Tlotlo Nkwe – From International Graduate to Trade Finance Expert

Tlotlo Nkwe (“T.K.”) joined the Bank in Botswana on our International Graduate (IG) programme. Here he talks about his journey within the Bank, his experience moving to New York City, and the adventurous side of business travel. 


Take us right back to the beginning of your Standard Chartered career. 
 joined the Bank in Botswana in 2011 as an International Graduate. At the time, I was practicing law in Botswana, which isn’t quite as glamourous as Boston Legal, and it felt like the opposite direction to what I wanted to go in.  I wanted to meet different people, experience different cultures, and work on something on a global scale. That led me to the idea of moving into international banking, and during my research, I landed on the careers page for Standard Chartered Bank. I decided to give it a shot. 

So did you just find the website and think this feels like the kind of organisation I want to work for?
Yes. Botswana is a small country, so it was very easy for me to find alumni to speak to. Looking at Standard Chartered through the lens of the programme, it just felt like something I should be a part of. 


Were you initially based in Botswana?
Yes, the first part of the programme was based entirely in Botswana. I had various rotations in the business, such as in transaction banking, then I spent some time in support functions - legal, compliance, and operations.  

What was your next step after the grad programme finished?
The programme gives you access to different offices around the globe. Shortly after it, I received an offer from the New York office, which ultimately led to my move to the U.S. 

Was it in an area you’d experienced as part of your rotation or was it something brand new?
I did have experience of it in Botswana, but on a much smaller scale. It’s challenging to match somewhere like New York when it comes to the complexity and volume of the transactions. 

Are you still in the same area now?
I’d like to consider myself a trade finance expert now. I’m currently sitting in a more expanded role responsible for global trade finance solutions for our consumer healthcare and retail clients.  

What was it like moving to NY and experiencing Standard Chartered in a completely different setting?
It was a sensory overload! I was hungry to explore the world and be a part of something bigger. I think that hunger perhaps overshadowed the realistic expectations of moving from Gaborone, a city of about 200,000 people, to working in a metro like New York.  

I remember looking for apartments and learning that most of them don’t come with any furniture, which is very different from how rentals work in Botswana. And the cost of everything. People talk about how London and NY are expensive, but as a young professional, I was like, ‘what is going on here?!’  

From a work perspective, I was suddenly taking calls from clients at brand names that I’d only ever seen on TV. It was a thrill, but it also made me realise what kind of financial and economic market I’d placed myself in. It’s a whole different world and very exciting.  


How did you cope with such a huge personal and cultural transition?
My team was incredible. They were patient and understanding and went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable and settling in. In hindsight, I don’t think I would have survived the first few months if it wasn’t for their help.  

You’ve been at Standard Chartered for a long time since the IG programme. What makes it different?
The culture is professional and competitive, but it’s also amicable and inclusive. People are genuinely interested in who you are beyond your job title. I think that’s what makes it a great place to work. 

What’s been your most memorable experience working at SC?
It has to be flying to Sri Lanka for a graduate alumni reunion trip. As the plane was landing, I remember straining over to see what was out there, and it was just palm trees. It was like landing in a rain forest! It was so exciting to see lots of old faces in a place that I knew nothing about. It’s great that work can make you feel like you’re on an adventure. 

Interested in joining us?

If you're looking for a career with purpose and want to work for a bank making a difference, we'd love to hear from you.