London has the edge as renminbi hub

Updated: 2014-06-21 09:19

By Mike Rees (China Daily)

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Top bankers and policymakers who met in London earlier this week at the UK-China Financial Forum are highly likely to have reflected on how far the city had come as a main offshore trading hub for the renminbi, supporting a rapidly growing number of British and other European companies trading with China.

The offshore renminbi market has grown dramatically since China began to internationalize its currency in earnest in 2009, prompting a race among financial centers around the world to become renminbi trading hubs.

London is the world's largest hub after Hong Kong for renminbi trade and comfortably ahead of Singapore, Taipei and New York. We believe it is set to grow even stronger in the next few years.

London's rapid rise as a renminbi hub is all the more impressive, given that up to this point the United Kingdom has not had a domestic renminbi clearing bank and is not China's biggest trading partner in Europe. Instead, it is London's world-class financial infrastructure and relative size in the European time zone that is giving London the edge, allowing it to serve the fast-growing band of European multinationals that are now using the renminbi to do business with China.

Soon, London could also become a vital renminbi hub for companies in Africa and the Middle East. With trade between emerging markets growing rapidly, these companies are becoming increasingly important trading partners for China, and London is in a good position to capture a large share of their renminbi transactions.

London is doing particularly well in cross-border payments, according to the latest SWIFT data. The renminbi payments processed in London are now roughly 30 percent of Hong Kong's, and 1.5 times those of Singapore. Much of this is being driven by a growing appetite for the renminbi among European enterprises.

Our most recent survey of close to 130 offshore enterprises across Asia, Europe and the US shows that European companies are the most active participants in the offshore renminbi market alongside companies from Hong Kong. Three-quarters of the European companies we surveyed are now using at least one offshore renminbi product, such as foreign exchange, loans or bonds.

European companies have long been at the forefront of using the renminbi for trade settlement and new cross-border renminbi liquidity management tools. Their size and ability to centralize treasury operations in large centers position them well to benefit from the globalization of the renminbi.

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