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Standard Chartered-HIB Merger

Two Corporate Cultures Unite, by Meticulous Design


Mergers are delicate affairs - their success depends largely on winning the hearts of the acquired company's staff. And Standard Chartered has gone to great lengths to bring Hsinchu International Bank into its fold.



Two Corporate Cultures Unite, by Meticulous Design

By Maxine S. C. Yang
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 369 )

At the end of March Taiwan featured prominently in events held across the globe by British banking giant Standard Chartered Bank.

Standard Chartered employees in 20 cities including Singapore, Dubai, London and New York celebrated a “Welcome Week” for the employees of the banking group’s newest acquisitions – Taiwan’s Hsinchu International Bank (HIB) and the Union Bank of Pakistan. In both countries the mergers, announced last year, were the first foreign takeovers of domestic banks. The Welcome Week aimed to mark the new partnerships, dispel misgivings among the staff of the merged banks and introduce Standard Chartered Bank employees to the cultures of the new members of the family.

The winners of an online crossword-puzzle competition among Standard Chartered employees worldwide were awarded free trips to Taiwan.

In Qatar in the Middle East, employees participated in a big quiz competition about Taiwan.

In New York they held a Taiwanese food competition. But the competitors weren’t chefs – they were Standard Chartered staff from around the globe who had first honed their culinary skills before showing them off in the United States.

In Taiwan, Peter Sands, group chief executive of Standard Chartered, flew in from Europe to encourage 40 HIB employees and 20 local Standard Chartered staff before they took their flights abroad to participate in the numerous Welcome Week events. At a boisterous meeting at the Ambassador Hotel in Taipei, Sands filled them in on the likes and dislikes of their new colleagues, revealing that the bank’s CEO in Dubai “loves to dance” and that staff in Singapore were into triathlon.

Publishing a “Merger Weekly ”

Originally more than 1,000 HIB staff applied to participate in the welcome events abroad. In the end James McCabe, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank’s Taiwan branch, had to draw lots at the company’s year-end dinner to pick the 40 lucky ones.

HIB Chairman Chih-wei Wu, who is also going to head the merged entity “Standard Chartered Bank (Taiwan) Ltd.,” feels that Standard Chartered has been going out of its way to make HIB staff feel welcome. “Which foreign commercial bank would be ready to do so much for its Taiwanese employees?” he asks rhetorically. “The Taiwanese government should thank our bank for helping everyone better understand Taiwan. ”

The banking group has decidedly put a lot of thought into making the merger smooth.

McCabe frankly admits that mergers are no easy job in the first place and that the most important thing is to “win the hearts of the people. ”

McCabe’s comment should not come as a surprise, because many HIB employees make no secret of their doubts and apprehensions about the merger.

HIB’s union demands that before the merger goes into effect the bank must first calculate staff seniority and allow its employees to claim resignation pay, retirement pay or severance pay.

Moreover, the union fears that the bank will transfer employees to other posts, requiring staff to do jobs that they don’t want to do.

In response to such demands, Kuei-ling Hu, HIB executive vice president, asserts that HIB will not terminate its business operations and there is therefore no need to calculate seniority. Regarding job tasks, the bank has also surveyed its staff’s aspirations, he explains. The vast majority will still do the same work as before.

After the merger Standard Chartered Bank (Taiwan) Ltd. will even maintain two main branches, one in Taipei and one in Hsinchu, so that employees from both merging banks won’t need to move, or rush back and forth between the two cities.

Standard Chartered, which has been on a buying spree over the past few years, can draw on its thorough experience with mergers. In order to win the hearts of the HIB people, the group has meticulously devised its latest merger project.

First, Standard Charter appointed McCabe, who had worked in Taiwan during the 1980s and was familiar with the island, as CEO of the group’s Taiwan branch. To smoothen the merger, Standard Chartered also transferred Geoffrey Buchanan from Mauritius to Taiwan to serve as chief integration officer. They published a “Merger Weekly” to make employees on both sides understand the progress and details of the merger process.

The banking group also organized various events as an opportunity for mutual exchanges and to get to know each other. HIB staff were, for instance, invited to participate in the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon in March, an annual amateur event.

In past years just a handful of Standard Chartered employees registered for the event, but HIB staff passionately responded to the invitation. As many as 46 HIB employees registered for the race, while Standard Chartered sponsored just eight contestants. In the end fourteen HIB employees paid for the trip to Hong Kong out of their own pockets and used their annual leave to participate.

“Competition Is Really Fierce Outside ”

The Hong Kong Marathon adventure also had some unexpected effects, since the HIB athletes also visited Standard Chartered Bank in the former British colony. When foreign currency trader Sheng-hung Han, who has worked at HIB for 12 years, saw Hong Kong’s dense network of bank outlets and discovered that the Standard Chartered branch in Central on Hong Kong Island operates six days a week, he became aware that “competition is really fierce outside.” “Standard Chartered is truly very big – we also need to try very hard,” he adds.

For the colleagues at HIB, the switch from working at a domestic lender to joining a multinational banking giant means fun and new inspiration, but also new challenges.

Many have already changed their work attitude. Wu-ling Lan, who looks back on an 18-year career at HIB, speaks Mandarin with a heavy Taiwanese accent. For Lan the trip to Hong Kong dispelled many misgivings about the merger and encouraged her to learn more English. Lan says she had no incentive to learn a foreign language before, “because at a domestic bank they don’t attach a lot of importance to foreign language skills, and it isn’t the right environment.” She hopes for an opportunity to work abroad in the future.

After the merger HIB staff will definitely have more opportunities to go overseas. But Sands has cautioned them that more opportunities to travel abroad also mean “there will be more work to do. ”

The main reason for this is that before the end of this year the merged Standard Chartered Bank (Taiwan) will become the foreign bank with the most branches on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, which will enable it to push for further growth. A number of HIB employees are already now attending various Standard Chartered training programs at home and abroad.

In the latter half of this year, the 59-year-old name “HIB” will become history as the bank continues operations under its new shingle of Standard Chartered Bank (Taiwan).

On his recent trip to Taiwan, Sands vowed the group’s commitment to the new acquisition, saying, “We don’t buy to grow. We grow what we buy.”

Clearly, once Standard Chartered has won the hearts of the people at HIB, it also intends to lead them to greater heights.

Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz

Chinese Version: 渣打併竹商銀 精巧設計文化大融合