Interview: CIO of Standard Chartered HK

by Lee Kyung Min (May) | Interviewers: Donald Lam, Lee Kyung Min (May) | Photo Credits: Standard Chartered HK | 11 November 2013

Discussing the role, the technology, the people…
with the CIO of Standard Chartered Hong Kong.

With technology permeating the banking industry today, the traditional role of the Chief Information Officer is changing, just as the traditional applications of technology are changing as well.

In the first TecHKU ‘Experts’ interview with Ashley Veasey, the CIO of Standard Chartered Hong Kong, TecHKU shares with you his answers to our questions about the role of a CIO, the technology involved in banking, and the people that make up the technology division.

Picture of Ashley

Ashley Veasey

Chief Information Officer, Standard Chartered Bank HK

A technology leader with a career that spans over 20 years in retail, investment and wholesale banking.

Responsible for the bank’s operations, systems development and technology infrastructure in HK.

Previous: Standard Chartered Offices in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam

JP Morgan


Interests: New technologies, traveling, digital photography and Italian motorbikes

Being Chief Information Officer

I graduated in Computer Science and joined Citibank as a Management Trainee in the technology division. I later held a number of different positions in other financial institutions, including JP Morgan. Just around the millennium, I joined a dotcom company which was a great experience for me to run an Internet start-up business.

I found that I liked working in large corporations, so I went back to the banking industry and joined Standard Chartered in 2001. In Standard Chartered, I had the opportunity to work around the world, including London, Singapore, Thailand, and now Hong Kong. When I was the CIO in Thailand, I also covered Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

In Standard Chartered, the role of a CIO is somewhat different. We have the technology side which everyone associates with the role of a CIO. We also take care of banking operations, similar to what a COO (Chief Operating Officer) does. Technology and Operations together keep the Bank alive and running. Building, delivering and supporting secure and stable systems that work well for customers remains the number one priority for a CIO.

Risk Management

Risk management is a major focus in today’s banking world. Data security and privacy of customer data is a big topic as the general public are quite rightly sensitive and protective of their personal information. Security is an ongoing challenge. We employ some of the best people in the field of technology information security and we constantly take preventive measures and monitor security threats.


Every country has a regulatory body that regulates all the financial institutions, and in Hong Kong, this is the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) which ensures that banks operate according to the right standards and protocols. Since the financial crisis in 2008, regulators, in general, have imposed tighter controls on how banks manage themselves and how the customers’ money and assets are being protected. Maintaining collaborative relationships with our regulators is a very important aspect of a CIO’s job.

Evolution of Banking

Once you have the basics right, the role of a CIO can now turn more to better understanding the customers’ needs and the changing ways in which they want to do business with us. Gone are the days that the banks dictate what channels customers can use to interact with the bank according to the bank’s prescribed rules and opening hours. We need to allow our customers to bank in ways that fit into their lifestyles rather than the bank’s preferences.

More and more, technology is becoming a competitive weapon. It is important to understand the potential of the technologies in the market and bring them together into a set of services which will better engage our current and future customers.

Technological Trends in Banking

Big Data

One of the key trends is Big Data. How can we filter the enormous amount of data we have and transform that into useful information? How can we spot patterns and correlations to make predictive decisions?

For instance, we can spot patterns in customers’ credit card spending and send the customers personalized promotional offers. We can also use location-sensitive technology to detect a customer’s location. So when you are walking through a particular shopping mall and we know your preference towards a particular product, we can send you an SMS about the relevant discount the bank might be able to offer you. The opportunities for big data analytics in the banking industry are potentially huge. We will see a lot more of big data in the next few years.

Mobile Payments

The development of mobile payments is another big area. Some banks are building their own payment networks and ecosystems and we see some good examples in the use of NFC (Near Field Communication) that fit in mobile devices. Standard Chartered is trying something different, which we believe will bring a better experience for our customers in Hong Kong- watch this space!

Social Media

There are also clearly a lot of activities in social media. Look at how we recruit people now — we work with LinkedIn, increasingly searching for talented people online and hiring quality candidates this way. We are also using social media to interact with our customers, especially the younger generation.

There are traditional interfaces, such as keyboard, mobile, IVR (Interactive Voice Response), and then there are the new and evolving biometric security technologies. Sometimes people become a little too obsessed with technology and miss the key point – how frictionless you can make the interface to work seamlessly and be very functional, rather than just a gimmick.

Take for example Apple’s Touch ID – a new fingerprint identity sensor, which can be used to unlock your iPhone or authorize purchases from the iTunes and App Store. What makes it slick is its 360 degrees readability that allows you to scan your finger in all orientations. What will make it successful perhaps is making it a ubiquitous payment authentication method to pay for all your purchases routed through your iPhone. Let’s see.

Voice is interesting. Our voices are very unique, even more so than fingerprints or iris. So in theory, voice biometrics can be more powerful than any other forms of biometric security. While these biometric technologies all sounds great, the big challenge is to get our customers to understand, accept and use these technology solutions.

