Opportunities for Foreign Banks in China

Written by Kapronasia || October 24 2013

In a heavily regulated market like China, it’s easy to point out what can’t be done, but sometimes difficult to identify what can be. Many banks look at the market and see it as being too difficult or as you might say in Chinese ‘mafan’ or troublesome. It is easy to look at any industry in China being like this, but what’s critical in the market is to find a unique opportunity and take advantage of it. For western banks, that could be the slow but steady internationalization of the RMB.

According to the figures from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ ‘Chinese financial industry supervision report’, the official figures show the shadow banking industry reached an AUM at the end of 2012 of about CNY14.6tn, but other research shows that the actual market is much larger, about CNY20.5tn. The number is so large that it even takes 40% of GDP according to the numbers and 2013 is expected to be even higher.

The shadow banking system in China is not sufficiently regulated and often many of the products created are carry high risks which are not explained clearly to the investors. In general, a more regulated shadow banking system should be beneficial to the banks and investors in long-run. If the current issues were not solved effectively, then the dramatic volume increase could be a financial time bomb that might severely damage the Chinese economy and financial stability.   

Year 2012

Scale of Chinese shadow banking (CNYtn)

Proportion of GDP

Proportion of total asset of banking industry

Official data

14.6

29%

11%

Actual Market

20.5

40%

16%

 

Great Expectations – the Asian Retail banking Customer

Written by Kapronasia || October 16 2013

The Asian retail banking customer is changing. Increasingly wealthy and connected, customers want even more from their banks and are becoming picky about who they bank with to get it.

Strategy and Positioning of Supra-regional Banks

Written by Fay Zhou || October 15 2013

Although the Asian banking market presents a tremendous opportunity for banks, it is also increasingly competitive as smaller banks grow and innovate to compete against their large rivals. This competition, coupled with slowing growth in many countries is pushing large domestic banks to start looking abroad outside of their home countries. China’s Industrial Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia (BEA) and Singapore’s Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) are great examples of domestic heavyweights who are rapidly expanding across the region.

So the reasons for expanding are fairly clear, but what about the strategies? How are banks able to justify expansion, at least in the short-term? If we look historically, many of the Japanese banks that initially expanded overseas in the 1970s and 1980s for access to deals as their customers moved abroad; we’re seeing much of the same trend today.

Although the Chinese banks started expanding for access to new f/x markets, but are increasingly following their Chinese customers as those firms also expand to ‘escape’ domestic competition and slowing demand in their home markets.

Facing almost the opposite problem, Taiwanese banks have been eager to enter the mainland China market for nearly a decade as their domestic market is relatively small and very saturated. Yet, similarly to Chinese banks, Taiwanese banks are looking to first enter the market to support their domestic customers who are represented by some of the largest manufacturers in the world like Foxcon, makers of most of the world’s iphones.

So following existing customers into new markets seems to be a good strategy to enter a new market, but what about positioning and expanding once you get there? That is actually where the challenge lies and where both supra-regional banks and global banks often struggle. How do you differentiate? How do you position your product?

Using China as an example, regulations on banking products and services for foreign banks are pretty controlled which doesn’t leave much scope to compete or innovate in terms of product scope or breadth, but where we have seen banks be more successful is looking at different underserved markets like rural banking.

BEA and HSBC in particular have been working with the government and regulators to follow the ‘go west’ policy and tap those new markets. Although the jury is still out on whether the strategy will be successful, it has helped the banks better their relationships with key stakeholders like the regulators and has positioned the two banks differently in the market.

How about you? What have you seen work in Asia? What are banks doing to successfully compete outside their home country?

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

Hidden Risks in Mobile Banking: how are you overcoming them?

Written by Zennon Kapron || October 11 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.

Risk Issues for Expanding Supra-regional Banks in Asia

Written by Fay Zhou || October 09 2013

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.

Self Service Innovation in Asia: Little changes, big impact

Written by Zennon Kapron || October 07 2013

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.

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.

HSBC stumbles again with SMEs in China

Written by Kapronasia || September 17 2013

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.

China’s Growth in Foreign Exchange Reserves

Written by Kapronasia || August 28 2013

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.

China: Moving Towards Interest Rate Liberalization

Written by Fay Zhou || August 15 2013

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 

 

 

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.

Private banking in China finally taking hold

Written by Kapronasia || July 18 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

As part of Kapronasia's continuing webinar series, our next webinar on July 10th will be looking at Operational Risk Management in China's banking system. Given the events of recent weeks, risk management is once again key consideration for Chinese banks. To register for the webinar, please click here. 

