Bank regulator issues reform guidelines

By Zhang Lu (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-07 06:56

China's banking regulator issued guidelines Wednesday to encourage financial innovation by commercial lenders, such as increasing earnings made from fees and giving out less risky loans.

The guidelines will take effect next Monday, the day China will fully open its banking sector to foreign lenders in line with its commitment to the World Trade Organization.

According to Tang Shuangning, vice-chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), China's banking industry urgently needs to speed up its financial reform to deal with rising competition after fully opening.

"Chinese commercial banks lag far behind their international counterparts in terms of financial innovation," Tang said.

He said non-interest income generally accounts for more than 50 per cent of the total income of big international banks. But the highest rate for Chinese commercial banks from fees is less than 30 per cent and most of banks earn less than 10 per cent.

He said the guidelines are the first such document concerning financial innovation issued by the banking regulator, signalling a new stage of reform.

According to the guidelines, the CBRC will set up a sound legal environment to encourage financial innovation. The regulator will further streamline approval procedures and strengthen supervision to facilitate financial innovation.

The guidelines also emphasize the importance of risk control. They require commercial banks have a good knowledge of their businesses, risks, clients and competitors.

In addition, the guidelines clarify commercial banks' obligations to consumers, such as correct disclosure of information, professional services, protection of assets, and offering effective complaint channels.

Despite this need for reform, Tang said, commercial banks in China have made progress in financial innovation.

The CBRC's statistics show the trading volume of major commercial banks reached 14 trillion yuan (US$1.77 trillion) last year.

Nearly 30 Chinese banks offer renminbi wealth management services, with a total value of 130 billion yuan (US$16.46 billion).

A total of 17 foreign and Chinese banks have been approved to invest clients' assets overseas under the qualified domestic institutional investor (QDII) programme. So far, they have launched nine QDII products, with sales of 2.3 billion yuan (US$291 million) in renminbi and US$87 million in US dollars.

But more financial innovations need to be made, Tang said.

In addition to financial reform, commercial banks are being asked to engage in public education, informing investors that they should be responsible for their own purchasing decisions.

At yesterday's press conference Tang also said the Bank of Communications and China Construction Bank have applied to establish insurance companies.

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