China Merchants' Party chief resigns, set to retire

Updated: 2013-05-09 06:02

By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Ma Weihua, head of Shenzhen-listed China Merchants Bank Co Ltd, resigned as its Party chief on Wednesday, while remaining as president of the bank.

Ma, 64, has headed China Merchants since 1999, during which time it has seen rapid growth in net profit and significant expansion in its retail banking operations.

He is being succeeded as Party chief by Tian Huiyu, the head of China Construction Bank's Beijing branch and director of retail banking, a joint position he has held since 2011.

Ma's resignation was anticipated and is widely seen as a prelude to his retirement from the banking industry, which has a normal retirement age of 60.

China Merchants' Party chief resigns, set to retire

A statement issued by the bank on Wednesday said Cai Esheng, vice-president of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, announced Ma's resignation in Shenzhen.

Analysts are speculating that Ma will resign as president at the bank's shareholders' meeting, scheduled on May 31 in accordance with Chinese corporate culture.

It is a tradition in Chinese enterprises that those who hold the leading position in a business are the Party chief as well.

"So Ma's stepping down from the Party position is a signal he is likely to be leaving soon," said Lu Huayu, a human resource analyst in Shanghai.

Guo Xiang, an analyst with Shanghai Shenhao Investment Co Ltd, said Ma's major contribution to China Merchants Bank was transforming it into a retail-focused lender that excels in non-interest income.

Since 2009, the bank has doubled the retail business' share of profits, and by the end of 2012, the division contributed more than 30 percent of net income.

In its Beijing branch, that figure is up to 50 percent, and the lender has more than 53.83 million retail accounts.

Banking industry insiders said that Ma has brought innovative ideas to China Merchants Bank and the entire banking sector in China.

"It is widely recognized that China Merchants Bank is a good example of how banks can survive and excel with non-interest income," said Zhou Lin, a wealth manager with a Shanghai-based commercial bank.

China Merchants Bank realized net profit of 45.3 billion yuan ($7.37 billion) in 2012, a 25.31 percent year-on-year increase, according to the lender's 2012 financial report.