Standard Chartered’s Nakul Jain on Driving the India Affluent Proposition to the Next Level
Nakul Jain is Managing Director, Affluent and Deposits, Standard Chartered Bank, India. Having joined the bank in 2017, he is responsible for Priority Banking for India for the client continuum, driving key outcomes through Deposits, Wealth and Lending Solutions, and with the Private Bank reporting to him. As part of the Standard Chartered country management team, his mandate includes driving strategy and priorities for the affluent banking business in the country and managing the overall profitability across 100 branches. Hubbis ‘met’ with him recently to learn more of his role, how he and colleagues are driving affluent/private banking to the next levels, why he sees so much potential ahead, and how they are grasping the opportunities with both zest and enthusiasm. What we found in the conversation is a leader who is highly observant of his markets, highly committed to his teams and totally focused on the clients of today and the future.
For the purpose of the conversation, he focuses on his management of the affluent clients business, ranging from premium banking clients through to the typical private banking HNW clients, and in between the flagship priority banking segment. He also heads up the deposits business that is closely connected to his core clients and runs branch banking as a vertical.
A unique proposition for India
“Essentially, the entire individual banking/client facing business rests out of my vertical in the bank,” he says. “Right now, Standard Chartered Bank here in India is in a unique spot, nestled between the large Indian universal private sector banks and the major public sector banks, offering the best of what they can provide, and at the same time leveraging our global reach and expertise. We have a long history of over 160 years of continuous presence, a great brand, deep expertise and penetration of the emerging markets and hence great understanding of our actual and potential clients.”
Segmentation – core to the offering
Nakul explains that the segmentation that the bank clearly pursues in private banking/affluent space is essential to catering to each of those clients’ unique needs, which he says differ right from the liabilities requirement to the wealth needs, and also their asset requirements.
“Naturally, the needs of the clients expand as the wealth rises, and so too the time committed by our RMs,” he reports. “Clearly, the requirements of clients with perhaps USD25000 to invest compared to clients with USD1 million are significantly different, and the RMs understand and cater to those needs and expectations. In the entry-level segment, we are serving those clients largely through a virtual channel, and further up into the private bank segment, the RMs commit much more time, including, of course on the offerings, on wealth planning and so forth.”
Many evolving trends
Nakul then comments on some of the key trends he has been witnessing in India. Clearly, there has been rapid digital adoption amongst teams and clients. “Before the pandemic, some clients would insist on meeting the RMs in person, however now there is a widespread adoption and comfort of digital communication, encouraging us to invest further in this whole area, especially a secure app for doing transactions with the client over a video.”
Secondly, he explains they had seen more of the younger generations taking up management of their assets, whereas before, the clients were at least 45 and upwards.
Looking to the future
“Suddenly, there is a new generation to service, and more of them are comfortable with self-directed approaches, conducted through the digital and robo-advisory,” he reports. “We also see more demand for and interest in goals-based planning and retirement planning, where there is a significant gap between planning and needs, and we are also experiencing significant shift from monetisation of fixed assets like real estate and gold to financial assets and clients expressing preferences in sunrise ideas such as ESG, thematics, disruptive technology and global diversification through international funds.”
In the pure fixed income space, clients can be selective in taking risk and raise allocation to corporate bonds with a tilt towards high-yield (AA/A) bonds given a likely revival of the credit cycle and more attractive valuations compared to AAA.”
Open architecture for a better offering
“The bank also embraces open architecture, offering clients in all segments access to the best products, including in the alternatives space,” he continues. “And we have enhanced our entire wealth platform, launched our new SC Invest platform, in the last six months and are thus offering a great DIY option to our clients to do their own investments. All in all, we have really focused on advancing our engagement with clients.”
In general, he reports there is a shift to more contemporary approaches to risk management and more robust legacy planning. Additionally, for many of these clients, there is considerable overlap between their private and business needs; hence the bank is increasingly focused on delivering on both fronts, with a keen focus on lending capabilities.
A vast market to target
As to growth potential in the upper private banking segment, he reports that at this time, the bank is present in only four cities, but there is no reason why the private bank should not be penetrating more broadly across the country.
“We have 100 branches in total, so the private bank, our affluent client business, should be present in all 43 key cities across the country, and that is our intention,” he states. “We are among the top two international players offering private banking in India, so that gives us an extra level of differentiation. Moreover, there is a lot of new wealth and as I said the younger generations are coming through, as well as wealth is being passed across generations, and we aim to catch this whole new emerging entrepreneurial class early on, so our growth is expected to remain robust and even accelerate.”
