Standard Chartered chairman Jose Vinals has reportedly approached banking executives this year in a bif to gauge their interest in replacing current chief executive Bill Winters.
Vinals has been sounding out possible candidates from companies in Britain, southeast Asia, and Europe, according to Bloomberg, in a search that is not currently part of any formal selection process.
Winters, who has led the London-based bank since 2015, had a public spat with shareholders last year after some opposed the lender’s compensation policy, calling investors’ criticism of his pension award “immature and unhelpful”.
StanChart eventually cut Winters’ pension allowance, but Vinals was not happy about the chief executive’s public handling of the matter, Bloomberg reported.
A StanChart spokesperson said its chairman and board think that Winters is the best chief executive the bank could have, and would like to keep him on “as long as possible”.
“Succession planning for the senior management team has been ongoing since the chairman joined in late 2016 and throughout that time has included meetings with potential candidates and recruitment firms, along with development of internal candidates,” the spokesperson said.
Winters recently dismissed speculation he could leave the Asia-focused lender. “I don’t know who the colleagues are saying that I’ve checked out, but they’re certainly not close to me,” he told Bloomberg last week.
Managing StanChart’s internal pool of chief executives is part of Winters’ responsibility, and he told Bloomberg his “specific objective” was to “tee up the succession candidates”.
“Upon my arrival, we significantly stepped up the rigor of the succession planning,” he said. “If you are on the succession plan, you are told.”
StanChart has been hit by a series of compliance scandals and a 45 per cent decline in its share price since Winters took over.
In April last year, the Financial Conduct Authority fined StanChart £102m for “serious and sustained” shortcomings in client due diligence and monitoring.
The fine was part of a $1.1bn (£858m) settlement with US and UK financial regulators over allegations of poor money laundering controls and sanctions breaches.
However a recent series of steady results have calmed investor concerns over Winters’ turnaround plan for the bank.
StanChart reported a 46 per cent jump in annual profit last week, but warned that operating income growth would be lower than expected in 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus in key Asian markets.
StanChart shares were trading 0.33 per cent up in London by mid-afternoon.