Zoe — Standard Chartered’s ‘Siri’ of the Banking World

For the mature generation, going to the bank is typically about building relationships. But the younger generation want to bank on their own terms that fit into their own lifestyle. From work to watching TV programmes, from socializing to ordering food, almost everything can be done on a computer or mobile device nowadays. Zoe is an experiment to potentially answer those who don’t want to go to a branch and prefer an ‘e’ experience.

The idea behind Zoe is to link up somewhat disjointed banking services to create a unified banking experience. Wouldn’t it be cool to have an avatar who understands what we require and can learn from our historical sequence of requests?

Zoe has a friendly interface – a ‘Siri with a face’ on a mobile device. For example, when you are at the airport, you can say “Zoe, can you check my booking for me?” “Can you tell me where can I get the best deals in town with my credit card?” Zoe will swiftly provide you with answers to your every question. You can even switch to a ‘secure mode’ so she won’t speak back aloud and reveal your private information in public areas.

But perhaps the best thing about Zoe is that she never takes sick days and she never complains.

Zoe is an experiment in developing user interfaces –- who knows where this will lead to or what the next generation of user interfaces might be.

Other Applications of Technology — How the Bank Does It

Offshoring & Technology Hubs

One of the trends in many industries is offshoring. For multinational companies, some common functions can be migrated to a central hub where those functions can be scaled up better and be processed in a more quality-consistent way. A lot of work in technology in the Bank is done out of these central hubs in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), India (Chennai) and China (Tianjin).

By creating these hubs, we are starting to create and maintain an encyclopedia of banking expertise. We are becoming an employer of choice in these 3 markets and are able to attract a very talented, competent and reliable workforce. That’s great for both stability and creativity for us as a Bank.

Technology is really beginning to run the bank, rather than just support it. Technologists who go into the banking world will be increasingly expected to help the bank decide how to run itself, to reach out to new customers and to innovate.

iOS Platform & Apps

We are quite progressive in our internal use of technology. We were the first bank to announce our move to the iOS platform internally in 2010. Our employees can securely access the Bank’s data, including emails, via their corporate iPhones on the road.

We also develop internal apps e.g. Mobile Trade Port which allows our relationship managers to lookup customer profiles or approve a transaction when away from the office. We have now 18 proprietary apps available on our internal App Centre. These enterprise mobility solutions have delivered greater productivity and brought definite business advantages.

Knowing the Basics First

I would say to anyone who wants to join the Bank as a Management Trainee that it does sound great to work with a ‘sexy’ piece of technology, but in the early days of working in a bank, what’s very important is to learn the basics and the purpose of technology first. If you join us as a Technology Management Trainee, you’ll have a chance to experience the A to Z of banking technology — a visit to our data centre filled with big grey humming machines, for example. These anonymous looking machines and the technology systems that run within them form the heart of the Bank.

While we accelerate the progress of our young talents in the Management Trainee Programme, we ensure they grow on a strong foundation without missing out on the basics.

For Potential Interns & Graduates

In 2010, we launched the first Management Trainee Programme with the objective to build a sustainable pipeline of leadership capacity and capabilities for the future. It has been very successful and has brought in quality young talents. There are Management Trainees who are 2 years fresh out of university and now run sizable teams of 20 people in Operations, or manage some large hi-tech projects.

I have worked in several Asian and Western countries. I found that people in Hong Kong are professional and incredibly disciplined in process and controls. Their execution is first class. Perhaps, however, creativity and innovative thinking can be developed a little further to balance that.

We will have our first intake of interns in Technology next year. The interns will be put through a series of interesting challenges to test how well they can cope with a career in banking technology.

If you are looking into a technology careeer path, you should typically come from technology-related disciplines such as technology systems, software, computer science or engineering. For banking operations, we take people from a wide variety of backgrounds, including economics, finance, technology and even sociology.

It is more about the individual though — having a high sense of responsibility, solution-oriented, with strong communication and presentation skills, resilience and the ability to handle pressure. We want people who are inquisitive, can think out of the box, and are good at building relationships and networking with people overseas. With over 1700 offices in 68 markets, a lot of what we do daily is to work with both local and overseas colleagues; so being international is one of our core values.

Apart from local students, we also recruit graduates from overseas. For example, we have a trainee who grew up in Spain and a trainee who spent most of her life in Singapore. Studying overseas does bring in different dimensions and perspectives. It also proves the Bank’s commitment in ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ — fostering a diverse working environment. It’s a great place to work here at Standard Chartered Bank.

More information on internship and graduate programmes at Standard Chartered Hong Kong can be found on the following brochures:
Hong Kong Group Technology & Operations Internship Programme
Hong Kong Group Technology & Operations Management Trainee Programme

About the Author

Lee Kyung Min (May)

Managing Editor

Second Year, Economics, Finance and Politics

Author: May Lee

Second Year, Economics, Finance and Politics;

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