Leading in the Age of Disruptive Technologies: A Conversation With Standard Chartered

A leader must have clarity of vision, care for his/her people, deliver on results and above all display integrity.Lamin Manjang

Lamin Manjang, Standard Chartered’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Kenya and East Africa shares his insights on leadership and the challenges facing leaders in the banking sector in an age of disruptive technologies.

Below is an extended conversation with Mr. Manjang

Q: How would you describe your personal leadership style?

One of being focused on my people. Leadership by definition is really getting a team that you can work with in order to achieve a common vision/objective. Mine is a very people-centred leadership style. It’s one of clearly articulating what the vision is for the organization, making sure that we are all aligned towards that vision and making sure that people are empowered to work towards realizing that objective.

Q: As CEO, what are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?

Obviously in a role like mine which is a CEO for Standard Chartered Kenya and East Africa, it’s always about making sure that the organization is aligned strategically to meet its objective: the financial objectives, the people objectives, the stakeholder objectives. My role is really one of ensuring that the bank is focused on clients, focused on the strategic objectives we have set for ourselves within the market and ensuring that we are delivering on that. That entails obviously dealing with multiple stakeholders, primarily the staff that are absolutely critical to the success of that objective, the clients and in an industry like banking, making sure that the regulator is happy with the conduct and how we do business in the market. It’s also making sure that all other stakeholders are on board in terms of supporting the bank to achieve its objective.

Q: What are the top 3 challenges facing business leaders in the banking industry given the rise of disruptive technologies such as mobile banking platforms?

I think in the banking sector in Kenya, the competition is very intense. It’s a market where we have seen local players that perhaps 20 years ago were not very efficient and really at par in terms of their standards and technology, really come up the curve in a very significant way. Whereas 25 years ago Standard Chartered and Barclays would have been the dominant number 1 and number 2 in the market, it’s now flipped to a situation where you’ve got local banks who are actually taking the number 1 and number 2 spot. But we do have advantages also as an international bank being able to connect our clients to our global network and bring in best practices into the market. So we still have a significant role to play. One of the challenges that we would face as leaders is the disruption of models of doing banking. For instance the digital space where Mpesa has come in and has really transformed the payment space. People now can actually seamlessly transact using their mobiles without necessarily having to pay by cheque or use cash and so on. We’re seeing other disruptive technologies like bidcoin trying to come into the market. We’ve got BidPesa that is actually inching into the market. As a leader in banking or any other segment for that matter, it’s really being cognizant of the changes that are taking place in the competitive landscape, the disruptive business models that are out there or could come and can actually disrupt how we do business. That’s one challenge

The other challenge is on people. Talent will be increasingly absolutely critical for success in any industry and banking is no exception. Like I said we do have shortage of some critical skills within the industry and the challenge for us is to one, keep the talent we have so that we don’t lose them but also how to grow the talent going forward so that we can protect our share.

Q: What is your advice to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

There are four elements of leadership that I think are indispensable:

Number one is, if you are a leader, you should have a vision. The reason why people would entrust their destiny in your hands is because they believe you have a very clear vision of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there together with your team.

The second one is on people. Ultimately leadership is about people. Having that passion for people and really caring for the team that you lead and really helping them to grow is absolutely critical to the success of a leader.

The third one is delivery of results. Increasingly stakeholders are very demanding of any leader – they want the results to come. Of course the results have to come properly, not through any shortcuts or anything like that, but results have to be delivered.

Lastly and very importantly is integrity. I think leadership is about integrity. If you lack integrity in your personal or professional conduct, ultimately it catches up with you. We’ve seen examples of how lack of integrity has led to the collapse of big entities like Enrol and so on. As a leader, it’s very important that you demonstrate those qualities of integrity: being trustworthy, having your word be your bond and making sure that that reflects in the organization that you lead.

So with those four I think that would be my advice to anybody aspiring to be a leader: Clarity of vision, caring for your people, delivering the results and above all displaying integrity.

Q: What do you consider essential for your leadership growth?

Personally, my religion and my spirituality are important. That is what gives me grounding and a solid foundation in whatever I do. I believe that ultimately life has a bigger meaning and a bigger purpose and within that context, I try to do the best that I can to make a difference.

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