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.