Standard Bank Group sets the standard for sub-Saharan banking. Standard Bank, South Africa's largest bank, offers a variety of retail and commercial banking, corporate and investment banking, investment management, and life insurance services through about 700 locations in its home country. The group also includes some 450 additional branches in 16 other African nations, where it operates as Stanbic. Beyond Africa, the bank has offices in more than 10 countries on five continents. It serves individuals and business and corporate customers. Standard Bank holds a controlling stake in South African insurance firm Liberty Group.
Standard Bank Group struggled during the prolonged global recession. Low interest rates, lagging credit demand and other financial factors impacted the company's revenues in 2009 and 2010.
The group was forced to cut costs in 2010 by eliminating staff in Johannesburg and London. Standard Bank also reduced consulting services, scaled back or delayed IT projects, and cut down on travel and sponsorships.
Standard Bank also shifted its acquisition strategy outside of Africa. In the past several years Standard Bank completed acquisitions in key geographic areas such as Argentina and Turkey in order to expand in those markets. However, the company sold 80% of Standard Bank Argentina and two other Argentinean units to China's ICBC (which owns about 20% of Standard Bank) in a 2011 deal worth some 4 billion ZAR ($600 million). Standard Bank no longer has plans to buy or build additional businesses outside of Africa.
The company is strengthening its focus on its core market of Africa. Standard Bank is looking to expand in Nigeria and Nambia. The company intends to grow its commercial banking operations there by building new branches. It opened more than 70 branches in Nigeria in 2010 alone.
Elsewhere, in 2009 Standard Bank acquired 33% of Russian investment bank Troika Dialog. The partnership helped the group establish a presence in Russia, where there is an opportunity to create a substantial domestic and cross-border franchise. However, in early 2012 the company sold its stake to Russia's Sberbank for $372 million plus additional funds if Troika performs well. Standard Bank hopes to utilize its relationship with Troika to establish partnerships with Sberbank in the future. – less