Setting A New Standard In Global Finance

Setting A New Standard In Global Finance

Standard Chartered is a leading international banking group that is steeped in history, stretching back 150 years in some of the world’s most dynamic markets. Today, the institution boasts more than 80,000 employees, and drives investment, trade, and creation of wealth across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. As the firm continues to grow across the world, we also find out about its commitment to developing quality leadership as we take a look at why Standard Chartered is home to the Most Influential Leader in Finance 2020 – the UAE.

In the United Arab Emirates, Standard Chartered opened its first branch over sixty years ago, in 1958 in Sharjah. Slowly and steadily, the business and influence of Standard Chartered gradually increased in the region with the opening of several more branches until today, when Dubai is the bank’s regional hub for Africa and the Middle East region, and is the centre for its Islamic Banking arm, Standard Chartered Saadiq. Having grown and expanded over the course of the last six decades, the institution now offers an extensive range of both Islamic and conventional banking products and services for retail, private, commercial, and corporate clients. Throughout everything, the main objective of Standard Chartered remains the same: to offer outstanding value to clients by providing a knowledgeable, efficient, and reliable service in a personal, helpful, and responsive manner.

Standard Chartered services both individuals, as well as corporate clients and financial institutions, with the individuals being served in the Retail Banking and Wealth Management Division, whilst corporate clients are served from the Corporate, Commercial, & Institutional Banking Division. Depending on the individual needs of the client, the banking group approaches and services each client differently, though with no difference in professionalism, knowledge, or insight imparted to the client. Crucial to delivering this service is the staff. As an international banking group, Standard Chartered believes that every single one of its colleagues plays a tangible role in delivering on its mission: to drive commerce and prosperity through its unique diversity. The success of the bank and the achievement of its strategy hinges on the way that it invests in, manages, and organises its staff, the employee experience, and the culture of diversity and inclusivity it builds.

That company culture of diversity, inclusivity, and equality is one that Standard Chartered actively promotes at every turn. The banking group has long been committed to promoting equality in the workplace and to creating an inclusive and flexible culture where everyone can realise their full potential and make a positive contribution to the organisation, which will in turn help to provide better support to the broad client base. In every decision and key development, Standard Chartered views diversity, inclusion, and respect for all colleagues as critical to the bank’s future success.

Central to this philosophy is the professional consultative approach that Standard Chartered endeavours to take with each and every customer. By getting to know an individual and their business better, the bank can better identify their needs and match them with quality products that suit those needs best. To put it simply, Standard Chartered is committed to helping its clients all over the world manage their money in the best possible way. What distinguishes Standard Chartered from other banking groups throughout the world is its diversity, in terms of its people, cultures, and networks that it works within. Using this diversity to its advantage, Standard Chartered gives the best possible customer experience. It is also this diversity that was chief amongst the reasons that Souad Benkredda decided to join the banking group in 2017, before going to become one of the most influential figures in world finance.

'The banking group has long been committed to promoting equality in the workplace and to creating an inclusive and flexible culture where everyone can realise their full potential and make a positive contribution to the organisation, which will in turn help to provide better support to the broad client base.'

Souad Benkredda first joined Standard Chartered back in 2017, onboarding in Dubai as Head of Financial Markets UAE from her previous role with Deutsche Bank in London, where she had spent almost sixteen years. In 2019, Souad found herself promoted to the role of Head of Financial Markets for the Middle East and North Africa, with responsibility over the Sales and Trading Teams. This was in addition to her Financial Markets UAE role, for which she was part of the UAE Standard Chartered Country Management Team. Just one year later, in 2020, Souad then went on to assume her first global role with Standard Chartered, where she was responsible for the Strategic Investor Group Team within Financial Markets Sales. However, Souad’s journey to becoming one of the most powerful and influential individuals in UAE banking and finance began in much humbler ways.

Hailing from a modest Algerian working class family, which deeply defined her personal values and roots, Souad was the first in her family to attend university and, together with her sister, was the first woman not to get married early, allowing her to pursue a professional career. Despite always being a minority at work, either ethnically or genderwise, Souad always attached an enormous amount of value to staying true to herself, to her family values, and to never forgetting where she came from. When she began to work within the investment banking industry almost twenty years ago, Souad made a promise to herself: that she would try to help create an inclusive, meritocracy-based environment upon achieving a more senior position. That desire to stay true to herself and not assimilate herself has not waned throughout the years, and her family remain vital in reminding her of her goals on a regular basis.

