The Interview: Henry Baye

Written by: Eila Madden Posted: 12/03/2020

HenryBaye_BL66Henry Baye climbed the ranks of Standard Chartered in West Africa. In his first CEO role with the bank – at Standard Chartered Jersey – he is gearing up to help the Channel Islands operation embrace digital innovation and capitalise on the African market opportunity 

What’s your background and how did you get to where you are now?

I grew up in a strict Christian home, where values and discipline were everything.

When I think of the people who have really had an impact on my life, the first person I talk about is my grandmother and the next is my mother, who passed away last year. She played an amazing role in my life. 

I have two sisters. I lost my only brother last year as well, so it was a tough year. 

But I grew up in a small and extremely well-knit family. Just to give you a sense of that, I’ve been in Jersey for only six months but both of my sisters have visited with their families. 

I’m married, with five children – three girls and two boys – who keep me busy. I’m very close to my family. When I’m not at work, that’s where you’ll find me. 

How did you get involved in the financial services sector?

I studied at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. I did a degree in accounting with a diploma in education and my dream then was to be a university professor. 

In the course of collecting data for my research, I met a guy who I became acquainted with. We spoke a couple of days and by the third day he just looked at me and said: “You sound like a smart guy, wouldn’t you like to work for Standard Chartered?” I didn’t know who he was, but I found out later that he was a recruitment manager for Standard Chartered in Ghana. The rest is history. 

You talked about the values that you learnt at home. Have you taken those values into your professional life as well?

Absolutely. Authenticity is probably the value that has become the most powerful for me in my leadership journey and I’m pleased to see that today’s management writers are talking a lot about authenticity when it comes to leadership.

We have gone from a time when leaders were supposed to put on an act to a time, today, when people are looking for leaders who are authentic, who keep their word, who are interested in other people and actually invest in people selflessly.

They’re looking for leaders who look vulnerable when they have to be; leaders who can make mistakes but are honest about it. I’ve been privileged to have been brought up by a mother who was at pains to instil these kinds of values in me. 

You recently became CEO of Standard Chartered’s Jersey operation, part of a much larger global bank. How does the Jersey operation fit into the bigger picture?

The purpose of Standard Chartered is to drive commerce and prosperity. We’re a British bank, but the major markets in which we operate are Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

In the past few years, we have also said we want to be a platform for prosperous relationships, and that is linked to our ‘Here for good’ brand promise. So wherever we are, we want to be known for driving trade, driving prosperity and being here for good, which means being relevant to the communities in which we work. 

In Jersey, we provide a platform to bank all our clients within our network who want international banking within a jurisdiction that’s very strong from a regulatory perspective. For me, Jersey enables us to drive prosperity for our clients, making us the very heartbeat of our platform for prosperous relationships.

What is the bank’s USP?

Our unique proposition is the sheer variety of products we can give to our clients to drive commerce and prosperity, which they probably wouldn’t get in most places. 

We are also a unique door to the mortgage opportunity in central London. We offer mortgages to clients who, for various reasons, want to own a house there. For example, we have a lot of clients from Africa, whose children are studying in London and they want to purchase a base for them, or they are looking to participate in the real estate opportunity in London. 

So we don’t simply provide an opportunity for our clients to participate in their local market, but we also open up the whole world to them. That helps them to really diversify their portfolio and have more stable returns.

Prior to taking on the role in Jersey, you had a successful period as Head of Retail Banking for Standard Chartered in West Africa, and held leadership roles in other banks in that region. What are the most useful skills and experiences you bring from the African to the Jersey market? 

The first thing is passion. On the African continent, we’re very passionate and we don’t hide that passion. That’s naturally part of my leadership style. I lead with passion. I am big on inspiring people and that’s key. 

The other thing I bring is an understanding of the African market. I have a good group of CEOs within the Standard Chartered network. I know people in the governments. The network we have within the continent is important in helping us build the bridges that instil confidence and trust.

When you’ve got people sitting in one location and putting their money in another location, that’s a big vote of trust and I put a face to that trust. I put a face to the name of Standard Chartered Jersey within the bank’s global network. 

