Business / Markets

FTZ branch to help Westpac expansion

By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-05 08:00

Australia's Westpac Banking Corp has opened a sub-branch in China (Shanghai) Piloted Free Trade Zone to target opportunities brought about by China's ongoing financial market liberalization, increased global use of the renminbi, and the recently signed China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

The FTZ branch will be an extension of the bank's service offerings in China across trade finance, commodity finance, debt, capital markets, derivatives and foreign exchange, complementing the lender's main branches in Shanghai and Beijing, said Rob Whitfield, chief executive of Westpac Institutional Bank.

Since the FTZ was launched in September 2013, more than 40 lenders, including 20 foreign ones, have opened a branch or sub-branch within the zone offering services to facilitate trade between China and the rest of the world.

Whitfield said that the Chinese government has made it clear that its ultimate goal is to become a high-income economy by 2030 with Shanghai as a first-tier international financial center, and that his company has been committed to China since the early stages of that journey.

Bala Swaminathan, Westpac International's general manager, said that invoicing and settling trades in renminbi provides significant benefits as direct conversion creates savings on both sides, with reduced foreign exchange risk and the potential to negotiate discounts and better settlement terms.

Less than 5 percent of international trade settled via Westpac International were completed using the renminbi two years ago, but that has now jumped to some 35 percent, according to the lender's data.

"We anticipate the volume of trade and financial activities denominated in renminbi will continue to build with many of the activities taking place in both the Shanghai FTZ and Sydney," said Swaminathan.

International currency transactions involving the Australian dollar and the renminbi grew 248 percent in the year to February 2014, according to data from the SWIFT renminbi tracker.

Australia and China deepened their ties last month with a landmark free-trade deal, which reinforced the strategic value of the Shanghai FTZ, Swaminathan said.

Raymond Wang, general manager of the lender's new FTZ branch and its head of renminbi capability development, said its major clients are likely to include companies trading in commodities, agricultural products and crude oil.

Wang said that in future as financial markets open up, the lender may also help China's individual investors manage their wealth by diversifying their range of investment products.

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