Since becoming an integral part of the global team at Standard Chartered, Souad has been able to realise her vision of a more inclusive, diverse, and meritocracy-based working environment, where everyone has an equal chance of success. Every bit of work is still underpinned by the belief that it is important to stay positive, have a positive impact in whatever is done, and to be a team player with those around you in a workplace. Souad has achieved a number of awards in her aspirations to engage for equal opportunities, and to promote diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. Perhaps chief amongst her excellent achievements is that neither her drive for inclusivity nor her work as a senior financial figure in the UAE has suffered in a bid to make the other truly outstanding.

Ultimately, there are few words to describe the excellence and steadfastness of both Standard Chartered and Souad in her pursuit of financial brilliance and inclusive workplace environments. A one-of-a kind leader, Souad is a great role model for people inside and outside Standard Chartered. That’s not to say that the financial sector has not encountered challenges during her tenure. The financial services industry has gone through a lot of challenges and changes since Souad joined; the dot-com bubble, the great financial crisis of 2008, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Each crisis may have brought about change, but it has also been another chance for Souad to shine and show her impeccable financial and leadership skills.

How to Create a Marketing Strategy for Franchises Under 10k?


How to Create a Marketing Strategy for Franchises Under 10k?

Traditionally, franchises under £10,000 are known as low cost franchises, and are typically companies who don’t have large overheads such as business premises.

Marketing a franchise can be difficult. With numerous cooks in the kitchen, brand visibility starts to slip and there’s a noticeable lack in cohesively working to generate leads and gather data.

It is possible for low cost franchises to transform into high value franchises. Setting clear goals for the business enables an effective marketing strategy to be created, establishing direction for employees and customers.

But, if this is your first time creating a marketing strategy, we have a few tips on where to place your focus first.

Brand awareness and consistency

As mentioned above, there is a trend amongst low cost franchises to not need a physical business location. Therefore, it is absolutely key for these franchises to make themselves visible, both online and wherever possible through mainstream media platforms and printed marketing.

The best way to do this is with strong branding. If you’re not an expert in this area, work with a branding agency who will be able to nail this on the head for you and provide you with any and all assets needs to ensure your branding is consistent across various platforms.

Without brand consistency, it’s near impossible for users and customers to recognise you from one thing to the next. McDonalds is an exceptional example of this, using the curved golden arches and scarlet red for near enough all their advertisement and promotion, distinguishes them from all other fast food chains and comforts customers with familiarity. 

Local marketing

Whether you’re a regional, national or international franchise, it’s best practice to take interest in the local market and community that surrounds you. In hindsight, researching the brand’s heritage will help to understand why the company was started in the first place and what problems it was expected to solve, unveiling who you would choose to target with your strategy. On top of this, the closest to home results will be clear in the impact your strategy has on the local market, use this to your advantage and identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses.

Research like this should help form the basis of your marketing strategy. Including who’s best to target, how best to target that market, and which campaigns will connect most with the target market and be engaged with on the chosen platforms.

Share informative, insightful and engaging content

For any company working towards being number one for their industry, the top traffic source to be number one for is organic. By organic, we mean the natural listings in the SERPs which don’t require any bidding or payment to get there, just pure deserving matter.

With the way the industry is changing, one thing that has come to light is that companies should be sharing any and all information that a user may want to see in order to make a definite decision.

Whether this is by sharing thoughtful and insightful content on your blog, having a section on your website dedicated to how-to guides, or linking to other relevant, informative pages from your product pages that may help a user in making their decision.

If you’re frequently active on your social media accounts, then uploading engaging and asked for content on your website provides you with a continuous influx of posts to share on your feed. This is the kind of social media content to draw followers back to the website, and from there, all content should be working together to help the user convert confidently.

Utilise all platforms that are beneficial to your business

When establishing a marketing strategy for your franchise, it’s extremely easy to get heads down in the avenue of marketing. Be that the website, search engine optimisation, or traditional forms of media marketing such as TV or radio adverts.

However, depending on what your end goal is, there are various routes to experiment with in achieving this.

