StanChart taps political heavyweights as potential new chair

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Standard Chartered has sounded out UK political heavyweights Sir Charles Roxburgh and Sir Sajid Javid as potential candidates for its next chair when José Viñals steps down.

Executive search firm Spencer Stuart has been gauging interest from a range of City of London figures and senior bankers for one of the most senior roles in British banking, according to several people familiar with the process.

Viñals, a former central banker and IMF executive who joined the bank in 2016, is approaching the nine-year limit for independent directors.

The new chair will be tasked with reviving the bank’s share price, as well as overseeing a potential succession process for chief executive Bill Winters, the longest-serving UK bank executive. Shares in the bank have halved since Winters started in June 2015.

One of the top options is Roxburgh, a McKinsey and Treasury veteran who was second permanent secretary in charge of financial services from 2016 until 2022.

Roxburgh’s position meant that he was at the heart of every major financial services decision by successive governments, from selling down the state’s shares in Lloyds and NatWest to helping pick the next governor of the Bank of England. Roxburgh declined to comment.

“The board regularly reviews succession planning and has oversight of detailed plans, including the process of external market mapping of key board and senior management roles,” StanChart said.

Javid — a sitting Conservative MP who was briefly chancellor and then health minister in Boris Johnson’s government — has also been informally sounded out, according to two people familiar with the approach. Javid previously worked as a derivatives salesman for Deutsche Bank in Asia and more recently as an adviser to JPMorgan in London. 

Javid has said that he will not stand at the next UK election, which is expected to be held before the end of this year and a person familiar with his thinking said he would not rule out taking a senior position in the financial sector.

A spokesman for Javid declined to comment.

Although based in London, StanChart makes the majority of its profits in Asia out of its hubs in Hong Kong and Singapore, with the remaining earnings coming from the Middle East and Africa.

Winters has spent much of his time in charge cleaning up the balance sheet and resetting the culture of the bank, after a rapid expansion after the financial crisis left its balance sheet saddled with billions of bad loans.

Until 2021, StanChart was subject to a deferred prosecution agreement after paying $1.1bn to settle charges from the UK and US that it helped clients dodge sanctions on Iran.

The board is keen to recruit a new chair with emerging markets experience, as well as someone who would be able to understand and oversee the complex international fixed-income and FX trading business that has been grown by Winters. 

While Roxburgh has the political connections required for StanChart’s delicate geopolitical balancing act, his experience of lending in Asia is more limited, two of the people said.

Other names on Spencer Stuart’s longlist have more exposure to Asian finance, including former HSBC chief financial officer Iain Mackay and Barclays’ ex-finance director Tushar Morzaria, the people added. Morzaria declined to comment while Mackay did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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