In Focus: Oliver Brinkmann, CEO, Commercial Banking Asia Division, Lloyds Banking Group

Having worked throughout Asia for more than 15 years, the new CEO at Lloyds Bank is no stranger to leadership and change management. In this exclusive interview we discussed his plans for Lloyds and the upcoming trends within the current volatile geopolitical environment. 

Published 22nd March 2017

 

Interview by Lucy Haydon, Editor, Orient Magazine

 

 

You start 2017 in the new role of CEO for the Asian Commercial Banking Division. What will be your immediate strategic priorities?

 

My immediate priority is to support Lloyds Bank to grow its franchise in Asia and support the strategic aim of Helping Britain Prosper Globally. The bank has a sharp focus on ensuring that we work with existing clients, particularly Global Corporates, to achieve their international aspirations and that Asian based clients are supported in their investments into the UK. We see ourselves as an Asia-UK gateway for our clients. After working in Asia over the past 15 years, I know that there is huge opportunity here and a priority for me is to ensure that clients are aware of what we, as Lloyds Bank, can do to help them achieve their strategic objectives. I am also very keen to ensure that we build the best team in Singapore and take the time to invest in and develop our people so that we recruit and retain the right people for the long term growth of the bank in the region.     

 

Lloyds is building its footprint in Singapore, how do you intend to build on the bank’s larger awareness in the UK to expand the brand in the region?

 

From a personal perspective, I am delighted to have recently joined Lloyds. As the UK’s largest retail and commercial bank, Lloyds has a footprint that touches almost every community and household in the UK and I am proud to be part of such a prestigious organisation. We have over 250 years’ experience of supporting clients and, in Asia, have maintained a branch presence in Singapore since the early 1970s. Clients tell me that in a troubled banking environment, they really value the strong rating and good liquidity that an established bank like ours can offer them and our excellent reputation also helps us to attract and recruit the best people for our teams. This is well known in the UK and I want to build on this in Asia.

 

The Commercial Banking Asia team focuses on supporting businesses, particularly those with strong links to the UK, mirroring the priorities of the British Chamber for our members. Given the current economic uncertainties, this support will be critical this year. What recommendations would you make to business owners and leaders concerned about their future?

 

As you say, we are in a volatile environment, both economically and politically, and against that backdrop both banks and clients must focus on getting the basics right. I think it’s crucial that business owners and leaders focus on their core strengths as this offers strategic direction in times of uncertainty and also helps to avoid the tendency to try and be all things to all people which can result in greater costs and lack of cohesion. I’m seeing a lot of clients slimming down operations to focus on the essentials for their organisation which has to be a good thing. Simplifying a business can appear to lead to a lack of optionality to grow but I believe strongly that it means that one’s principal and core business is also protected in an environment with potential for increasing trade barriers. We have spent a lot of effort in simplifying our own organisation in recent years in order to make us more efficient, responsive and easier to do business with and I’ve seen the benefits of this first hand.   

 

You have held leadership positions in Asia for more than a decade. What advice would you give to leaders starting out on their journey in our region?

 

One of the biggest things I have learned from working in Asia is that it is a mistake to think of it as a homogenous region. Singapore is a prime example of the depth of diversity to be found here, with a vibrant mix of Chinese, Indian, Malay and Western people in one country. I believe anyone working in Asia needs to develop a strong sense of cultural awareness and learn to focus on building strong relationships with their counterparts in business. My experience with building teams in Asia is that colleagues expect a high degree of personal investment in their careers by their line managers which means that the really great managers inspire a huge amount of personal loyalty from their direct reports, to the extent of long-standing working relationships being built up which may encompass moves to different organisations by the same team.

 

I would also say don’t shy away from making an investment in the region now. The countries in Asia have large numbers of people with an ever-increasing consumer market. Although there may be volatility, I also see opportunity. The Indian economy is very strong and China will inevitably recover and be a big driver of growth. Endurance and long term sustainability is key in Asia – an organisation has to commit to the long term and not just try to dip in and out of the market here.

 

I’m also increasingly seeing Asian investment into Europe as well with examples such as Tata buying Jaguar Land Rover and Bright Food acquiring Weetabix. I’d recommend business leaders don’t just look at Asia as a market place for their products but also seek out Asia investors and partners with whom you can then work in your home market.

 

ABOUT LLOYDS BANKING GROUP

 

Lloyds Banking Group is a UK-focused retail and commercial bank with more than 30 million customers across the globe, including 1 million SME customers and 91% of the FTSE 100. The Group’s strategy is built on being the best bank for customers and colleagues alike, and creating value by investing where we can make a real difference for our clients. Acting as a gateway to expert Asia-UK financial services, teams of sector and product specialists deliver industry insight and experience alongside tailored solutions to suit our clients’ individual business needs. Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking has teams in Singapore, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris, New York and Houston.  For more information visit  https://commercialbanking.lloydsbank.com/international/asia/.

 

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