1.      Email newsletters

The reasons for using email marketing will vary from business to business, but the most popular reasons globally are as follows:

o   If the only time a user communicates with a brand is when they reach out, it quickly becomes a one-way relationship with very little trust. Hearing from a business – this doesn’t have to be every week but once in a while – helps to reassure customers in your products and services, building credibility for your brand.

o   Offering an incentive is often a sure way to get many users to convert on your website, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they’ll return without the incentive. However, newsletter subscribers are already invested in the business for one reason or another, offering an incentive to these users can provide the extra nudge they needed to make a decision that they’ll continue going forward.

o   An email newsletter is the perfect platform to experiment. The impermanence of email newsletters is attractive to marketers as they can trial without upsetting the website or offending social media followers. If it is found that email subscribers were perceptibly responsive to a certain email newsletter, then this can be rolled out on other platforms where appropriate.

o   For many industries, the last few years have shown a considerable shift in the number of mobile users compared to desktop users on their website. Therefore, with over two thirds of people opening their emails on their mobile, email newsletters enable you to connect directly with mobile users and encourage them to visit your website.

2.      Social media

It is expected for businesses to be visible on social media nowadays and is considered odd when a business isn’t active on social media. However, that doesn’t mean you should set up an account on every social media platform there is and post the same content to each one.

For example, if your franchise is a restaurant, you’ll find Instagram to be the most engaging platform. With users searching for restaurants locally and looking at images to decide if this is the cuisine they fancy. With that in mind, you wouldn’t want to waste your time on Linked In, where the main market is other businesses.

3.      Paid ads

Whilst the top spot in the organic SERPs is where most businesses want to be, the journey to get there can be quite slow. In the meantime, using paid ads can bring a significant amount of traffic to your website whilst this progresses in the background.

Again, the type of paid ads that you should be using will depend on which platform users predominantly use to search for your industry.

Using the example above, if you are a restaurant looking to increase brand awareness through paid ads, using paid Instagram or Facebook ads would be the best route. Whereas, a company like TaxAssist Accounts who are best to catch potential customers when they’re searching for their service, would be better off to use Google paid ads.

As expressed, it’s unfeasible to plan a marketing strategy without knowing what the marketing strategy will be working to achieve. Once a realistic goal has been decided, from there you can mould your marketing strategy to target the correct audience in the best way. Ideally using some of the tips above, your low-cost franchise can grow from strength to strength.

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What Airbnb, Uber and Facebook can teach brands about trust


Would you say you trust most of the brands you buy and use? Nick Liddell explores the issue of trust in today’s corporate landscape. 

According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer report, only 34% of people do. And apparently 53% of us are able to spot “trust-washing”— Edelman’s newly-coined version of green-washing. This is seriously bad news for companies that are caught out: 45% of survey participants claim unethical brands would never be able to regain their trust, while 40% would stop buying from those brands altogether.

The assumption that underlies the Edelman report is so self-evident it seems almost pointless to write down: that trust is vital to a brand’s success. If people don’t trust a brand, they won’t buy from it and it can’t make a profit.  But arguably the opposite is true where the likes of Airbnb, Facebook, Instagram, Uber and Ebay are concerned. These online community brands begin from the assumption that people can’t be trusted… Except to rat on one another. Consequently, they effectively function in a manner similar to intelligence services during the Cold War – encouraging people to snitch on their neighbours and maintaining stability through the constant threat of excommunication and denial of service. In doing so, they have evolved capitalism into a darker, shadier incarnation: an economy of mistrust.

Who’s watching who?

In the economy of mistrust, businesses create profit by outsourcing the policing of behaviour to their online communities: they establish spaces in which people are encouraged to act as judge, jury and executioner. As a result, we have all evolved into a society of peeping toms. The act of recording strangers, judging them and sharing our judgment with other strangers has become commonplace and now comes with a revenue model. Examples exist everywhere.

An Irish family found eight hidden cameras at an Airbnb property in Athens. Cameras were found in every room including the bathroom. A family from New Zealand staying at an Aibrnb in Ireland discovered they were being live streamed via hidden cameras. In 2015, Airbnb settled a civil suit brought by a German woman who discovered hidden cameras while staying at a rental in California in 2013. Earlier this year, children’s camp director Max Vest informed Airbnb that he had discovered hidden cameras in a rental property in California. Dissatisfied with their (lack of) response, he approached the Miami Police Department to file a report – and was in turn accused of theft of the device’s memory card, which he had removed as evidence. The police, it turns out, exist to enforce the law and not Airbnb’s terms of service. Vest’s subsequent interviews with the media reveal enormous frustration at Airbnb’s unwillingness to enforce its own rules… But why should Airbnb invest in doing so when it can more profitably outsource this job to social media users and the press?

