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All stampede to Stan Chart?

Which bank is a good career bet in the current crisis? Goldman’s share price is down around 40% on last year and it faces challenges switching to a lower leverage model. JPMorgan’s share price is up 5% on October 2007, but Jamie Dimon hasn’t indicated a huge appetite for hiring. The better bet might be Standard Chartered: its stock is down a comparatively modest 16% and it’s still adding staff like it’s 2005.

In the last six years, Stan Chart has doubled its income and tripled its headcount. Before the end of 2009 it expects to hire another 20,000 people worldwide. A large proportion of them will probably be cashiers in Mumbai, but it’s also in the market for investment banking expertise.

Last week, Standard Chartered hired three ex-Lehman traders for its Singapore commodities team. Global head of HR Tracey Clarke told an Indian TV programme that the bank is “actively looking for private bankers” and is hiring in China and Singapore.

Standard Chartered is headquartered in London, but its operations here are peripheral. The UK and America accounts for less than 10% of its wholesale banking activity, with the bulk of business coming instead from Asia and the Middle East – hence its 50% growth in financial markets income and 130% growth in corporate advisory income in the 12 months to August.

Standard Chartered declined our (very) kind invitation to talk to us in London, pointing instead to an interview its head of global markets gave our Singapore site back in May, when he declared, “We are taking full advantage of the turmoil in the markets to recruit.”

London headhunters say most of the bank’s hiring is taking place in emerging markets, but things are happening in the City, too. Like Nomura, Standard Chartered is said to be offering two-year guarantees to attract people across. “They’re being very aggressive in London,” says one equity derivatives search consultant.

Stan Chart may be a haven in the storm, but it’s probably not the place to go to get rich though. Last year, its chief exec earned 2m – hardly on a par with the Lloyd Blankfein’s of this world.

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