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Money Moves


This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

New focus on Renminbi services

By Priscilla Chong

Henry Sin, assistant general manager, Agricultural Bank of China Hong Kong Branch
Photo: Michael Leong

Many overseas banks and insurance giants are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the opportunities that will come with the liberalisation of the mainland's financial markets. What they occasionally overlook in their ambitious plans for expansion is the firmly established presence of China's own institutions which are sure to provide stiff competition in every business sector.

For example, Agricultural Bank of China, which has the country's most extensive branch network, already claims more than 100 million personal customers and over 50 million corporate clients. Known as one of the four largest state-owned commercial banks in China, their Hong Kong operating arm now provides structural and cross-border products for overseas enterprises looking to make inward investments, as well as for mainland corporations planning to diversify internationally.

"There are many changes taking place in the industries and markets that our clients engage in," says Henry Sin, assistant general manager, Agricultural Bank of China, Hong Kong Branch. "These can relate to the economic, legal or regulatory environment." The bank classifies its products as credit and loan services, treasury products, cross-border products and trade finance. Depending on client needs, individual packages combining specific product features can be tailor-made for them. "We provide clients with the best advice and services to cope with any changes, and to facilitate their business development," Mr Sin adds.

The Hong Kong operation specialises in wholesale banking. As regulations are amended or updated, the ways to satisfy needs of corporate clients keep evolving, meaning that new products have to be introduced. "For example, regulatory changes a few years ago made it possible to offer Renminbi cash management products," explains Mr Sin. "Therefore, our Bank put significant resources into developing an efficient pan-China electronic platform for such services."

This process of development applies not only to new products, but also to improving the general competence of staff. "In the past, bankers might come from different fields, but now a more professional approach is required," Mr Sin says. This entails in-depth credit and product knowledge, the ability to identify clients' needs, and the versatility to design workable and cost-effective solutions within different legal frameworks. When recruiting, the Bank looks for these qualities plus initiative, leadership skills and the right attitude.

Mr Sin is optimistic about the banking and finance industry in Hong Kong. "The underpinning reason is that there is a well-established legal system to support this sector, which is crucial," he says. He also points out that there are plenty of talents in the field to overcome any challenges and execute suitable solutions for clients. With China's economic development set to fuel demand for more sophisticated and international banking services, the market will also be favourable for the introduction of new products. "We believe that by extending the existing offshore Renminbi market in Hong Kong, lending will be complementary to the on-going liberalisation of the domestic Renminbi market," Mr Sin predicts. "It may just be a matter of time. ”


Taken from Career Times 18 March 2005, p. 2

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