That’s important in helping colleagues in Jersey connect with business in Africa and helping clients in Africa see that what we offer here is an extension of the proposition we offer in the various markets. 

What is the potential of the African opportunity for the Jersey operation?

We have looked at the propensity of various continents to want to keep funds offshore. There is a 75% propensity in Africa to keep funds offshore. That drops to probably 60%-plus for the Middle East. So there is a strong desire for clients to want to bank offshore for various reasons – people want to diversify their portfolio, they want to take advantage of opportunities in other markets.

Stability is key for a lot of people. Quite a lot of economies in Africa have currencies that are depreciating from time to time, so people are looking for stability of currency. So the need and the opportunity are big. 

The total amount of wealth in Africa is $2.2trn, according to AfrAsia Bank’s Africa Wealth Report 2019, and out of that about 42% is controlled by high-net-worth individuals.

Today, Africa has the youngest population in the world and one of the fastest growing middle classes. Recent projections suggest that, in about 30 years, Africa’s population could easily be three billion – it is currently almost one billion. So if you’re looking for a market where there is future opportunity, Africa is it.

You also have a rich background in digital – so how will this be of benefit to Standard Chartered Jersey? 

The last project I did before I came here was to roll out our first end-to-end digital bank in Côte d’Ivoire, and then we started extending that to other markets. 

That’s probably one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my career, because we started with a plain sheet and identified all the journeys that our clients walk with us in the manual environment and digitised them.

Even more interesting was being able to get the necessary regulatory approvals and for regulators to see that for every control we had in the real world, we had an equivalent control that works through digital. 

Africa has leapfrogged many regions when it comes to providing financial services in digital environments. Today, there’s quite a lot of work we need to do in Jersey on our digital proposition and I’m at the forefront of trying to leverage my experience to make that happen.

How does the Jersey operation need to innovate digitally?

There are three elements. When you think about digital, the first thing is the client experience. Let me give you an example. Typically, if you lost your debit card, you would have to pick up the phone and call the contact centre, or go to a branch. In Côte d’Ivoire, we digitised that journey by enabling customers to block a lost debit card and order a new one via their smartphone. Digitising a service journey creates a very powerful client experience. 

The second thing is putting control in the hands of the clients. As bankers, because of the controls required to manage risk, we keep too much control with us. And I’m using ‘control’ in two different contexts. For example, if a client needs to do a transaction, we bring them in to sign lots of papers because we need to be able to say the client did this transaction and it wasn’t initiated fraudulently. 

But how about giving the client facial recognition or some form of biometric on their bank app? That’s the highest form of security. If a client accesses a mobile app using facial recognition to do a transaction, it is difficult for the client to say: “I did not do that transaction.” So you put control in the hands of the client and yet you have security around it. 

The third element is about not placing limits on what the client can do. If you’re not giving your client a digital experience, you’re saying the bank closes at 5pm. But as soon as you put digital in the hands of the client, you’re saying the bank never closes. There’s no limit to when and where you can do your banking. 

Those are the areas in which we need to improve in Jersey. We currently have digital apps for our clients, but it requires quite some work and I think we need to move towards a place where we can offer clients some of these things I’ve talked about.

Becoming more digital could make you more vulnerable to the risk of cyber crime and you’ve highlighted that as a challenge. How is the bank tackling this issue?

Every individual in the world is constantly exposed to the risk of cyber crime, so it’s extremely important that, as a bank, we are vigilant about it. 

The bank does have a cyber framework that is used to look at all the levels of security and checks that constantly need to be in place. One of the reasons the digital bank we rolled out in Africa continues to win awards each year is because of the security of the platform. 

The thing about cyber security is that you have to be on top of it every single day. That’s the only way you can be two steps ahead of the people who commit these crimes because those people are improvising every single day.

You put up one barrier and they try everything to scale it, so you put up another barrier and they try everything to scale that. You must constantly be two steps ahead of what cyber criminals are doing. 

