For the past few decades, women have been blazing the trail in different industries, the financial industry being one of them. They have brought the much-needed change in the financial landscape and are climbing up the ladder with their talent, hard work and intelligence. One such woman, who has been making waves in the banking sector, is Souad Benkredda.
Souad has been in banking for more than twenty years. She started her career at Deutsche Bank, where she joined the Global Markets internship programme as a graduate. During the sixteen years she spent at Deutsche Bank, she held various roles in different markets; including Structuring, Sales and Client Coverage roles in Dubai, Frankfurt and London.
She joined Standard Chartered UAE in 2017 as Head of Financial Markets UAE, then became Head of Financial Markets MENA and is now the Global Head of Strategic Investor Group Sales. She also sits on the Board of Standard Chartered Saudi Arabia.
Throughout her career, Souad has had the opportunity to work with different cultures and varying client requirements. This was a challenge that she has always enjoyed. She was very often the only female and/or the only Arab/African in the team. She never regarded the fact that she belongs to a minority as an impediment; in fact, she was grateful that she could contribute (a potentially different viewpoint) and be heard. Early in her career, she wanted to make sure that she stayed authentic and pulled others along with her – based on meritocracy – when she could.
Inspired by her integrity, we at Insights Success had a conversation with Souad to learn more about her journey and how she is contributing to the enhancement of the banking industry.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Tell us something more about Standard Chartered, its mission and vision.
Standard Chartered is a leading international banking group that operates across 59 markets with 85,000 employees. Its footprint connects emerging and high-growth markets with more established economies. The bank’s purpose is to drive commerce and prosperity through its unique diversity. It also has the ambition to become the world’s most sustainable and responsible bank. Standard Chartered PLC is listed on the London and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the banking niche through your expertise in the market.
Given our presence in more than 50 countries, our unique, diverse experience and capabilities set us apart. We channel capital to where it is needed the most and offer solutions based on our clients’ needs. Connecting our global network and product capabilities to provide the best solution to our clients globally, is in my view a niche Standard Chartered has successfully occupied. Staying close to our clients and understanding their needs is key to making this impact and differentiating ourselves from other players.
Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?
Technology had already played a big role in almost every sector before the pandemic. The pandemic has only reinforced or even accelerated this trend. Implementing new technologies and digital banking solutions to simplify, standardise and automate has been a long-standing priority for us so that we can serve our clients better. This spans across all the products and business lines we offer. As part of our strategy to be the leading digital bank across the markets in which we operate, we have transformed our internal technologies, as well as our client-facing solutions. For example, we have adopted a cloud-first strategy to become more responsive to customer needs, become more agile in creating new solutions, and improve resiliency, security and privacy, all of which are critical to our client proposition. As pioneers in solving challenges for businesses and individuals, we are constantly reinventing ourselves and how we deliver our products and services, using innovation and technology to help drive commerce and prosperity globally.
If given a chance, what change would you like to bring to the banking industry?
The Banking industry has seen a lot of change and challenges over the past 2 decades, which have maybe overshadowed at times the constructive role the Banking industry could/will increasingly play in terms of connecting people, providing solutions to address various risk management tools, financing requirements and advance the social and economic development across businesses, operations and communities.
What, according to you, could be the next big change in the banking industry? How is Standard Chartered preparing to be a part of that change?
As already mentioned, the banking industry more broadly can play a constructive role in supporting sustainable and responsible growth, including delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals “SDGs”. Standard Chartered specifically, which operates in some of the most dynamic regions – the Middle East, Africa and Asia – can help promote social and economic growth in these markets in a sustainable and equitable way in line with our purpose and three-valued behaviours: Never settle’, ‘Better together’ and ‘Do the right thing’. This sustainability philosophy sets out how we integrate sustainability into our organisational decision-making taking into account the energy needs of our markets whilst facilitating a transition to a low-carbon economy, ensure infrastructure development supports sustainable growth and does not harm communities etc.
Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for Standard Chartered?
It is difficult to answer the question where I envisage to be in the long run as we operate in a dynamic industry and a very dynamic world more broadly. I like to focus on the task ahead of me rather than plan for the long term as I believe that if you enjoy what you are doing, you will “automatically” be given bigger challenges as you rise. In this context, the long-term vision of Standard Chartered does play a role, as it is important to identify oneself with it as an employee. We are setting ourselves long-term ambitions on climate change, financial inclusion and globalisation and pledged to help work toward the net zero carbon goal. Furthermore, we are supporting women and small business in our core markets and have the ambition to 500,000 companies improve working and environmental standards. We have a great opportunity to build a better future with our customers and communities together and I would love to continue play a little role in this.
What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the business sector?
If I was to give one piece of advice to new entrepreneurs in any business sector, I would emphasise the importance of being agile. The pandemic is case in point on how quickly and drastically the commercial environment can be required to change. Firms that will prosper are those that can quickly adapt to changing needs of their clients and shifts in the business environment. This can range from a shift in working styles – as we have seen remote working becoming a feature of day-to-day life in many markets, so having the right VC and digital tools to reach and service your clients becomes extremely critical – to a change in specific product needs.