Chinese banks urged to widen offerings

Updated: 2006-12-07 09:30

People walk past advertisements of foreign banks in a Shanghai street in this September 24, 2006 photo. China will open the banking sector to foreign banks from December 11, 2006. [newsphoto]

China's commercial banks are urged to widen financial product offerings, while increasing lending risk control, in order to compete with a new wave of competition from foreign banks.

In line with its WTO accession agreement, Beijing will fully open its banking sector to foreign competition on December 11, 2006, five years after China became a full member of the World Trade Organization.

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The China Banking Regulatory Commission, Beijing's top banking regulator, issued guidelines yesterday to encourage innovation by commercial lenders, including increasing fee-based earnings and issuing less risky loans. '

Tang Shuangning, vice-chairman of the commission, said that Chinese banks lag far behind their international counterparts in terms of financial innovation. Beijing has implemented courageous reforms to restructure its banking industry by encouraging foreign banking corporations to take holdings in Chinese lenders, and moved to list them at overseas stock markets, mainly in Hong Kong, many in the central government are worrying about domestic banks' performance after December 11.

Foreign banking giants like Citigroup and HSBC are expected to compete strongly for high-income clients in the developed coastal provinces when they are allowed to offer a full range of local currency products in the coming months. And, Chinese banks are generally scant of expertise in risk management, credit cards and consumer banking.

Tang said non-interest income accounts for more than 50 percent of the total income of big international banks, however, Chinese banks typically earn less than 10 per cent of their income from fees.

Tang asked domestic banks to increase financial product offerings. As Chinese cities have seen their income grow, many now have increasingly diversified financial needs.

In addition, the The China Banking Regulatory Commission urged banks to clarify commercial banks' obligations to consumers, including correct disclosure of information, professional services, protection of assets, and offering effective complaint channels.

The CBRC's statistics show the trading volume of major commercial banks reached 14 trillion yuan (US$1.77 trillion) in 2005. Up to 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) program. So far, they have launched nine QDII products, with sales of 2.3 billion yuan (US$291 million) in renminbi and US$87 million.

Tang disclosed yesterday that the Bank of Communications and China Construction Bank, both listed at the Hong Kong stock exchange, have applied to set up insurance companies.

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