Rola Abu Manneh, Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered UAE

In a world that grows increasingly interconnected, the UAE has emerged as a central hub for fostering global trade and investment. Standard Chartered UAE has been at the forefront of connecting key global markets, including China, Africa, India, and the United Kingdom. Through its strategic vision, innovative financial solutions and advanced technological infrastructure, Standard Chartered has become a vital catalyst for cross-border collaboration and growing trade corridors.

In an exclusive interview with the Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered in the UAE, Rola Abu Manneh, we take an in-depth look at how the bank is forging strong financial bridges across continents and connecting companies across major trade corridors around the world.

How is Standard Chartered unlocking the potential of emerging markets?

Recognising the immense potential of emerging markets, Standard Chartered has placed a strong focus on connecting Asia, Africa, India, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East. By understanding the unique needs of each region, the bank has tailored its approach to provide specialised services that facilitate seamless economic relationships and support companies expand their footprint utilising Standard Chartered’s global network. Through specialised offerings such as trade finance, cash management, corporate finance, advisory services, wealth management and affluent banking, Standard Chartered empowers businesses to unlock their potential by leveraging the bank’s expertise, insights, and international connections.

Standard Chartered’s emphasis is on supporting trade corridors within and between the regions it serves. By harnessing the UAE’s infrastructure and geographic location, it strengthens its position as a leading financial institution, enhancing its ability to support businesses in unlocking their potential and capturing opportunities in the dynamic markets of Asia, Africa, India, the UK and the Middle East. The bank actively promotes these key trade routes and facilitates cross-border trade and investment flows. By providing innovative financial solutions, Standard Chartered plays a vital role in reducing trade barriers, enhancing operational efficiencies for companies, and most importantly fostering economic growth along trade corridors.

How do you help businesses tap into the opportunities China presents?

China’s position as the world’s second-largest economy and a global economic powerhouse presents significant opportunities for businesses. Standard Chartered has recognised this and positioned itself as a trusted partner for Chinese companies venturing into the UAE market as well as UAE companies entering the Asia market. By offering specialised trade finance services, cross-border payment solutions, and expert investment advice, the bank empowers businesses on both sides of the UAE-China corridor to navigate the intricacies of both markets. This strategic support opens doors to vast opportunities and enables smoother trade and investment flows between the UAE and China.

The China-UAE corridor has become a vital link that connects Asia to Africa and the Middle East, facilitating trade, transfer of know-how, and investment flows between these fast-growing and dynamic regions. A link with unlimited potential that can drive job creation, technological innovation, and economic growth. The UAE’s strategic location, sitting at the crossroads of major shipping routes, coupled with its advanced infrastructure, has made it a natural hub for trade with China.

Accompanied with the multiple global initiatives led by the Chinese government, a strong framework now exists for deeper economic ties and engagement between the UAE and China. Standard Chartered has been part of the UAE’s fabric for over 63 years, servicing customers and clients and helping them grow and prosper. Simultaneously, we have supported clients across Asia for over 160 years, providing a global service with on-ground expertise. This heritage accompanied with Standard Chartered’s commitment to leverage its strengths, expertise and global network makes the bank the partner of choice for businesses on both sides of the corridor to grow and prosper.

How well placed is Standard Chartered to cater to the opportunities rising as a result of India’s emergence as an economic powerhouse?

India’s ascent as a global economic powerhouse presents immense opportunities for collaboration and investment. Standard Chartered has proactively built strong relationships with Indian businesses, offering them a range of financial solutions and expertise. By providing access to capital, tailored transactional banking services, and in-depth knowledge of cross-border transactions, the bank becomes an essential enabler for strengthening economic ties between the UAE and India. Through this partnership, businesses from both nations can leverage each other’s strengths and achieve mutual growth and prosperity.

Since the CEPA agreement came into effect between the UAE and India back in May 1, 2022, the UAE-India bilateral non-oil trade reached $45.5 billion during the first 11 months of the CEPA Agreement. This reflects a 6.9 per cent growth in non-oil trade despite the slowdown witnessed in global trades especially in the third and fourth quarter of 2022. With removed and reduced tariffs on over 80 per cent of product lines, eliminated unnecessary barriers to trade and the promotion of investment flows into priority sectors we expect trade flows between the UAE and India to continue growing with UAE exports recording a 9 per cent annual growth by 2030 and an 8.2 per cent growth in imports from India.

What role is Standard Chartered playing in unleashing the potential of Africa? How does it contribute to the continent’s sustainable economic growth?

Africa, with its youthful demographics and rapidly growing economies, has become a hotbed of investment and trade opportunities. Standard Chartered acknowledges the continent’s potential and has actively fostered economic relationships between Africa and the world. Leveraging its extensive network and expertise in trade, the bank plays a pivotal role in facilitating trade flows, supporting infrastructure projects, and providing financing options.

