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Cash is always king and no more so than in China. Traditionally a very cash-based market with many High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) skeptical of having someone else manage their money, wealth management got off to a slow start in China. It started with the establishment of few foreign private banking such as Citi Bank, UBS, and HSBC in China in 2006. In 2007, Bank of China was the first Chinese bank that established a private banking department in Beijing and Shanghai.

Business was slow initially for both foreign and domestic banks. Trust was a key factor – many HNWIs were not comfortable with someone else managing their money, much less a foreign bank, but the sophistication of services offered was also very low. Even today, the private banking business mainly provides consulting services for asset allocation and very little forward planning. Most banks push particular products rather than tailored financial plans that take into account not just a person or family’s financial situation, but their future life events.

Although wealth management is still in a nascent stage, the HNWI population in China has increased dramatically, reaching 700,000 by the end of 2012. In addition, the total AUM in Chinese private banks was 573.6 billion yuan in 2008, but is over 2 trillion yuan today. With this growing trend, we see the huge potential in the wealth management sector in the near future.

China’s large banks also see this opportunity and are focusing more and more on wealth management. The wealth management business does not only bring significant intermediate business income, but also provides an opportunity for organisations to re-structure their retail banking business. This has become especially important as it appears that regulators are finally going to reform interest rates. More flexible interest rates will mean that banks will face increased competition and be able to rely less and less on traditional spread income – this is where higher margin wealth management products and services can help.

Nevertheless, Chinese banks still need a long time to build trust with their customers. In western countries, many private banks already have more than a hundred years of history. Will Chinese banks accomplish the same in less than 90 years?   

 

Total Customers

Customer Growth Rate

AUM (Billion RMB)

Minimum Amount (Million RMB)

BOC

40000+

-

450

8

ABC

35000

12.90%

396

8

ICBC

26000+

18.18%

473.2

8

CCB

-

18.82%

-

10

CMB

19518

18.34%

434.2

10

Source: Bank Annual Reports, 2013 

According to a user survey on mobile banking security conducted by the CFCA (Communications Fraud Control Association), users’ assessment of how safe mobile banking is has really not changed since 2010. But are the users’ security concerns valid or do they arise from a lack of understanding of how mobile banking works? Perhaps even more so than mobile payments, mobile banking seems to provoke more worries as it seems more closely attached to their banking accounts; no one wants to the risk before they understand how it works.

There is some validity to the concerns. Although mobile banking accounts and nearly all  phones have passwords, they still cannot stop professional fraudsters. According to the Internet Security Report by Symantec, attacks on mobile phones have been increasing in recent years. Mobile hackers are possibly targeting users’ financial and personal information. With increased use of mobile financial services, banks will need to devote more effort in in eliminating these threats and customer concerns.

This is even more the case in Asia where mobile phone penetration is increasing faster than anywhere else in the world and millions of individuals are becoming ‘banked’ via mobile banking services. Although the region has pockets of very sophisticated and mature user bases, there are millions of rural users who may never have had a phone before much less mobile banking products and services.

In a fraud example that we found in China, one mobile banking user in China found 40,000 RMB (~US$6,700) missing from her bank account. An investigation with the bank revealed that someone used her phone number to report a lost mobile phone. After receiving her phone number, the fraudster transferred all of her deposits out of her account by using her mobile banking service.

Unfortunately these few examples of fraud stand out much more in the press and in consumers minds more than many examples of successful transactions. We have seen financial institutions put education programs in place as well as implementing new more secure versions of their mobile banking software.

But what have you seen? What ways have you seen Asian banks mitigate risk and security concerns and still drive consumer adoption?

This blog is part of the Oracle / Kapronasia series on Future Finance. For more information, please visit the Future Finance blog at here.

China’s banking system was historically quite segregated: each of the original four state owned banks were created for a specific purpose. China Construction Bank was created to administer and distribute government funds for domestic infrastructure and construction projects, Agricultural Bank for farming / agriculture projects, etc..

The challenges these banks face as they expand both geographically and by business sector across China is not unlike supra-regional banks as they expand across Asia. One of the biggest challenges is Risk Management. Typically, existing risk management systems in many markets have been built and customized for their home markets, but may not be robust enough for foreign markets.

As an example, Chinese banks have, until recently, been operating in an environment with essentially fixed interest rates, so many of the risk management systems implemented in China never really had to adapt to a rate changing environment. These systems that had been customized for the mainland market might struggle in a more mature market such as Australia where a fully liberalized interest rate environment makes understanding loan profitability (in some cases even down to the individual loan level) very important.

In addition to the market risk that can be presented by newly liberalized interest rates, credit risk can be a challenge as banks may not be familiar with the operating status and financial standing of the enterprises in other countries. This makes it difficult to understand and manage credit risk effectively and increases the possibility of losses arising from credit risk.

