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Standard Chartered appoints new head of Google-inspired team in Hong Kong

Standard Chartered has appointed Benjamin Whiting as head of front-end engineering for the technology team that is building its new virtual bank in Hong Kong.

Whiting has joined from Lloyds Banking Group in London, where he worked for more than two years, latterly as technology lead, centre of excellence, digital platform evolution, according to his LinkedIn profile. In the six years prior to Lloyds, Whiting worked in several London-based iOS developer roles. He started his career as a programmer in New Zealand in 2002.

Whiting now has a lot on his plate because the digital bank is set to go live sometime next year. The exact timing is unclear, however, because the economic uncertainty caused by Hong Kong’s civil unrest has helped to push back launch dates for Stan Chart and the other seven operators who have secured licences to run virtual banks. Last month, Stan Chart’s chief financial officer Andy Halford mentioned mid-2020 as a potential period for virtual banks to begin going online.  

Standard Chartered has been hiring tech professionals into its virtual bank since August 2018. Earlier this year, for example, Andrew Farmer came on board as chief information officer, having previously been CIO of international financial services at Commonwealth Bank. Other senior recruits include Chris Ashe, who joined from Tandem Money as head of engineering. Like new recruit Whiting, Ashe was previously based in the UK. Stan Chart appears willing to relocate senior hires from more developed virtual-banking markets, because of the small local talent pool in Hong Kong’s nascent virtual-banking sector.

Stan Chart is developing the online-only bank in partnership with PCCW, HKT and Ctrip Finance, but Stan Chart holds the majority stake, so the bank’s jobs appear on its careers site. Almost 80% of Stan Chart’s Hong Kong-based technology vacancies are in the virtual bank.

At a senior level, the firm wants a head of back-end engineering, virtual banking, who will presumably work closely with Whiting and Ashe. If you land this role, you’ll be leading projects such as building web and mobile APIs, and you’ll be contributing to technical strategy and architecture. You’ll also be “interviewing, hiring and supporting new engineers”, an indication that Stan Chart’s virtual bank will be taking on technologists for months to come.

Whatever role you apply for, be aware that the digital bank’s technology stack is based predominantly on Kotlin, but its design “allows for using the most appropriate language” (Go, Scala or Rust) to solve problems. Stan Chart uses Kubernetes and Docker to run its services, employs Kafka for asynchronous message streaming, and uses GraphQL and REST for APIs.

One of Stan Chart’s main pitches to technology candidates is that its virtual bank is more like a tech firm than a financial institution. Stan Chart claims to be “applying learnings from Google, Twitter and Netflix” as it prepares the virtual bank for launch, according to its careers site.

Stan Chart is also promoting the allure of building a new bank “from scratch” using cloud native technologies. This has a ring of truth to it, say tech recruiters in Hong Kong, although they add that rival virtual banks (such as those led by Bank of China and Ant Financial Services) are similarly wooing tech professionals by offering them clean slates to build on, and freedom from clunky legacy systems.  

Image credit: mtcurado, Getty

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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