By doing so, Standard Chartered actively contributes to sustainable economic growth and enhances the UAE’s position as a trusted partner for African nations.

Africa’s youthful demographics, characterised by a rapidly growing population and an expanding middle class, have made it an increasingly attractive destination for investment and trade. With over 1.3 billion people and a collective GDP expected to reach $6.7 trillion by 2030, the continent offers vast opportunities for businesses to expand their operations and tap into new markets. Standard Chartered identified this immense potential at an early stage and through leveraging its extensive global network spanning 57 markets and its expertise in trade finance, the bank plays a pivotal role in facilitating seamless trade flows within the continent and beyond.

Moreover, the bank actively supports crucial infrastructure projects across Africa. With an estimated $130-170 billion investment required annually in infrastructure development, the bank’s financing solutions and advisory services play a vital role in bridging the infrastructure gap. By partnering with governments and private enterprises, Standard Chartered helps fund infrastructure projects that drive economic growth, foster regional integration, and connects Africa to the world’s most dynamic markets across Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East.

Standard Chartered’s efforts in fostering economic relationships and contributing to Africa’s sustainable growth have garnered recognition. The bank has received numerous accolades, including being named Best Global Bank in Africa by Euromoney for several consecutive years, highlighting its commitment and expertise in driving Africa’s economic development.

By actively engaging with Africa’s economic landscape, Standard Chartered reinforces the continent’s position on the global stage and enhances the UAE’s reputation as a trusted partner for African nations. This commitment not only fuels progress and prosperity across Africa but also strengthens Standard Chartered’s role as a leading financial institution dedicated to unlocking Africa’s vast potential.

How does Standard Chartered help businesses unlock growth opportunities in the UK?

The United Kingdom holds a prominent position in Standard Chartered’s global market connectivity efforts, particularly in its relationship with the UAE. As a longstanding trade partner to the UAE and a renowned global financial hub, the UK plays a vital role in facilitating cross-border business activities and fostering economic cooperation.

Leveraging its extensive experience and expertise in international banking and capital markets, Standard Chartered provides valuable support to UAE businesses seeking to expand their presence in the UK. The bank offers a wide range of financial solutions, including trade finance, cash management, and advisory services, tailored to meet the specific needs of companies operating in both markets. By leveraging its global network and deep understanding of market dynamics, Standard Chartered assists UAE businesses in mitigating risks and unlocking growth opportunities in the UK market and beyond.

Conversely, Standard Chartered also plays a pivotal role in facilitating the entry of UK companies into the UAE market and the region. With its comprehensive knowledge of the region’s business environment, regulatory landscape, and culture, the bank acts as a trusted advisor to UK firms seeking to establish their presence in the region. Standard Chartered’s expertise in trade finance, project financing, and treasury services enables UK companies to navigate the complexities of the regional market, expand their operations, and forge successful partnerships.

Standard Chartered’s headquarters in the UAE Image Credit:

Furthermore, as the UAE and the UK forge closer ties, Standard Chartered’s role becomes increasingly significant in supporting the growing bilateral trade and investment flows. The bank’s commitment to facilitating seamless market connectivity and providing tailored financial solutions reinforces its position as a trusted partner for businesses operating between the UAE and the UK and strengthens its contribution to driving sustainable economic growth on both sides of the UAE-UK Trade Corridor.

What role do technological innovations play in driving seamless cross-border connectivity?

To effectively connect global markets, Standard Chartered has embraced advanced technological innovations, paving the way for seamless cross-border operations and enhanced customer experiences.

To support its global connectivity efforts, the bank has made significant investments in advanced systems and infrastructure. These investments ensure secure transactions, streamlined processes, and efficient communication channels. By establishing a strong foundation, the bank ensures the reliability and scalability necessary to support companies across the Asia, India, the UK, and the Middle East in expanding their operations across international jurisdictions.

Furthermore, through embracing emerging technologies such as blockchain and data analytics, Standard Chartered was able to optimise its operations. Through investing in disruptive technologies, the bank is able to provide secure and transparent transactions, providing a level of trust and efficiency unmatchable by traditional systems. Moreover, by leveraging data analytics, Standard Chartered is able to gain valuable insights, make data-driven decisions, and offer personalised financial solutions to our clients across our global footprint. These technological advancements have enhanced our ability to adapt to changing market dynamics and deliver bespoke services to our diverse client base.

As the UAE solidifies its position as a global financial centre, Standard Chartered remains at the forefront of connecting global markets. Through its strategic approach and specialised services, the bank has become a trusted partner for businesses seeking to navigate the complexities of international trade and investment. By leveraging advanced technological innovations, the bank has streamlined cross-border operations and enhanced client experience. As global markets continue to evolve, Standard Chartered is well positioned to drive economic growth, foster collaboration, and strengthen financial integration across continents.