Finally, as banks expand more rapidly, operational risk can increase if operational procedures and standards maybe involved if the rapid expansion leads to ineffective internal control. Differences in employee attitude and habits across culture can vary dramatically.  

All of these risk management issues can be identified and controlled, but it takes focus and consideration. Too often organisations look at new markets they fail to take this into account, but in this case, it could mean the success of a new country’s business or the failure.

This blog is part of the Oracle / Kapronasia series on Future Finance. For more information, please visit the Future Finance blog at here.

A look at the key players and relationships in China’s mobile payments space

China’s expanding mobile payment market

By the end of 2012, there were more than 1.1 billion mobile phone users, and 360 million smartphone users in China representing both strong mobile phone penetration as well as a significant increase in smartphone penetration. With smartphones in the hands of more Chinese consumers, the mobile payment industry in China is nearing its watershed moment – as consumers increasingly use their mobile phones not only as communication devices, but payment tools.

Many countries in Asia have been traditionally cash and brick focused: customers have been used to holding and using physical cash and visiting the brick and mortar branches. That’s changing rapidly as competitive pressures and demands from an increasingly sophisticated customer base are driving banks to create a new normal in both business model and customer interaction. A key part of that transformation will come from self-service innovation, yet self-service means different things in different countries.

In Japan, regular bank ATMs actually have limited hours of service both during the week and on the weekends. Historically this has been down to increased costs in terms of security / safety of both the machines and people and less demand from customers outside of normal business hours, especially in rural areas.

A certain subset of Japanese customers however, have, over the years, increasingly looked for “Anytime, anywhere” banking services. In early 2007, Japanese Seven bank brought ATMs into Japanese 7-Eleven convenience stores; the integration was made easier by the fact that 7-Eleven stores and Seven Bank itself are both owned by Ito Yokado. Japan actually has the largest absolute number of 7-Eleven stores in the world so now customers can withdraw money any time of day or night with their debit and credit card in more than 18,000 ATMs installed in 7-Eleven stores in Japan.

These ATMs also process remittances from Japan to other countries allowing Seven bank’s customers to send money nearly anywhere in the world, at any time of the day. It provides a convenient cash service for their customers and also satisfies their remittance needs, which means a more satisfied customer and bank.

ATMs in China have never had challenges of hours as most of them, unless they run out of cash, run 24/7 in nearly all locations. What has changed is the functionality. 10 years ago if you wanted to transfer money from one person to another, you faced a potentially hour plus wait at your local bank branch and many times had to transact in cash unless you wanted to go through the paper work.

Today you can use a Chinese ATM to directly pay anyone who has an account with that bank. Further, even if you don’t know their account number, you can even input their mobile phone number if it is associated with the account.

Although many of the changes in self-service aren’t major, they are tailored to the local customers and what might be an issue in one geography might not be in another. They can also result in increased revenue, such as the surcharge on out of hours transactions at the 7-Elevens in Japan, and decreased costs, such as fewer branch visits in China’s case, but they aren’t one size fits all.

Many financial institutions have come to Asia with this ‘one size fits all’ mentality and really struggled to gain market share and drive business. Not having the right mix can result in decreased revenue and incredible costs from poor strategies, but can also alienate customers which gives the bank a different problem: not how to move customers to self-service, but even how to have customers in the first place.

This blog is part of the Oracle / Kapronasia series on Future Finance. For more information, please visit the Future Finance blog at here.

According to the figures from the Securities Association of China, the assets under management and revenue earned by Chinese securities companies asset management businesses has grown dramatically from the 1h 2011 to the 1h 2013. The total AUM in the 1h 2013 is about 13.75 times of the figure in the 1h 2011, which reflects the thriving of client asset management business of securities companies in China.

One reason for that for the dramatic expansion is the demand from clients. As China has a growing number of high-net-worth individuals and the investment options are relatively narrow compared to western countries, asset management business provided by local securities companies are thought to be a good choice. Market analysts estimated that the figures will keep growing exponentially for the following few years; at least the current market is far below saturation. 

 

Client asset management business of Chinese securities companies CNYbn

 

1h 2011

2h 2011

1h 2012

2h 2012

1h 2013

Revenue earned by securities companies

0.898

1.215

1.044

1.632

2.88

Total AUM

248.673

281.868

480.207

1890

3420

 

Source: Securities Association of China, 2011-2013

In our previous commentary, we looked at the future of Bitcoin in China and its potential to become a widely adopted and used virtual currency. One aspect of its development which will be critical if the fledgling currency is to really gain traction is the maturation of Bitcoin as a transaction platform.

The growth of the property and housing market is a key part of Chinese economic growth, but at the same time, there is increasing worries of a major bubble.

The US Federal Reserve (Fed) announcement that it will continue the program of quantitative easing (QE) boosted the Asian stock market, but many now worry that this is only a temporary fix.

