The ex-Deutsche man leading 3,000 people at Standard Chartered in Singapore

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The ex-Deutsche man leading 3,000 people at Standard Chartered in Singapore

Rene Keller, Standard Chartered’s newly appointed chief information officer for corporate, commercial and institutional banking (CCIB), has only been in his job since 2 January – but he has a lot on his plate for 2020.

The technology veteran joined Stan Chart in Singapore from Deutsche Bank in London, where he was most recently group data officer and group head of innovation. Reporting into group CIO Dr Michael Gorriz, Keller is now in charge of more than 3,000 employees in the CCIB technology and innovation team, most of whom are based in Singapore, India, Malaysia, China and London.

Keller says his team will be hiring this year “based on our needs” as the bank continues to adopt “modern technology and ways of working”. But “it’s far too early” to say how many new people will join, he adds.

Stan Chart as a whole spent $1.6bn on tech in 2018, up from $900m in 2015, but investment into legacy systems flatlined as costs in ‘strategic’ or ‘systems enhancement’ projects (i.e. emerging technology) trebled over the same period. Keller’s CCIB unit does not appear to be deviating from this emerging-tech focus in 2020. It is, for example, exploring potential applications of blockchain/distributed ledger technology to its products, services and processes, says Keller. In November, Stan Chart joined the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, a standards organisation, to explore blockchain collaboration with other financial institutions.

Meanwhile, like many other banks (notably Goldman Sachs), Stan Chart is increasingly using APIs, software intermediaries that allow two applications to talk to each other. Keller says the firm’s APIs “drive more connectivity and partnerships between developers, corporates and fintechs, to co-create better client products and services targeted at corporate banking clients, such as FX and custody services”.

Cloud will also be an “area of focus” in 2020, says Keller. Moving more of the bank’s systems onto the cloud will improve what Keller calls infrastructure elasticity – the ability to efficiently grow or shrink tech infrastructure resources dynamically to adapt to workload changes in an autonomic manner. “Our role in the technology and innovation function is to accelerate ideas to service, so we can respond quickly to market demands,” he adds.

If you want to join Keller’s CCIB tech team in Singapore this year, “experience in software engineering for cloud-based applications, micro-service architecture, and agile development” are sought-after skills. Keller is also looking for a mix of “strong business acumen” and “deep technical skills”. “The world of technology and business is converging. As technology partners, we must be able to partner our business colleagues to turn business ideas into real products and services in an accelerated way,” he says.

Stan Chart is, of course, not alone in wanting to hire business-savvy tech professionals – the technology teams at Citi and JP Morgan are also hiring aggressively in Singapore, for example. Unlike most international banks, however, Stan Chart locates a large number of its tech and front-office global heads (including Keller’s boss Gorriz) in the Republic. “Singapore is a strategic market for the group and is a global centre for technology and innovation for the bank, with many of our global leadership team based here. A large proportion of our strategy, thought leadership and ideas are incubated in Singapore for global implementation,” says Keller.

Domestic banks are also stepping up their recruitment of technologists (more than half of the 1,563 people DBS took on in the year to end-September work in tech), and all banks in Singapore are increasingly competing for talent with expansionist tech firm such as Amazon, Google and Grab. But as a new arrival to the city state, Keller is upbeat about the ability of the local tech talent pool to cope with rising demand for talent. “Singapore has a very robust ecosystem of banks, technology companies, universities and research organisations that supports the sustainable growth of its banking and fintech sector,” he says. “Proactive initiatives by the Singapore government and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have been instrumental in both attracting businesses to set up innovation labs in the city state and helping to develop a healthy pipeline of technology talent for the digital economy.”

Before joining Deutsche Bank in 2016, Keller was group CIO for Germany’s international exchange, Deutsche Börse. He has also held senior technology roles at Swiss Life, Credit Suisse and UBS since beginning his career in 1992.

Photo by Shawnn Tan on Unsplash

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