Westpac to exit ops in China, some other Asian markets

BENGALURU • Australia's Westpac Banking said yesterday that it will exit operations in China and some other Asian markets to focus on its core domestic and New Zealand businesses, following a review of its international operations.

The country's second-largest lender said it will exit operations in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai and Jakarta, and consolidate its international operations into branches in Singapore, London and New York.

The moves are expected to impact between 150 and 200 staff, mostly based in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and will take up to 24 months to complete, a person familiar with the bank's plans told Reuters.

Singapore is home to Westpac's regional headquarters, at Asia Square Tower 2. The office provides customised banking services for institutional customers in the region, including international trade services, foreign exchange, debt market solutions, transaction banking, structured finance and commodities trading.

Asked if it is hiring more staff in Singapore, the bank told The Straits Times that transition plans are still being finalised.

"We will review future resourcing according to customer demand and needs," it said.

It added that all regional customer support and services will be transitioned to the Singapore office.

Westpac Institutional Bank acting chief executive Curt Zuber said in a statement: "Westpac's priority is to focus on its core Australian and New Zealand customers and to support them in areas where we have scale and capability."

Westpac said the changes announced yesterday will not affect its cash earnings and will help improve capital efficiency, including by reducing its risk-weighted assets by over A$5 billion (S$4.9 billion).

The move comes at a time when the bank has been hit by steep costs from a money-laundering scandal and a surge in charges for bad loan provisions due to the coronavirus pandemic, prompting a review of its underperforming wealth, pension investments and insurance units earlier this year.

REUTERS

• Additional reporting by Prisca Ang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2020, with the headline 'Westpac to exit ops in China, some other Asian markets'. Print Edition | Subscribe