Chinese banks flourish in US to help their customers

Updated: 2014-07-15 06:55

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA)

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Like sunflowers always chasing the sun, Chinese banks are entering the United States to meet financial needs of their customers, many of them are Chinese enterprises with ambitious globalization operations and plans.

Ma Weihua, chairman of the Hong Kong-based Wing Lung Bank, which has been a subsidiary of China Merchants Bank (CMB) since 2008, announced the opening of Wing Lung's San Francisco branch on July 8.

Chinese banks flourish in US to help their customers

In 1984, Wing Lung set up a branch in Los Angeles. The 81-year-old bank is expected to play an important role for its parent company in developing global business and serving existing big Chinese accounts, said Ma.

The banking industry is in the service category and should be highly customer-centric, said Ma. "As more and more Chinese enterprises now go global and start embracing challenges and opportunities brought by their globalization move, we banks have to integrate into the international financial market and provide services necessary and appropriate," Ma said.

Calling Chinese banks' overseas presence and operation an "irresistible" trend, Ma is optimistic about Wing Lung and CMB's potential in the US market.

China is the US' second-largest trading partner and the third-largest export destination. In 2013, total import and export trade volume between China and the US was around $560 billion. Direct investment by Chinese enterprises in the US rose sharply to $14 billion last year and the number surpassed $8 billion in the first quarter of this year, according to statistics from the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco.

San Francisco and the Bay Area are globally recognized as centers of technology and innovation. As the a financial center on the West Coast, San Francisco is vibrant and vigorous, with vast market potential and the most condensed Chinese-American population in North America, said Yuan Nansheng, Chinese consul general in San Francisco. "Besides, California is the first US state that has signed a trade-development agreement on the province-state level," Yuan said.

"To date, we have more than 150 Chinese enterprises that have reported to my consulate and operated on the West Coast," said Yuan. "I would expect a continuous growth in both quantity and quality of Chinese direct investment in the US."

"I applauded the correct, important strategic decision Wing Lung has made to establish its San Francisco Branch," he continued. "The time is just right."

It's not a rare experience for Californians to encounter banks with names engraved in Chinese characters when walking through the financial district in San Francisco's downtown.

In November, 2011, China's fifth-largest bank by assets, Bank of Communications (BOCOM) opened its second US branch in San Francisco, two decades after the first one in New York. At the opening ceremony that year, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee called the new branch a "game-changing addition" to the city's financial services sector. He said it "affirms that San Francisco is the premier gateway for trade" with China.

BOCOM is focused on commercial banking, mainly serving Chinese enterprises that do business on the West Coast, said the then executive vice-president Dicky Yip. "Opening accounts, trade and financing, trans-border settlement - we do everything," Yip said.

In July 2012, the largest lender by market value in the world, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), completed its purchase of an 80-percent stake of the Bank of East Asia (BEA), the first time a Chinese financial institution has taken a controlling interest in a US bank.

With this acquisition, ICBC was licensed to conduct retail banking in the US and expand its business networking all over the country. ICBC will further localize its operations and strengthen cooperation with US counterparts to better serve clients and China-US economic and trade activities, said the ICBC Chairman Jiang Jianqing.

Vowing to adapt their services to customer's demand, Ma also emphasized the importance of serving US enterprises and individuals. "Wing Lung is capable of providing consulting service and trade solutions for the US companies which want to do business in China," said Ma, adding that his bank will act like a window to China and a bridge linking the world's two largest economies.

 

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