When power turns to tyranny

Far from diminishing the power of these branded communities, the economy of mistrust lies at the heart of their power: the gamification of peer review focuses us on critiquing one another, rather than questioning the legitimacy of the peer review system itself – and the brand that created the system in the first place. But there are plenty of reasons for doing so. Uber’s use of consumer-sourced driver ratings is highly likely to be influenced by implicit (and not-so-implicit) bias on the basis of gender and race. This matters because these ratings materially affect the employment opportunities of the rated. This bias is evident in other branded online communities; a 2013 study of iPod sales on Craigslist found that listings that showed a black person holding the device for sale typically received fewer and lower offers than when a white person was shown. A 2015 study of baseball card sales on Ebay revealed a similar pattern of bias. In the same year, researchers for the Harvard Business School revealed widespread discrimination against black guests. The economy of mistrust is an economy of inequality: it hard-wires centuries of prejudice into transactions, provides an echo chamber of bias and amplifies the tyranny of the masses.

This goes a long way towards explaining why society is becoming so polarised and why our first response to having our values challenged is not calm introspection but noisy, banging outrage. This is only sustainable in the short-term. The longer-term problem for branded communities is that the economy of mistrust is unstable and unsustainable, as the examples of Airbnb, Uber, Craigslist and Ebay demonstrate.

So what would an economy of trust look like?

Instagram may be about to show us. In Canada, the platform is trialling hidden like counts, as a way to encourage people to focus on the quality of the content people share, rather than the quantified popularity of who or what is being shared. Perhaps we are seeing the first tentative step in the rolling back of the platform’s reliance on unqualified peer review. The 2019 Edelman Trust barometer revealed that 76% of people believe that CEOs should take the lead on change. Top of their change agenda is equal pay (65% of respondents) and tackling prejudice and discrimination (64%). Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, has clearly taken up the challenge. He explained the rationale behind the hidden likes experiment at Facebooks annual developer conference in April: “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about.” The experiment is part of a broader strategy to evolve Instagram into a less pressurised and more welcoming environment.

Go on, make my day

The Instagram CEO isn’t alone in his desire to shift the focus of branded online communities away from competition for social validation and towards a more cohesive, collaborative state. Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey is also reported as recently saying he would rethink the platform’s emphasis on likes and retweets as markers of success. Hopefully this is more than just wishful thinking. Do we really want to delegate responsibility (and blame) for life-changing decisions to algorithms and social media trolls? Do we want to fight discrimination on the basis of race, age, gender and sexual orientation or not? If so, more CEOs are going to have to resist the temptation to succumb to the wailing cry of the mob. And the rest of us have our own role to play in rebuilding trust. Social media and communities like Airbnb aren’t inherently evil or toxic; they only become so when we decide to use them as opportunities to stitch each other up and sell each other out. Substitute a “like” for a considered piece of feedback or note of thanks: it can’t be quantified but it could make someone’s day.

Nick Liddell, Director of Consulting, The Clearing, and co-author of Wild Thinking




Groupe Duval has announced it has acquired an equity holding in Africa Global Recycling (AGR).

Groupe Duval has announced it has acquired a 20% stake in AGR.

Founded in 2013 in Lomé, Togo, AGR, a key player of the green economy and waste recycling sector in sub-Saharan Africa, places waste at the centre of a new model of economic and social innovation on the continent.

AGR sorts and sells waste so that it can be transformed.

Acquiring this equity holding illustrates Groupe Duval’s desire to strengthen its position as a key waste recycling actor on the African continent.

Éric Duval, President and Founder of Groupe Duval stated “We are proud to support an actor as committed and pioneering as AGR. We are particularly excited about being able to assist it with its growth. The company has a unique positioning thanks to its operational excellence and its ability to have made selling waste attractive by creating a virtuous purchasing circle with businesses and local authorities. Being a family group probably makes us even more aware of the importance that we must give to the environmental and societal context we are part of and that we want to pass on to future generations. Our world is changing. Our family spirit leads us to focus great attention on the world that surrounds us and on the challenges of sustainable development that are connected to it. This is therefore and above all the sense of acquiring this strategic stake.”

Edem d’Almeida, co-founder of AGR, added, “Our company which currently has 50 employees, is growing strongly and has pan-African ambitions. We are delighted to welcome Groupe Duval’s contribution to the company’s equity aimed at assisting us in a new stage of our development. The presence of a key partner with which we share common values, is important to provide our company with both the financial and human resources to continue its very strong growth.”