In February 2013, China became the second largest active Bitcoin market globally as measured by wallet downloads. This has attracted new Bitcoin based businesses to China and what could be a massive market for the developing virtual currency. An example is Bitfash, which was launched in April 2013 and became the first online shopping platform for clothes to accept Bitcoin as payment; one of its key target markets is China. However, will Bitcoin really take off in China? Can the Chinese consumer shift the value of the virtual currency as they did with gold earlier in 2013? What will the government eventually inevitably do to control the currency? It could be a potentially huge market, but will largely depend on its payment function development, the attitude of the Chinese government and the stability of Bitcoin's value.

In another of what is appearing to be a series of missteps for the HK bank in mainland China, the organisation has further alienated a key segment of their Chinese customer base by tripling basic account fees for mainland China SMEs. This comes on the heels of moving away from individual account managers and shifting any customer service for SMEs to automated help lines in 2011.

As China moves along its path of financial reform, starting with the interest rate reform and the Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in Shanghai, it is not hard to see equity investors moving towards Shanghai-based firms and FTZ-related firms.

According to the latest figure from the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SHSE) the trading volume of ETFs in SHSE increased dramatically from the beginning of 2012 to August 2013. It is quite obvious from the data that 2013 is far larger than the figure in 2012. The lowest point from this period is April 2012, when the ETF trading volume was only CNY16.232bn; The peak was in June, 2013, with a trading volume of CNY68.712bn, which is over 4 times compared to the figure at the bottom in 2012. Besides, the aggregate trading volume for the previous 8 months is CNY449.687bn, which is far larger than the whole year figure of 2012 of CNY302.658bn. As ETFs are very important components in investors’ portfolio, we estimate that there will be more ETFs launched and the trading volume could be larger as we close out 2013 and move into 2014.

 

September 13 2013

Asset securitization in China

Written by

China initiated its asset securitization program in 2005 for securities companies. However, after the subprime mortgage crisis swept over the globe, regulators in China temporarily stopped the program because although it provides liquidity to markets, securitization also comes with significant risks. In 2012, the asset securitization program was initiated once again with permission from the state council and the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC). Regulations were changed to allow for more types of asset securitization and the threshold for securities companies to enter was lowered. The following report provides a summary regarding the participants, regulations and current conditions within China’s asset securitization markets.

According to the latest figures from the CSRC, the number of securities investment funds for A-share market increased from 1,173 at the end of 2012 to 1,369 by the end of July, 2013. The structure of investors in Shanghai's A-share market has long been an interesting phenomenon for Chinese A-share market as individual investors comprise the major market force, which is thought to be a sign of a immature capital market. Currently, as the number of institutional investors is growing fast, it indicates to some extent that Chinese capital market is gradually developing towards the direction of a mature capital market, at least from the investor structure perspective.

 

Increasing number of institutional investors in Shanghai A-share market

Over the last few decades, the Chinese Central Bank has accumulated massive foreign exchange reserves making it the world’s largest holder at $3.44 trillion. Furthermore the expansion of these reserves, which has accelerated dramatically since 2000, has shown no signs of slowing. Figure one shows foreign reserve levels in China compared with Japan, the world’s second largest holder, along with the United States. Figure two shows the trajectory of China’s foreign reserve levels over the last three decades, which is now over 300 times larger than in 1980.

According to a 2013 publication by Goldman Sachs, there are still major differences between US and Chinese capital markets. The most prominent difference is that capital markets in the US are much larger than China’s in all sectors except for bank credit as shown in the figure below.

The Chinese banking credit sector has expanded in recent years which is now at 128% of China’s GDP compared with 48% in the US. Thus the Chinese economy is highly dependent on bank credit, which can be dangerous for the country in the coming years.

In other sectors, there are large gaps between the size of Chinese and US capital markets with the former still lagging behind the latter. Thus, there are many opportunities for China to develop its stock and fixed income markets, along with its insurance and asset management industries. Among these, the asset management industry seems to have the greatest growth potential.

 

China Capital Market differences 

 

 

On August 6, 2013, Chinese securities companies received ‘the notice of preparing the initiating stock options full simulating trading works’ sent by the Shanghai Stock Exchange. This information implies that SHSE is already fully prepared for the launching of stock options. Although there is no clear timetable for launching the stock options, it is likely that they will appear in Chinese capital markets in 2013 or 2014.

China’s Central Bank has been rapidly shifting towards full interest rate liberalization. On July 20th, 2013, The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) announced liberalizing the loan interest rate. With this announcement, the deposit interest rate ceiling is the last variable waiting to be liberalized in China.

