Singapore Markets open in 6 hrs

Is Standard Chartered Bank Singapore a local bank or foreign bank?

By Paul Ho of

Is Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore a local bank or a foreign bank? People often ask me this question. I guess what they are trying to get at is, “Is the bank safe?”, “Is it a big and strong bank?”

Standard Chartered Bank is very dear to my heart. Taking a walk on memory lane, when I was growing up I stayed near Tanglin Halt, where some of the first Singapore Improvement Trust flats were built, and POSB was the bank where my mum kept my bank account.

When I got my NRIC at age 12, I went to open an account in Standard Chartered Bank near Block 70 in Tanglin Halt. My family was not wealthy, but we were not poor either, thus I was getting S$70 a month in pocket money which later grew to $90 a month. Each month, I would dutifully go to Standard Chartered Bank to deposit $40 to $50. I had the joy of watching the digits in my bank book grow.

I chose Standard Chartered Bank in my teenage years because of these words: Standard Chartered Bank – “Big ,Strong, Friendly”. The bank teller uncles and aunties were so nice in the 1980s. They would greet me each time: “Boy, you coming to deposit again ah… Wah, you very diligent saver hor… Got enough to eat or not…”

That “Big, Strong, Friendly” slogan is perhaps not used anymore today. But in the ’80s, that slogan had a profound impact on my young mind. Fast forward to today, it is “Here to stay”, perhaps lacking the affinity of the ’80s version.

The Standard Bank of British South Africa, Limited. (Photo: NJR ZA/Wikimedia Commons)

Where did Standard Chartered Bank come from?

Perhaps surprisingly, Standard Chartered Bank was called “The Standard Bank of British South Africa, Limited” – quite a mouthful. It was incorporated in London on 15 Oct 1862 by a group of south African businessmen led by John Paterson. (Wikipedia) The bank started operations in 1864 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

The bank grew by merging with several banks and by 1867 was a prominent in financing the development of diamond fields of Kimberley.

Standard Bank of South Africa Limited: In 1881, the word “British” was dropped.

The bank expanded northwards of South Africa when Gold was discovered in Witwatersrand on the north side of South Africa.

In 1912 the bank opened a branch in New York City.

By the 1950s, Standard Bank had some 600 offices around Africa.

In 1962, the bank was renamed Standard Bank Limited.

In 1969, the Standard Bank became Standard Chartered Bank after merging with Chartered bank of India, Australia and China. Today, the Standard Bank name is still used in South Africa.

Standard Chartered is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a FTSE 100 index stock. It also has secondary listings on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India.

Singapore tycoon Khoo Teck Puat was Standard Chartered Bank’s largest individual investor in the 1980s. Most of his wealth came from owning Standard Chartered Bank shares which were acquired in the 1986 when he assisted in thwarting a hostile takeover bid by Lloyds bank by acquiring a five-per-cent share of the bank, and over the years raising his stake to 15 per cent. When Khoo Teck Puat passed away, his estate agreed to sell his Standard Chartered Bank stake to Temasek in 2006. Temasek went on to acquire close to 20 per cent of Standard Chartered Bank’s shares.

At the same time in Hong Kong, Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) was one of three banks to be granted the prestige to print Hong Kong dollar notes. The other two banks were The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited; and Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited.

When Temasek accumulated close a close to 20-per-cent stake, the Hong Kong government issued a warning that further raising of the stake by entities controlled by a foreign government may cause Standard Chartered Bank to lose its privilege to be one of the three banks allowed to print bank notes. The ability to print bank notes for all Hong Kong legal tender is seen as something very prestigious.

Fast forward to the modern day and Standard Chartered Bank is one of the world’s major banks.

In 2015, under the Basel framework (into it’s third revision) for the stability of the banking sector for which Singapore is one of the signatory countries, some banks are deemed as “Domestically Systematically important bank” or D-SIB by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

In Singapore, several banks fall into this category of domestically systematically important D-SIB. They are:

  • DBS Bank
  • Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC)
  • United Overseas Bank (UOB)
  • Citibank
  • Malayan Banking Berhad (Maybank)
  • Standard Chartered Bank, and
  • Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)

MAS said D-SIBs are banks that are assessed to have a significant impact on the stability of the financial system and proper functioning of the broader economy. All banks in Singapore will be assessed for their systemic importance annually based on their size, interconnectedness, substitutability and complexity.

Banks that are deemed D-SIB will be subject to an additional pair of eyes from the MAS, hence their successful continuation is deemed nationally important in Singapore.

Hence, it is safe to say that Standard Chartered Bank (Singapore) Limited is “Here for good”.

As a Mortgage Broker we are impartial when it comes helping customers compare and analyse the best home loan packages. On a personal level, though, I cannot help but have a deep affinity to Standard Chartered Bank just because of the Tanglin Halt branch.

“Boy boy, you come to deposit your pocket money again ah… Got enough money to eat or not you deposit so much?” still rings in my ear, a familiar sight and sound in my mind’s eye. Bank tellers are the unsung heroes of banking.

So is Standard Chartered Bank a foreign bank or a local bank? It is a foreign bank whereby Temasek has a very strong share position. For me, this is a bank I grew up with, it is a bank I feel very local and close to my heart.

About Paul Ho:
 Paul holds an a B.Eng(Hons) Aberdeen University (UK) and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Macquarie Graduate School of Business (MGSM) Australia and is an ACTA certified trainer in case you would like him to conduct your courses. He also serves as current President of Macquarie University Alumni Association of Singapore and Former Honorary Secretary of British Alumni Singapore and former Treasurer of Australia Alumni Singapore (AAS).

He is founder of His articles have been syndicated/featured on STproperty, iProperty, BTInvest, TheEdgeProperty, Propwise, Propquest, Yahoo, TheOnlineCitizen and Propertyguru amongst many other sites. He has also been quoted on South China Morning Posts, Xinmin daily 新民日报, and interviewed on Channel 8 狮城有约, 938 Live, Love 972.

He has given speeches, trainings and/or seminars at NUH Lunch time talk, iProperty, David Poh and Associates, Far East Bijou Launch seminar, NTU (Guest Lecture on SEO), Panel discussions at GPS Alliance, C&H, Skillup, British Alumni, Propertyguru, FPAS, Property launch seminars just to name a few.

He is passionate about helping people enhance their wealth and in making money work harder for them.