The future of the franchise


Over 120 industries currently have franchised companies available to purchase. Usually, the franchisee will receive help with their site selection and development support, operating manuals, brand standards, quality control, training and business advisory support from the franchisor.

The whole point of franchises is that they can pop up everywhere. Here, we delve into some of the UK’s top franchises and discover how they got to where they are today and what lessons can be learned from them.



The Wetherspoon’s chain was initially named Martin’s Free House, with the first Wetherspoon opened from a former bookmakers’ store in 1979 in North London in 1979. It then changed its name to Wetherspoon the following year, with the company’s chains initially only expanded in North London. The company opened its first pub which had a no-smoking bar in 1991 in North Finchley, before moving more into Central London, with their first pub in Liverpool Street Station. The following year, the first airport pub was opened in Heathrow and in the same year they were also named J D Wetherspoon plc, opening their 50th pub.

Following that, business began to swiftly progress. Wetherspoon moved out of London in 1993 and opened pubs in Bracknell and Norwich. By 1994, the chain had reached an impressive 100 pubs and ventured as far north as the Midlands. The business kept expanding and moving into new territory throughout the 90s, with further establishments opened in Manchester, Wales and Scotland. 1998 saw the 300th pub open and its rapid expansion saw them reach 500 pubs being open by 2001. The 600-mark was reached in 2002 as the breakfast revolution got underway as all pubs opened six days a week to serve the first meal of the day.

The company proved it was adaptable to change following the introduction of free Wi-Fi to their pubs. Then, in 2007, the first wedding was held. The 700th pub was launched in 2008, with the 800th following in 2011 and 900th in 2013. Nowadays, the company employs over 35,000 staff, and owns 948 pubs and hotels.

What can businesses learn from Wetherspoon?

It’s noticeable that location is significant, and people adore offers. Wetherspoon’s have succeeded most by being flexible and adapting to their environment.

Key business features

Key travel locations: The chain is positioned in busy travel locations, including train stations and airports. You can currently find them in Aberdeen, Birmingham International, Doncaster, Edinburgh, Liverpool John Lennon, Heathrow, Gatwick, Glasgow and Stansted airports, and near train stations around London, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Festival spirit: Wetherspoon always embrace a festival-like spirit. They currently are involved in a biannual beer festival with 60 beers on tap.

Meal deals: Wetherspoon have some of the most popular meal nights in the pub industry. They include the initial Curry Club and Steak Club, Chicken Club, Fish Friday and Sunday Brunch and offer a drink alongside them.

Lookers Group


The automobile company was founded in 1908 by John Looker. By 1910, the Manchester-based business had forged with a garage owner in the centre of Manchester. Primarily a Ford dealer until the First World War, the company was thriving so much that the garage had to be rebuilt in 1911 to accommodate all the business that it had generated.

It was then appointed a distributor of Austin motor vehicles in 1918 and its growth continued when they acquired a number of garages in Lancashire and Cheshire. John Looker retired in 1929, but the business didn’t falter. During the Second World War the Austin factory was committed to the war effort as the country fought. Fast forward a few decades and the business’s first major acquisition took place in the 60s when the Group moved into Yorkshire. By 1973, their headquarters had moved from Hardman Street to Chester Road – their current base today. At the same time, the company became a listed company on the London Stock Exchange.

Currently, Lookers sits in the top three motor vehicle retailers in the UK, becoming a key motability dealers, representing 32 manufacturers and selling car types at 150 franchised dealerships.

Key business features

Value your people: The Group received top employer UK 2017 and 2018 accreditations and recognises that you must look after your own to be a success.  By acquiring several local businesses, including Benfield, the Group understood the need to keep the local feel of the businesses while softly implementing their own touch.


Key business features

Keep it local: Greggs have almost 1,700 shops currently across the nation, but are still rooted in their local communities. That means that, while there is the popular national range, regional favourites can be found in their stores depending on where you are.


John Gregg’s delivery service was created in the 1930s. He delivered eggs and yeast on his pushbike to families in Newcastle upon Tyne. It was after having this delivery service that helped local families bake their own bread for over 10 years that John Gregg opened a small bakery on Gosforth High Street in 1951. It was a single shop with a bakery at the rear. This allowed Greggs to begin baking quality bread with flour that was milled from specially selected wheat for that distinctive Greggs taste and texture.

