Jeremy Warner's Oulook: Sands peerless among bankers – for now

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The Independent Online

Please give it up for P-e-e-e-ter Sands, the utterly brilliant chief executive of Standard Chartered ... Yay. No, I'm not kidding. Mervyn Davies, the chairman, really did invite analysts at yesterday's results presentation to give Mr Sands a round of applause for what, by comparison with other banks' reporting figures this week, were outstanding numbers.

In many respects, it was well deserved. If you met him in the street, you wouldn't think Mr Sands was a banker at all. Intellectual and understated in manner, he's often quite casually dressed (he wears a Swatch rather the banker's timepiece of preference, a Rolex). Yet he's plainly highly effective. While everyone else is reporting figures devastated by the credit crunch, Mr Sands yesterday unveiled a 31 per cent jump in first-half profits.

But don't think it's all down to clever risk management. Standard Chartered may be a London-based bank, but three-quarters of its profits come from Asia, where it has been riding the emerging markets boom.

Mr Sands expects this growth to moderate from here on in, but to remain well ahead of almost everywhere else. "The Bank is in great shape," he insists, and well positioned to exploit opportunities. Great stuff, yet in banking it is always unwise to crow. It's entirely plausible that Asia will be the next shoe to drop in the unfolding crisis. If so, it will be brickbats rather than applause that greets him next time.

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