SINGAPORE, 23 June 2008 – The majority of the foreign banks in China anticipate strong revenue growth over the next few years, with clusters of banks foreseeing 40% and 50% annual revenue growth rates. Nine of 42 foreign banks expect to double revenue growth in 2008, according to the annual PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) survey entitled “Foreign banks in China”.
This promising outlook for the banking industry in China is reflected in the commitment of the foreign banks’ parent companies to the Chinese market. In both the 2005 and 2007 reports, a high level of commitment was evident. This support seems even stronger in 2008 with a score of 8.64 recorded, on a scale of 1 to 10, regarding the commitment of the parent banks to the Chinese market.
Although most of the world’s top banks have a presence in China, foreign banks expect more to enter the market and few to depart. Survey results revealed that the number of foreign banks may reach 100 by 2011.
“The prospects and opportunities for foreign banks in China are positive, although they do face a number of challenges’” says Dominic Nixon, PwC Asia Financial Services Leader. “Over 80% of the respondents were confident that their market share would grow. The two most important reasons for this given by respondents were the banks’ product offerings and capabilities, and their global client relationships.”
Despite the prosperous market outlook and strong confidence, foreign banks continue to identify the regulatory environment and staff retention as the biggest challenges.
“The regulatory hurdle remains the most challenging and comprehensive barrier to success. However the scope and complexity of a plethora of new requirements may make this more an obstacle course than a hurdle,” Mr Nixon comments.
Unsurprisingly the people issue has increased in importance since 2005. As the foreign banks are expanding their branch networks and product offerings, the threat of movement from one bank to another increases. The banks are severely challenged in their ability to recruit and retain personnel. The three most difficult hiring positions are senior executives, compliance officers and wealth management officers. In the latter functions salary increases in 2008 are expected to be around 30%. In other areas, 15% to 20% is normal although much higher increases may also occur.
As China becomes increasingly integrated into the world economy, market volatility and the impact of a global economic downturn draw greater attention. Nonetheless, 38 out of 40 foreign banks surveyed anticipate profit levels in the next three years to be greater than those at present.
In terms of future strategic expansion, foreign banks continue to favour organic growth as the most desirable method of expansion.
“It’s interesting to note that partnering with a joint stock commercial bank became a less desirable option this year compared to the findings of 2005 and 2007; perhaps one of the reasons is that such opportunities have become less available,” continues Mr Nixon.
However, the majority of respondents also believe they will make acquisitions by 2011. Areas of interest mentioned included securities, insurance, wealth management, leasing and asset management.