Kong in 1859 and today oversees 100 branches as well as an extensive corporate banking and processing business in the British island-colony.
During the last few years, it has struck deals with four U.S. banks- Fleet Financial Group Inc., First Chicago NBD Corp., Mellon Bank Corp., and KeyCorp-to provide trade finance services, cash management, and back-office processing.
The arrangements allow U.S. regional banks that don't want to invest in offices overseas to offer international banking services to their customers.
An exclusive agreement with First Interstate collapsed after the Los Angeles-based bank was acquired by Wells Fargo & Co. Wells, which has a similar arrangement with HSBC Holdings PLC, paid Standard Chartered $15 million to cancel the pact. The cancellation, however, allowed Standard Chartered to strike deals with the four other U.S. banks.
Mr. Williams declined to name the other U.S. banks with which Standard Chartered is hoping to forge agreements. He stressed that the arrangements are profitable to both parties but can take a long time to carry out.
"I wouldn't underestimate the amount of effort you have to put into these agreements, but if you do put the effort in, they can be highly remunerative," the British banker said.
"The $15 million we got from Wells Fargo was poor recompense for the business we lost."
Although several U.S. banks, such as Chase Manhattan Corp., CoreStates Financial Corp., BankAmerica Corp., and Citicorp compete with Standard Chartered to provide similar services to U.S. regionals, Mr. Williams said Standard Chartered has a competitive advantage because it is not seeking to develop commercial banking operations in the United States.
"We're not going to pinch their customers," he said.