With interest rates liberalization now on the horizon, competition in deposit interest rates is heating up. Many joint-stock banks have recently increased their long term deposit interest rates about 10%. Everbright Bank increased its 2-year term deposit interest rate from 3.75% to 4.125%, 3-year term deposit interest rate from 4.25% to 4.675%, and 5-year term deposit interest rate from 4.75% to 5.125%. It will be effective until the end of 2013. Since 2012, many city commercial banks have increased their deposit interest rate. We can see the interest rate liberalization trend, and it is currently affecting China’s banking sector from local banks to joint-stock banks, and maybe state-owned banks in the near future.

Increased Bank Deposit Rates in China 

 

 

Throughout the history of capital markets in China, public listings, or IPOs in the Chinese A-share market have been suspended 8 times; we are currently in the 8th suspension period. The modern Chinese stock market is only about 23 years old and of that, IPOs have been suspended for nearly four and a half years, which makes up almost 20% of the market's history. There is still no actual timetable to reopen the IPO market, but according to some market information, it could be possible at some time in August or September, 2013.

China is already the second largest economy in the world, however, RMB has really not been fully accepted as a payment currency internationally, which most view as a prerequisite to 'RMB internationalization'.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the fundraising of PE funds in Asia continued to drop in the first half of 2013. Compared to the US and European markets, the amount of funds that Asian private equity funds raised was the smallest among the three regions, while the percentage decline is the largest. The slowing Chinese economy is thought to be one of the biggest reasons for the decline in fundraising figures as well as the IPO suspension in China; only US$16 billion in public listings were completed in the first half of 2013. 

Private Equity Fund Raising

 

On 4 July, 2013, The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) announced that the state council of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had approved the Treasury bond futures’ return to trading, specifically on the China Financial Futures Exchange (CFFE). Currently, the T-bond futures are under the final preparation stage and it will take approximately two months for this preparation period before they officially are released and start trading. So the most likely time for T-bond futures to be released is in early September.

In respond to Chinese national policy, Chinese banks have been actively advancing and cooperating with small and micro-enterprises in the lending business. The total small and micro-enterprise loan balance keeps climbing, and the proportion of small and micro-enterprise loan to total corporate loan remains on a stable level. Recently, the small and micro-enterprise loan balance reached to 12.25 trillion Yuan, and 28.6% of corporate loan belongs to small and micro-enterprises. The increase in small and micro-enterprise loan not only effectively relieves the constraint of funding issues for the companies, but also promotes the transformation of small and micro enterprises in China.

A look at how small and micro enterprise lending is growing.

As seen from the chart below, the trading volume of Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges since August, 2011, the trading volume has fluctuated in a relatively low level, compared to the previous few years’ performance. We see this being a result of retail investors' lost confidence in a stock market that hasn't performed well recently, or at least not to the same levels as a few years ago. 

This may be very temporary however as a number of the recent Chinese economic announcements and regulatory changes will likely have impact on the country as a whole and more specifically in the financial sector.

Watch this space. 

The latest figures showed that in the first 6 months of 2013, the amount of FDI in China increased to US$61.98bn, a 4.9% increase compared to the first 6 months in 2012. Although the future of Chinese economy is under the threat of slower GDP growth, the figure illustrates that foreign investors are still interested in China as an investment destination. 

FDI into China increased markedly in 1H 2013The latest figure showed that in the first 6 month, 2013, the amount of FDI in China increased to $61.98bn, a 4.9% increase compared to the first 6 months in 2012. . Although the future of Chinese economy is under the treat of slower down GDP growth rate, the figure illustrated that the foreign investors’ passion of investing in China remained at a high level in the first half of 2013.

Considered one of the best retail banks in China, China Merchant Bank (CMB) has started their private banking business in 2007. At the end of 2012, CMB's pre-tax profit from their private banking business reached 2.3 billion yuan. Other major banks in China have similarly increased their wealth management profit since 2010, when growth of the market really accelerated.

ICBC and BOC still have the largest private banking AUM among the top 5 while CMB has the most private banking centers to serve its HNWI customers. The high net worth customer segment (over 10M RMB in investable assets) is growing at 18% growth rate and reached to 700,000 by the end of 2012. It seems that banks have finally cracked the code and wealth management is set to grow in China. 

Potential of private banking

On July 6th, People’s Bank of China (PBOC) issued 27 third party payment licenses to 27 companies bringing the total of 3rd party payment licenses up to 250. What catches our attention this time is the internet giants Baidu and Sina have both obtained licenses and will focus on online payment and mobile payment as their business scope and likely planning to leverage their huge existing user base.

According to SWIFT (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), the Chinese Yuan (or RMB)'s share of global payments hit a new record high of 0.84% in May 2013, after the total value of yuan payment around the world increased sharply by 24% last month, compared with the average growth rate of 1.9% across other currencies. SWIFT also pointed out that China yuan is still the 13th most-used currency in the international trade. The growing demand for RMB settlement will continue to increase the use of yuan in future.

Increase in RMB usage for trade settlement 

 

 

 

 

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