With the liquidity crunch increasing in June and the interbank rate jumping to new highs, many state-owned banks are attempting to use the increased average wealth management product (WMP) yield to ease the tightened liquidity. Based on data from JRJ, the average monthly WMP yields in major state-owned banks increased in June compared to May based on the monthly average yields of the top 10 WMP in the bank. The average yields increased from 3.84% to 4.38% in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), 4.16% to 4.57% in the Bank of China (BOC), 3.77% to 4.11% in the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), and 3.58% to 4.44% in China Construction Bank (CCB).

Chart showing monthly average wealth management product yield in china's state owned banks 

 

 

 

 

A look at the increase in the Shanghai Interbank rate

Written by Kapronasia || June 21 2013

We mentioned earlier this week that there had been a sharp uptick in the Shanghai Interbank rate in the past month. This peaked last night at about 13%. With the attention, rightly so, that this is getting, it's worth taking a look at the issue and what's involved. 

According to data released by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the interbank lending rate (weighted average interest rate) increased from 2.55% in April 2013 to 2.92% in May which will affect banking liquidity requirements. The interbank lending rate decreased from 2.77% to 2.47% in March, and it started to increase in April and May. The interbank lending rate in May is 0.42% higher year on year. The total interbank lending turnover was 21.85 trillion yuan, and the daily turnover reached 993 billion yuan.

 

 

 

 

China's Bank card issuance continues to increase

Written by Kapronasia || May 28 2013

Based on data released from the PBOC, bank card issuance in Q1 has increased 4.5% compared to 2012 Q4 to reach a total of 3.69 billion cards issued. Within the issued 3.69 billion cards, the total number of debit cards issued was 3.65 billion and total credit card issuance reached to 0.34 billion. From Q1 2012, the issued bank cards have had a steady growing trend which indicates that bank cards have becoming more and more Important as a payment method in China. Domestically, 10.6 billion bank card transactions happened in Q1 2013, and the total transaction value was 100.27 trillion yuan which increased 23.9% and 19.3% compared to Q1 2012.

 

Chinese Bankcard issuance

According to the annual reports released by city commercial banks, a lot of city commercial banks’ net profit growth rates in 2012 have shown a slowing down trend compared to 2011. For example, in 2011, both net profit growth rates of Hankou Bank and Bank of Chengdu were close to 50%, however, both of them shown a dramatic decrease as the end of 2012. Also, the net profit growth of the two listed city commercial banks - Bank of Nanjing and Bank of Ningbo, are showing a significant decline in 2012.

Lower net profit is putting a lot of pressure to Chinese commercial banks in 2013, and the figures implies that city commercial banks have to seek for new business and products to reboot high profit in 2013.

 

 

As the end of 2012, the total number of Chinese online banking registered users reached about 489 million. More specifically, according to the data released from Cebnet, CCB’s online banking customers increased to 119.26 million, jumping by 41% from 2011 to 2012. The number of BOC’s online banking customers has reached to 91.42 million, with a year-on-year growth rate of 66%.

Because of the dramatic increase in the number of online banking users, banks such as ICBC and CCB have launched more innovative personal banking services such as social insurance and wealth management services.

Number of Online banking users in China 

 

 

According to the CBRC, China’s commercial banks announced a total net profit of 1.24 trillion RMB in 2012, with the total net profit of the 16 listed banks comprising 1.03 trillion of that total. Among these 16 listed banks, the five major banks ICBC, ABC, BOC, CCB, and BOCom earned 239, 145, 139, 194, and 58 billion RMB respectively in 2012. China Merchants Bank (CMB) made 45.3 billion RMB net profit in 2012, topping other joint-stock banks. Bank of Beijing, as the leading city commercial bank in China, earned 11.7 billion RMB net profit last year. However, the overall net profit growth rate of China’s commercial banks has declined compared to 2011 apparently due to the process of interest marketization which has deceased interest based revenue recently. 

Chinese Banks Net Profit 2013

 

 

 

 

 

NPLs in Chinese Banks Trending upwards again

Written by Kapronasia || April 27 2013

According to the China Securities Journal, the quality of credit assets is again appearing as an issue for Chinese banks. The latest annual report shows that the non-performing loan (NPL) balance and non-performing loan (NPL) ratio both increased in 2012, a sharp move from the “double decreasing” in both NPL balance and NPL ratio in the previous years.

The total NPL balance in the 11 listed banks was ¥385.38 billion in 2012 with a YOY growth rate of 8.1% compared to ¥356.6 billion in 2011. China Construction Bank believes the upward trend in NPL is due to the macroeconomic fluctuations in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and real estate.

According to CCW Research, a local Chinese IT market research company, China’s financial industry IT software spend in 2012 grew to 49 billion RMB and the spending will keep a steady growth in 2013. Banking segment spend is a key driver, making up about 72% of total spend. Comprehensive risk management and big data are the main IT focus areas for banks.