Following the passing of his father, Ian Gregg took control of the family business in 1964. Under Ian’s leadership, Greggs developed a good reputation for selling products which were quality and of great value. The company also started to grow in size by buying regional bakery retailers across the United Kingdom and, by the 1970s, they had shops in Scotland, Yorkshire and the North West.

By 1984, the company’s expansion was well underway. There were more than 260 shops in four areas of the country at this point. For the first time ever, Greggs was on the Stock Exchange and they continued to expand, opening shops in the Midlands, Wales and North London.

The company invested in a large Technical Centre, so they could focus on producing an array of new recipes while improving old favourites. This highlights that Greggs continued its rapid growth during the noughties.

It’s clear that by providing you with a ready-made business model, you may feel as though you have a greater chance of success. This means the franchise world is going to continue growing, regardless of the industry you choose. So, budding business owners out there, make sure you research any possible franchises that could be of interest to you before jumping in feet first with your idea!

Check This Out


Check This Out

Veriphy offers a range of online checks on people and organisations, through a single login. Following their inclusion in the 2017 SoftTech 100 Awards, we interviewed the firm’s Director, George Ford to learn more. 

Veriphy offers a range of online checks on people and organisations through a single login. These include anti-money laundering checks, international identity checks and a range of business reports across many territories.

The firm’s Director, George Ford reveals the company’s mission and what sets them apart in the valuable work they do.

“Our mission is to put critical information in front of our clients in the very simplest way – as busy professionals should not have to ‘learn’ how to do these checks – they should be as intuitive as possible. If we get a query from a client, we examine closely why it wasn’t crystal clear and then engineer that out of the system.

“We do not put barriers in the way of our clients, such as sign up fees, monthly membership fees, upfront costs or minimum use policies. Our clients can start using our service is immediately, so they know that they will be treated fairly and not be hit with hidden costs.”
George then directs the conversation towards how it feels to be selected in the 2017 SoftTech 100 Awards.

“We are extremely pleased to have received this award, in what will be a very exciting year for us, as there is going to be an update to the anti-money laundering regulations for the first time in a decade.

“Being chosen as one of the top 100 firms – is an excellent confirmation that our approach to business and development is right – and that we should keep on our chosen path. Receiving the award is further confirmation to new and potential clients, that they are making the right choice and are in safe hands.”

George then underlines the challenges facing the wider industry, how they stay ahead of emerging developments plus something of the firm’s internal culture.
“Our industry has to adapt constantly both to the demands of legislation and to the handling of data in a secure framework.

“To stay ahead of emerging developments, I believe it is
essential to have strong research in place, both within our client base and externally. This ensures that the products we offer are the best of breed and that we use only high quality data.”

“The internal culture within Veriphy – is that we never fall in love with what we do and how it is done – that only blinds companies to new opportunities and areas that can and should be improved upon.”

In closing, George highlights what the future holds for the firm and the wider industry challenges they are facing.

“Having launched in the UK we now have our eyes on overseas markets where many of our offerings would greatly help companies both meet their
statutory obligations but would also make their client onboarding more streamlined and a smoother experience for their new customers.

“The main developments in our industry are the up and coming changes in legislation and the constant shift in the types of data available. “

Company: Veriphy Ltd.

Name: George Ford

Email: [email protected]

Web Address:

Address: 68 Jesmond Road West Jesmond, Newcastle, NE2 4PQ, UK

Telephone: +44 (0)845 094 8931

Facilitating Infrastructure Financing


Facilitating Infrastructure Financing

PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (Persero) (PT SMI) is an AAA class (local corporate rating) infrastructure financing firm, established in 2009. It is 100% owned by the government of Indonesia, through the country’s Minister of Finance. As winner of the 2017 Indonesia Business Awards in the 2017’s Best in Business category, we interviewed the firm’s Marina Novita to learn more.

PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (Persero) (PT SMI) is a AAA class (local corporate rating) infrastructure financing firm, established on 26th February 2009 and is owned 100% by the government of Indonesia through the country’s Minister of Finance. PT SMI’s head office located in Jakarta, at the heart of capital city of Indonesia.

The firm’s Marina Novita begins by detailing the role of the firm and the sectors they support.
“PT SMI plays active role in facilitating infrastructure financing, as well as project preparation and advisory services. PT SMI support the government’s infrastructure development agenda, through public-private partnership projects. As such, PT SMI serve as a catalyst in accelerating infrastructure development in Indonesia.