HenryBaye_BL66 v3You’ve also highlighted financial crime as a major challenge for the sector.

Financial crime needs to be stopped because of what it does to the world. Financial crime is detrimental to children. Children are trafficked into prostitution in various places. Children become child soldiers in various places. They are maimed on the war field when they should be in school. There are lots of people who are getting destroyed. Futures are being destroyed because of drugs, and economies are being destroyed by rampant corruption. 

These are the topical issues when you talk about financial crime and I think the least a financial institution can do is to refuse to become a conduit for these crimes around the world. 

Standard Chartered has made a very clear statement that we’re going to be leaders in fighting financial crime. It’s not easy because it requires you to put controls in place, some of which will annoy your clients because you’re constantly asking for certain kinds of information, but we want to play a part in keeping the world safe and making the world a better place for people to live in.

Is this issue solely about putting more controls in place?

In some of our markets, we have played a thought leadership role, educating our clients about financial crime and cyber crime. Through our Correspondent Banking Academies, for example, we are inviting banking clients, public sector development organisations and other players to come and hear speakers from Interpol and other partners talking about financial crime risks. 

We call it de-risking through education. By creating awareness around this issue, we hope to prevent organisations from withdrawing from markets that are vulnerable to financial crime because, when they withdraw, it becomes difficult to do important things such as disburse aid to the people who need it most. 

What other challenges are on your radar, not just for Standard Chartered Jersey, but for the sector as a whole?

The geopolitical landscape today – from Brexit to the China-US trade war to weakening economies all around the world – presents enormous challenges for financial institutions. Banks only thrive when economies thrive; it’s as simple as that. So geopolitics is a big risk. 

One of the other challenges during the past few years has been thinning margins. Never in the history of the world did we hear about negative interest rates as a concept until recently. 

And there are challenges around the changing financial industrial landscape. Thirty years ago, the competitors of banks were banks, but that landscape has significantly changed. Today, the competitors of banks are telcos, microfinance institutions, fintechs and, lately, technology giants. So it’s become an extremely complex playing field and all of these things pose challenges to banks.

How should banks respond to this?

Innovation, innovation, innovation. You’ve got to constantly transform the way you serve your clients, giving them a better and better and better experience. 

We must also begin to understand the digital landscape and align with it. The financial landscape today is an ecosystem. If you’re a bank and you see a fintech as your competitor, you’re getting it wrong. You should see a fintech as your collaborator and a bridge for you to reach a much wider opportunity. 

Today’s technology giants – the Googles and the Apples of the world – are engaging in co-creation, which means that they’re creating something with their customers and their clients. That’s where the world is going. So it’s important that banks see their role in that system – otherwise, they will become extinct.

This summer will mark your first year in your new role. What are the key milestones you hope to have achieved by then?

The first thing I would like to achieve is investing more and more in our workforce – that’s a top priority for me. 

The second thing is to be able to get a sense that our business is future-proof – in terms of our platforms and processes – so that we can leverage the opportunities that we have our eyes on. 

And I want to see the bank adding more value to our communities. Jersey is abundantly blessed with lots of opportunities for our people to contribute to the community we operate in by way of volunteering, working with charities and just doing some amazing stuff. 

Today, the bank sponsors the annual Jersey Marathon, which is a fantastic way in which we contribute to the community. But I want to see a lot of other ways in which we can really make a difference and demonstrate that we’re truly here for good. 

We have launched our new community engagement programme – Futuremakers by Standard Chartered – which focuses on how we can help the future generation to learn, earn and grow under the three pillars of education, employability and entrepreneurship. A year from now, I think we should begin to see green shoots from some of these efforts.

FACT FILE

Name: Henry Baye
Position: CEO, Standard Chartered Jersey
Age: 50
Home town: Keta, Ghana
Studied at: University of Cape Coast and University of Ghana, both in Ghana
First job: Personal Financial Consultant at Standard Chartered Bank
Family: Married with five children
Hobbies: Singing, poetry-writing and cooking
Did you know: I have walked under the sea – an amazing experience in Mauritius

 


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