SINGAPORE - United Overseas Bank is beefing up its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Advisory Unit to service a growing volume of Japanese flow into South-east Asia.
A dedicated team of three, including FDI Advisory Unit head Sam Cheong, will be advising Japanese firms that are keen to invest in this region.
Japan was the biggest source of FDI inflow into South-east Asia from 2012 to 2014, and the volume last year reached US$19.9 billion (S$27.3 billion). Around one-third of it came to Singapore.
"While large Japanese companies have traditionally been one of South-east Asia's largest investors, over the past few months, we have been seeing increasing interest from small and medium Japanese enterprises," Mr Cheong said.
For UOB, which has a banking branch in Tokyo and received the approval just last year to offer its FDI advisory services in Japan, the deposit flow from its Japanese clients in the first quarter this year already exceeded 80 per cent of the total volume last year.
UOB has also partnered with Japan Finance Corporation, a public agency supporting Japanese companies to expand overseas.
Launched in 2011, the FDI Advisory Unit is viewed by the management as a key growth driver, and chief executive Wee Ee Cheong's plan, who once called the unit the "crown jewell" of UOB's business due to the strong intra-regional trade and investment flow.
This will however be a long term story. For the moment, the local banks are finding it difficult to grow earnings as the regional slowdown has hurt demand for loans while market volatility has further impaired income.