“Eligible sectors that can be financed by PT SMI include: toll roads & bridges; transportation; oil & gas; telecommunication; waste management; electricity; irrigation & waterway; water supply; social infrastructure (urban infrastructure, education facilities infrastructure, regional infrastructure, tourism infrastructure, health infrastructure and prison infrastructure), the expansion of electricity infrastructure includes energy efficiency and railway rolling stock.”
“The total value of projects that we’ve been involved since 2009 is ~IDR 232 trillion, which is the equivalent to $17.4 billion.”

Marina then underlines how it feels to be part of the 2017 Indonesia Business Awards in the 2017’s Best in Business category, plus something of the qualities the firm can offer to potential clients.

“It was a mix of excitement and surprise to win this award, as our hard work was recognised and has paid off. Behind any award is hard work and solid team work, plus a result-oriented group of people providing excellent service delivery and innovative products that meet the clients’ needs. Winning an award such as this also tells that our firm is reaching a certain level, that could not be achieved by other. We are therefore very honoured that our stakeholders recognised all of this.

“In addition, we believe that reliable human resources (HR) are an indispensable factor supporting the firm’s drive for excellence and sustainability. Therefore, management put great attention to the growth and the enhancement of our HR competencies, through: targeted recruitment, supervision, coaching, development programmes; providing opportunities for employees to develop competence via training; remuneration strategy to stay competitive in the market; paying attention to the achievement of performance and contributions based on employee promotion guidelines and providing a comfortable office environment to enhance comfortability as well as loyalty.”

Marina turns the conversation towards the important role that innovation plays in the firm’s work, and their role as an industry-shaping and progressive business in Indonesia.

“As a catalyst for the acceleration of national infrastructure development, as a state-owned company under Ministry of Finance, we have an active role in financing infrastructure projects in Indonesia. We also assist with project preparation, through consultation services and development activities. As a firm, we have a mandate to support the acceleration of infrastructure development. One focus of this mandate is the government and the public-private partnership (PPP) programme, which involves various financial institutions, both private and multilateral.

“Being aware of the need for large scaled infrastructure development, the firm has created some innovations through long-term financing schemes. In addition, we have been innovative where finance products are concerned by offering other financing schemes such as subordinated loans, mezzanine loans, cash deficiency support, convertible loan and equity investment (equity) that are complimentary with financing products offered by banks. By offering such product, the firm tries to close the gap to accelerate the financial close of infrastructure projects in Indonesia.

“The firm also has established a corporate culture namely I-SPRINT (integrity, service excellence, partnership, resilience, innovation and trust). The implementation of a shared work culture is important for the firm to ensure employees’ ability to uphold and support the firm values, that also aligned with firm strategies and business activities.”
Marina then turns the spotlight on what the region has to offer for a business such as PT SARANA MULTI INFRASTRUKTUR (PERSERO).

“The $1.7 trillion infrastructure financing gap in Asia (based on Asian Development Bank projection) is said to be a ‘problem’ of the region’s success, which will require more facilities over the coming years. The bottleneck is coming up, simply because of the fast growth within the region, plus improvements in living standards and sustained growth, all of which would raise new issues for these countries to handle.

“In Indonesia for example, The National Medium Term Development Plan (2015- 2019), states that the infrastructure needed to support the increasing economic growth amounts to IDR4,796 trillion. The three highest sectors are electricity, road, and port respectively 20.8%, 15.3% and 12.3%. However, the government funds available in the state and local budgets to meet these needs, only amounts to IDR 1,978,6 trillion. The remaining amount is expected to be financed by SOEs, totalling IDR 1,066.2 trillion and private investors, of around IDR 1,751.5 trillion.
“PT SMI was formed as part of the government’s strategy to overcome the obstacles of infrastructure development, especially to promote private investment in it by creating innovative products and services to close the gap of infrastructure needs.”

In closing, Marina is eager to highlight the firm’s hopes for the future.
“Supporting sustainable development goals (SDG), by providing equality infrastructure development for both central and sub national level in several ways is our aim for the future. This includes providing unique financing products and municipal financing, as well as leveraging the balance sheet to explore various capital market instruments. We also want to optimise collaboration with multilateral and development banks, as well as bilateral agencies to enhance our capacity in terms of both financing and knowledge improvement.

