Shanghai’s century-old landmark, the Bund, is facing competition from a cluster of skyscrapers across the city’s Huangpu River known as the Lujiazui Finance Zone.
With the establishment of the Bund Waterfront Financial and High-end Services Industry Innovation and Development Zone, Huangpu district is hoping to revive the financial energy that turned Shanghai from an obscure fishing town into a world famous metropolis early in the 1920s.
“The most important focus (of the zone) will be financial services, including asset management, capital operation, and professional financial services,” said Chao Kejian, deputy director of Huangpu district on May 31.
“And we have already got off to a good start with Nomura Holdings Inc setting up the office of its securities joint venture in our zone,” Chao said.
According to new regulations issued by the China Securities Regulatory Commission late in April, foreign firms are permitted to own a majority stake in their Chinese joint ventures. The move is seen as China’s latest effort to further open up its financial sector.
Japan’s largest brokerage and investment bank, Nomura Holdings Inc, together with UBS and JP Morgan, became the first overseas brokers to apply to increase ownership stakes or set up holding firms in the country in May.
“The support given by the district and the (Shanghai) municipal government and the speed of application processing reveal an unprecedented depth of opening-up within the financial sector,” said Cai Yiqing, executive director of Nomura Securities Co Ltd’s Shanghai office.
The zone, stretching along the Huangpu River for 8.3 kilometers, is already home to a number of financial institutions including the Shanghai Clearing House, the Shanghai Gold Exchange and the head offices of some Chinese and foreign banks.
In 2017, Huangpu district’s GDP surpassed 200 billion yuan ($31 billion), 95 percent of which came from the services industry－with finance, professional services such as law and accounting, and trade being the three pillar sectors.
Chao noted that a support fund with an initial financing amount of 1 billion yuan will be set up to attract more foreign firms in different industries to locate their offices in the district. Foreign experts working in the district could also enjoy benefits such as simplified visa applications, residential settlements and favorable schooling opportunities for their children.
“The historical buildings along the Bund were first built to house banks and financial institutions, which also made the Bund a virtual recorder of China’s early finance history. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up, the zone is going to help Shanghai become a more globally competitive financial center,” Chao said.