Business / Industries

China's big banks diversify as profits slow

By Jiang Xueqing (China Daily) Updated: 2016-04-05 07:56

China's big banks diversify as profits slow

An employee speaks to a customer at the Bank of China head office in Beijing.[Photo/Agencies]

Nation's largest State-owned lenders are also speeding up their global expansion

China's three largest commercial banks are stepping up business transformation as their profit growth hit a record low last year amid the economic slowdown and interest rate liberalization.

All three banks posted a slim growth in net profit attributable to shareholders of the parent company, ranging from 0.14 percent to 0.74 percent in 2015, compared with 5 to 8 percent a year earlier.

The slowdown in profit growth has forced them to accelerate reforms they began several years ago.

China Construction Bank Corp, the country's second-largest lender by assets, is trying hard to turn itself into a comprehensive banking group with non-banking subsidiaries.

CCB Pension Management Co Ltd was approved to open for business in November with registered capital of 2.3 billion yuan ($355 million). Eighty-five percent of its shares are held by the CCB and 15 percent by the National Council of Social Security Fund.

The businesses of CCB subsidiaries cover a wide range of areas including financial leasing, life insurance, trusts and housing savings. Next, the bank will expand its businesses to construction cost consulting, large infrastructure construction appraisal and property insurance.

According to its 2015 annual report, the CCB has kept deepening transformation to comprehensive operation. Last year, its subsidiaries posted a 41 percent increase of total assets year-on-year to 266.6 billion yuan and a 59 percent growth in net profit.

CCB also increased its reliance on non-interest business for greater profit. Wang Zuji, the bank's president, said last week the population of its private banking clients whose financial assets exceeded 10 million yuan rose 23 percent last year and their total financial assets rose 33 percent. During the same period, its asset custody business grew 67 percent to 7.17 trillion yuan.

These banks are also speeding up the expansion of their global layout in accordance with the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to promote infrastructure connectivity of Asia, Europe and Africa.

Chen Siqing, president of Bank of China Ltd, said on Wednesday: "We'll adapt to the trend of the internationalization of the yuan, strengthen our business and product innovation, and accelerate construction of the financial artery for the Belt and Road Initiative."

By the end of 2015, the BOC had established overseas institutions in 46 countries and regions, including 18 countries along the routes of the Belt and Road.

Last year, it lent $28.6 billion to projects in countries along the routes and its intentional support reached about $87 billion. Its cross-border yuan settlement was 5.39 trillion yuan and cross-border yuan clearing business amounted to 330.96 trillion yuan.

According to the bank's annual report, its overseas assets grew 54 percent between 2012 and 2015, accounting for 27 percent of its total assets. Its overseas pretax profit rose 5.05 percentage points, contributing 24 percent of the overall pretax profit.

Large commercial banks are making efforts to apply Internet technologies and the Internet-based business mindset to the development of financial services, products and business models.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd announced its upgraded strategies to develop e-ICBC in March 2015. Six months later, it launched an online financing center, using big-data analytics to grant loans to corporate and individual clients without collateral via the Internet. At the end of last year, outstanding loans of the center hit 523.5 billion yuan.

Jiang Jianqing, chairman of ICBC, said the bank is looking forward to enlarge the scope of inclusive finance by expanding the current client base of 190 million on its direct banking platform through the integration of its Internet and mobile banking platforms.

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