Standard Chartered Chief Executive Bill Winters expects central banks’ fight against surging inflation, driven by structural cost pressures such as wage growth, to result in a “relatively shallow and short” recession by early next year.
“I think central banks have to take this inflation problem head on,” Winters told the Reuters Global Markets Forum (GMF) on Wednesday, adding that a strong financial system supported by underleveraged consumers and corporations will aid a faster recovery compared to the global financial crisis.
“We’ve had two real world stress tests in the last couple of years – the pandemic and a major European war,” he said.
Standard Chartered continues to grow in China but at a slower pace, as COVID-19 lockdowns stifled its expansion, Winters said on the sidelines of Temasek’s annual Ecosperity sustainability conference in Singapore.
Comparing Singapore’s quick return to pre-pandemic norms, Winters said he expected the bank to return to “good solid growth in China and Hong Kong” once restrictions on travel and consumer activities were relaxed.
Winters described the job market as extremely competitive and said wages were also on the rise. With the bank’s headcount near 2019-levels, there was no “belt tightening” in prospect, he said.
That is in contrast to Switzerland’s Credit Suisse, which said it would accelerate cost cuts to offset a likely Q2 loss.
“Given the very hot job market, we don’t think we’re going to need to lay off any meaningful number of people,” Winters said.
Winters is positive on StanChart’s financial markets, payments and cash management businesses which he said will be driven by robust trade within Asia, Middle East and Africa.
He was also positive on emerging markets, particularly in Asia and South Asia, on expectations of returning capital inflows as the region’s “growth story is re-established as structural.”