An acquisition agreement between China Construction Bank Corporation and Bank of America Corporation in August 2006 made Bank of America (Asia) a wholly owned subsidiary of China Construction Bank. Four months later, the bank was renamed China Construction Bank (Asia) Corporation Limited. In the past year, in spite of a heavy transition-related workload and intense market competition, the bank has consolidated its role as a solid Hong Kong banking institution that continues to grow.
"With our new parent company's widespread network in China, prominent market presence and extensive client list, the associates of China Construction Bank (Asia) are ready to serve an anticipated broader market. We aim to equip ourselves with additional skills, from knowledge about cross-border banking to language skills," says Sandra Lau, first vice president and manager, sales & services, China Construction Bank (Asia) Corporation Limited.
China Construction Bank is a leader in corporate and consumer banking in China with an unparalleled treasury operation. It ranked fourth on the "2006 Asian Banks Competitiveness Ranking" jointly announced by the 21st Century Business Herald, the Faculty of Business Administration of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, in November 2006. China Construction Bank also won the "Most Responsible Corporate Citizen in China 2006" award in an event hosted by China News Weekly and the Red Cross Society of China, and was recently named "Best Domestic Bank in China 2006" by Assets Magazine. In 2006, China Construction Bank was the first of the big four commercial banks in China to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
China's rapidly growing banking industry continues to generate competition within Hong Kong's banking and finance arena. As a result, key players are looking to further penetrate the mainland market by aligning their strengths with those of their mainland counterparts.
"As a wholly owned subsidiary of China Construction Bank, we can now combine the strengths of our Hong Kong platform, gain better access to existing resources and further develop our infrastructure to get a stronger foothold in both Hong Kong and the mainland," says Willa Wong, the bank's vice president of planning, marketing & communications.
|Willa Wong, vice president
planning, marketing & communications
Photo: courtesy of China Construction Bank
"Our local operation comprises a well-established business model with a strong workforce consisting of banking professionals and a highly competent sales team," Ms Lau says. "The link with our parent company in China is a definite business advantage."
Since the acquisition, the bank has repositioned itself to cater for the needs of a wider customer segment, particularly in wealth management.
As the bank's mass-market presence grows, the earlier focus on building long-term customer relationships is paying off. "Every member of our sales force worked on developing relationships and looking after customers' needs for more sophisticated products and services," Ms Lau says. "This has helped us maintain our reputation in the long run."
In terms of its product portfolio, the bank is now better geared to offering cross-border products as part of its wealth management solutions. One such product is a dual-currency debit card that allows cardholders to manage their assets and enjoy a handling-fee waiver for cash withdrawals via the national ATM network of the bank's parent company in mainland China.
Ms Lau points out that the bank adopts a practical approach when sourcing and offering products and services to its clients. "Adhering to customers' wishes and market demand, we anticipate and develop products that will meet our clients' financial needs," she says.
Today, China Construction Bank's corporate client portfolio includes 99 of the 100 largest China-based enterprises. "Hong Kong business clients are confident that our China network can help them further their businesses on the mainland," Ms Wong notes.
With the aim of expanding its branch network in Hong Kong and Macau, the bank has drawn up aggressive expansion plans and recruitment activities are in the pipeline. "We plan to open about four new branches per year over the next three years," Ms Wong says.
In terms of recruitment, the bank's China background also helps. "Our brand certainly is an attraction," Ms Lau says. "Candidates are confident about their career development with us, so we are able to recruit high-performers with top qualifications, industry expertise as well as the essential sensitivities to offer market insight to our clients."
A comparatively new brand in Hong Kong, but with the easy-to-remember stock code "939" of its parent company, the bank continues to make branding exercises a key part of it business-expansion process. "Here in Hong Kong we are an expanding business, with confidence in both our own operation and banking as an industry," Ms Wong concludes.