Taking the high road
Nakul also cites certain key initiatives the bank is involved in, including programmes to boost economic inclusion, another to empower adolescent girls from low-income backgrounds, and another to help avoidable blindness and also improve sanitation. “And for the successful private banking clients, we have our Future Global Leaders Programme, which is an industry-leading programme for our next generations, in partnership with Oxford University’s Saïd Business School focusing on leadership, entrepreneurship, communication, sustainability, technology and innovation , ” he reports.
Nakul also notes that the bank has taken a very personal and caring approach to its team members and its clients since the beginning of the pandemic. “Aside from making their digital connectivity much more seamless, we also realised that the clients needed more than just financial advice,” he recalls. “We started partnering with them on taking care of their health, their fitness, managing overall wellness, their retirement planning, and we helped them with their children’s future plans, and so forth. In these ways, our clients have really started looking at us as partners and not just a financial solution provider.”
“In these uncertain times, they really value us and we continue to engage with them on all levels, from investments and portfolios, to a wide variety of other areas such as at-home care facilities, how to deal with stress and anxiety, wellness programmes to name a few. Actually, from my viewpoint, the impact of the pandemic has left a mark on everyone in one way or another in varying degrees and the personal losses people have suffered are beyond words.”
“Having said that, on the business front, we were amongst the first to secure our employees and ensure minimal disruption to our clients and truly excelled in building client connect. That is why our clients have ranked us as the best priority and the best premium bank for 2020. That makes me very proud.”
Nakul says his first mission is to keep up what he considers to be the remarkable progress they have made in the past 18-plus months in terms of engagement with their clients. “I have been very clear with the teams - keeping clients at the centre of everything that we do it of utmost importance,” he says.
His second priority is to keep investing in the affluent segment. “Data clearly shows that despite the whole ‘Black Swan’ events and volatility over the last 18 months, unprecedented stock market gains in 2020 led to a spike of almost 6% in the global HNW population, and in India itself, we've seen almost 6% growth in the dollar millionaires, while reports estimate there are around 278,000 dollar millionaires in the country today. With all the three segments now nested under our one affluent business, we have a great opportunity ahead.”
He adds that they will continue to deepen relationships with existing clients, and continue to acquire the best possible clients in the market, working both through the RMs and their acquisition teams as well as through client referrals.
Another priority is the continuing digitisation journey, with a new drive towards using deeper client insights through analytics and focusing on hyper-personalisation thus building an omnichannel capability across the self-service and human-centric spectrum.
He expands on this, explaining that the firm has been boosting its CRM processes and capabilities. “For example, driven by analytics, the RM gets a message on his mobile early each morning alerting him to key emails on client activities, things such as renewal premiums due, birthdays or important events,” Nakul reports. “The result is a dramatic improvement in the interactive capabilities of the RMs, their relevance and their personalisation. Clients have been loving it.”
And a final mission is to contribute wherever possible to building a sustainable future. “At an overall level we believe that – we don’t need to be an ‘either/or’ on sustainability - we can balance both - be a profitable and a purpose-led company and I feel we are taking great strides in being future-ready and in driving meaningful change,” he reports.
His final comment is that India keeps evolving, and that the bank will aim to stay ahead of the key trends. “We have a clear mission, which is to be the best we possibly can and to adapt our offering and our skills and our services to the affluent market of today and be ready for the future,” he says. And judging by the very evident depths of his thinking and the obvious passion he has for his role, few would bet against Standard Chartered Bank achieving those goals, and others besides.
Getting Personal with Nakul Jain
Nakul hails from Delhi and he studied throughout the country because his father was in the Army. He studied at Delhi University before completing his MBA in Pune. He went on to work with ICICI Bank for nearly 16 years, before moving for around 18 months to IndusInd Bank, where he ran their affluent and NRI business. He was then headhunted into Standard Chartered Bank in his current role.
He is married, and the couple has a 12-1/2 year-old daughter. “She is just at that age when she argues with me because she thinks that she's an adult,” he says, “but that is par for the course.” His hobbies include his love of tennis, and he also loves travel and trekking, which of course have been difficult since early 2020. Quieter moments at home might be spent testing out his culinary skills, his new hobby, and later watching a spy thriller.
His favourite recent tennis player is Roger Federer, a true gentleman of the courts, and from the past, players such as Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker, for their great matches and also their incredible serve and volley finesse.
As to travel, he loves small villages such as in the Black Forest in Germany, or remote houses in the Italian countryside in villages with authentic local markets. “These sorts of places give us peace, and a feeling of real local life,” he explains. “We have enjoyed some incredible places like that. Croatia might be our next stop, the pandemic permitting of course.”
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