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Major overseas banks look to expand in China

Jiang Xueqing
Updated: Sep 19,2017 7:24 AM     China Daily

A Citibank outlet in Shanghai. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Foreign banks are looking at new opportunities to expand their businesses in China.

Major global lenders see growth areas in the Belt and Road Initiative, the country’s interbank bond market and trading in the renminbi.

Last month, the State Council stressed it would continue plans to open up the banking, securities and insurance sectors to overseas investors.

“The policy reforms are encouraging,” said Christine Lam, chief executive officer of Citi China, which is part of multinational Citigroup Inc, the parent company of Citibank.

“They will support foreign banks’ further engagement, and participation in the opening and development of China’s financial industry,” she added.

Citi aims to be a key player in China with its “innovation” policies as regulations in the sector are rolled back.

“The bank is committed to innovation and the reform of China’s financial markets,” Lam said. “China remains one of Citi’s most important countries worldwide, and we are optimistic about renminbi internationalization and other opportunities arising from opening up the market,” she added.

Citi aims to expand cross-border renminbi settlement and promote the currency to corporate clients, as well as strengthen its operations for institutional investors in China’s bond market.

The Belt and Road Initiative is another key area for the global lender.

“With long-standing relationships with clients and regulators in the economies related to the Belt and Road Initiative, Citi is in an excellent position to be the partner of choice,” Lam said.

Other foreign banks are also looking at opportunities in B&R economies.

Standard Chartered Plc has branches in 46 economies related to the initiative and has made it a strategic focus.

The London-based banking group has also increased its investment in the Chinese market, which includes a thriving renminbi business.

“Foreign banks including StanChart are greatly encouraged by the recent launch of policies by China to further open its financial markets,” said Jerry Zhang, executive vice-chairman and chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank (China) Ltd.

“We’ll take advantage of these policies, grasp the opportunities brought by China’s (decision to) open up, and draw on our strengths in cross-border financial services and global networks,” she added.

Opening up China’s financial sector “has a very deep meaning with rich connotation”, Zhang pointed out.

This was reflected by promoting the renminbi on international markets, financial support for the Belt and Road Initiative, and opening up the domestic interbank bond sector.

“International financial institutions like StanChart can make the most of our advantages in global networks and specific fields of finance,” she said.

“(We can) coordinate with our Chinese counterparts, regional development banks and multilateral development banks, and play a unique role in the above mentioned business areas,” Zhang added.

StanChart was among the first batch of banks to join China’s Cross-Border Interbank Payment System, which offers clearing and settlement services in renminbi trading.

Up to 64 foreign banks have signed up for the CIPS.

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