“We’ve covered a lot already, but I do want to mention once again thank you for this wonderful award. It will be a good recognition for us and a strong reason that we must do more and more and give the best contribution to the nation.”

International Status for Westside Law


Chinese Investors Looking to Russia

Westside Law are one of the few Russian law firm providing services in business law at the highest international level. Sergey V. Vodolagin, Managing Partner, talks us through how Westside Law has managed to fulfil clients wishes in more than forty jurisdictions.

Westside Law Firm has a basic area of focus in corporate and entrepreneurial law, legal support for foreign investment in Russia, M&A and real estate transactions, support for project financing and provision of legal services in the area of corporate finance. Sergey V. Vodolagin gives us an outline of the law firm, which has gone on to achieve international status.

“Our lawyers have accumulated vast experience in resolving commercial disputes. We look after our clients’ interests in court or at international arbitration tribunals in Russia, as well as overseas. Our team have witnessed all the changes Russian legislation has undergone throughout the years. Westside Advisors have extensive experience in the international M&A market and give legal advice to clients in various sectors of the economy including construction and development, high-end electronics manufacturing, chemical industry, R&D originating from all parts of the world: China, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Hong Kong etc.

“Throughout the years Westside Law have been working as a boutique-type law firm. The major strength for our clients is that we cover all necessities of the foreign investor, including legal services, corporate finance and intellectual property issues. In this regard, Westside Law Firm is a one-stop shop for a foreign investor. Taking into account the development of relations between Russia and China, our ongoing strategy is to develop the cooperation with investors from the Eastern region. Westside Law Firm has all the necessary experience for this including partnership relations with large Chinese companies.”

Asked about what attributes the law firm has that make them award winning, Sergey says it’s the special attention they give to every client, the vast experience in many areas of law and the direct contact they have in the international market.

“Our main feature is an individual approach and special care to each client. Our understanding of the whole range of issues faced by the investor in Russia is a firm guarantee that our advice will be multi-fold and taking into account all possible aspects of an investment. Our approach in legal services can be compared to private banking in finance.

“Westside Law Firm is a member of The Law Firm Network (LFN) which is a collection of law firms with irreproachable reputations, specialising in the provision of legal services to the business. We have established direct contact with service providers in favourable tax jurisdictions and can consequently provide practical implementation and qualified support for the client’s international business framework with respect to tax optimisation. Our firm’s multiple years of experience in many different areas of law, highly qualified lawyers and upholding of professional and ethical standards guarantee reliable legal protection for our clients.”

Whilst discussing the changes to the legal industry, Sergey explains that in Russia there have been amendments in legislation which have affected the way law firms operate. Moreover, the economic crisis and the interference of international law firms have presented Westside Law with challenges.

“The changes in the work of legal advisors are mostly connected with the amendments of legislation. Amongst the recent changes are the replacement of import and localization of production in Russia. These tendencies caused the majority of Russian suppliers to restructure their facilities so that they avoid the use of offshore and low-tax jurisdictions. Secondly, recent and on-going changes in corporate legislation relating to the status of corporations, shareholders’ agreements, etc. In addition, changes in the structure of commercial legislation, some of them fundamentals of civil legislation.

“The financial crisis in Russia caused by the decrease of the price of oil in its turn, led to the dropdown of the rate of Russian Rouble. Currently, the situation is highly favourable for foreign investments into Russia. Westside Law Firm will assist in proper structuring and protection of investments.

“At present, the legal services market is heavily influenced by international law firms. This situation is unfavourable both for Russian-based legal firms and investors. When it comes to investments into Russia, Russian-based advisors knowing the specifics of the market and all the possible pitfalls would be a better choice.”

As a final thought, Sergey has some advice for Chinese, and other potential investors that could learn from Westside Law’s past experiences.

“Prior to making an investment one should take all possible care of the pre-investment check of the target, including legal and financial due diligence, and further structure the transaction in the best possible way. In the course of pre-investment negotiations on the structure of the transaction an investor can decrease the price as well as mitigate the risks of the investment.

“We look forward to assisting Eastern region businesses in line with the development of trade relations between Russian and Eastern countries.”


Company: Westside Law Firm

Name: Sergey V. Vodolagin

Email: [email protected] & [email protected]

Web Address:

Address: “The Yard” Business Centre, Office 303 at No.11, bld.1, 1st Magistralnyi tupik, Moscow 123290, Russia

Telephone: +7(499)608 06 01

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