ICBC aims to grow yuan services in Singapore

Lender outlines 3-year plan to become preferred bank here for yuan products

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) has an ambitious three-year plan that it hopes will eventually make it Singapore's preferred bank for yuan products and services.

Its local general manager said last night that the Singapore branch has dealt with over 120 billion yuan (S$24.5 billion) worth of cross-border yuan settlements so far this year - more than the 90 billion yuan recorded in all of 2012.

"By the end of this year I think it should be around 140 billion yuan or more, and next year I hope it may be more than 200 billion yuan," noted Mr Zhang Wei Wu.

The bank has also been growing its retail banking business. Its two remittance centres in Orchard and Chinatown now provide full banking services.

It recently launched various consumer banking products, such as a dual-currency debit card, yuan personal secured loans and yuan time deposits. It has also begun allowing customers to trade foreign exchange and remit money online.

Yuan deposits at ICBC Singapore, which was appointed the yuan-clearing bank here earlier this year by China's central bank, have shot up from 4.7 billion yuan at Dec 31 to more than 11 billion yuan at Oct 31.

"Our strategy is to leverage our strengths in the renminbi business to grow the Singapore branch to be the preferred bank in (yuan) business in Singapore, that's our goal," added Mr Zhang, who was speaking before a dinner to commemorate the bank's 20th year of operations in Singapore.

The target is for yuan assets to make up 60 per cent of total assets next year, up from 45 per cent today, and then to grow that share further to 70 per cent in three years, he noted.

ICBC Singapore, which held 26 billion yuan in assets as at Oct 31, plans to help more local firms and multinational corporations with operations in China manage their cross-border business or to raise funds in yuan.

"We have a presence in 39 countries and regions, so we are not only a Chinese bank but also a global bank," Mr Zhang said.

"Take a Dutch multinational like Shell or DSM, for example. They have an Asia-Pacific centre in Singapore and also a lot of investments in China. ICBC has branches in Singapore, the Netherlands and China so we can work together with our overseas branches to deliver services to them."

ICBC Singapore hopes to expand its private banking segment and plans to launch yuan-related products for high net worth clients in the coming months, Mr Zhang added.

Its private banking business is targeting three groups of potential clients - Singaporeans with assets here and in China, wealthy South-east Asians looking to invest in China, and Chinese nationals who have investments in Singapore or who have moved here.

yasminey@sph.com.sg