As securities companies continuously launch new business, CCW estimates that IT spending on new business-related solutions in the securities sub-segment will increase considerably in future. 

For insurance companies, the overall IT infrastructure is still very nascent. Large players will invest more money into the development and update of core systems.

So we’ve just come out of the October holiday here in China and are headed in the final frantic few months before Chinese New Year. The difference this year is the early November once in a decade leadership transition where nearly every Chinese leader and politician will be replaced and/or shifted around in China’s Communist Party. It was never in doubt that the transition would happen towards the end of this year, but it was only in the last few weeks that it became clear it would happen in early November.

This is an important transition for the government and only the second peaceful transition of power in recent China’s recent history. The transition is even more important because of the critical social and economic challenges that the country is facing right now. A slow/stagnant world economy and increased but still limited domestic consumption is limiting China’s economy as a whole which is exacerbating the internal challenges it is facing – one of the most critical being the increasing delta between the haves and have nots. If you have been reading international media recently, we’re starting to see more and more of this discrepancy being uncovered and it does nothing to help the government in the eyes of the people.

More specifically to the financial industry however, the transition means increased change. We’ve seen this already this year especially in the capital markets as the new chief regulators have done quite a bit to open the capital markets this year with increased rumours that regulation on the RFQLP programme should be announced shortly, adding yet another channel for off-shore RMB to come back into China’s mainland markets.

The shift in policy is also indicative of China’s increased awareness of money leaving China. With reports of both wealthy individuals and corporations legally and illegally sending money abroad, the issue which used to be too much hot money coming in, is now too much hot money going out. To a certain extent, this is a bit of a blessing in disguise for China as it will allow regulators to further open the market without risking the hot money inflows – which was viewed as a challenge in the past.

With the party congress set for November of this year, we’re unlikely to see too much more change until after Chinese New Year (Feb 2013). What we should be able to quickly determine though is how open the new leaders are to change and modernization of all industries, not just the financial services industry. As we’ve discussed on our blog before, this will largely depend on how quickly the new leaders can consolidate their power to be able to effect change and in which direction they decide to go.

Regardless, 2013 will be a new watershed for China’s financial services industry. Stay tuned early next year for our 2013 top financial technology trends report to see how we see things changing.

Mobile Banking in China continues to grow

Written by Kapronasia || September 13 2012

According to the latest semiannual reports issued by China’s commercial banks, e-banking continues to grow in importance as a part of banks’ business. For most of banks, e-banking channels has already contributed to over 60% of total transaction volume with the 5 large commercial banks’ total e-banking transactions showing a 35% growth rate year on year. Benefiting from the advancement of IT and the proliferation of smart mobile phone in China, mobile banking has become increasingly convenient for users and important for banks. 

In order to meet the strong demand for mobile banking, banks continue to update their mobile banking applications and launch new functions to enhance the user experience. For instance, Agricultural Bank released its new iPhone-enabled mobile banking app which not only supports banking transactions but also integrates online shopping. Bank of China launched the first Windows-enabled mobile banking application recently. We expect that in the future banks will offer more value-added services on their mobile banking products through innovations and ensure safe and reliable systems.

China’s banking IT spend will continue to grow strongly

Written by Kapronasia || August 23 2012

In 2013, China will take over Japan as the biggest consumer of IT products in Asia. According to IDC, China's total IT market size in 2012 is projected to reach 155 billion US dollars, with 20% growth rate YOY, and in 2013, this number will reach 170 billion dollars, 4% more than that of Japan. During China's Five Year Plan period (from 2011 to 2015), companies must invest more in their IT infrastructure to meet the demands of stable growth and innovations.

In the banking industry,  total IT spending (software and services) in 2011 exceeded 15 billion US dollars, with a 19% growth rate compared to 2010, and, according to IDC, China's banking IT spending will keep a 20% CAGR (Compound Average Growth Rate), hitting 39 billion dollars in 2016. We expect that the new generation of core banking systems, risk control, big data analysis and mobile payment will be the main driving forces behind the IT spend.  

The Banking on China report is now available on the Kapronasia website in the research reports section. The report from Oracle and Kapronasia looks at the key challenges and opportunities for international banks in China and is based on numerous interviews with both larger and smaller banks in China. The complimentary report is available for download after you have logged into your Kapronasia.com user account. If you do not have an account, register today for free. 

Recently Taiwan's Financial Supervisory Commission, the main financial regulator, said it had approved applications submitted by Bank of China and Bank of Communications to establish branches in Taipei. The banks will only be allowed to engage in limited business in the country, e.g. can only accept deposits higher than NT$3 million (US$100,350), only provide corporate loans. Further, the banks will need to receive approval from Taiwan's central bank if they wish to engage in f/x.

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