StanChart to focus on high-end to boost China retail business

Date:2011-11-15litingting  Text Size:

 (Reuters) - Standard Chartered Plc (2888.HK)(STAN.L) wants to boost its consumer business in China, focusing on wealthy individuals, and hopes to see further opening of the market to foreign banks, its China head said on Monday.

Lim Cheng Teck, chief executive of the Asia-focused bank's China unit, said he hoped to expand the retail portion of its business to roughly match its wholesale operation. Currently, consumer banking makes up about 30 percent of its business in China.

"That would give me the ability to ride out volatility in any sector," Lim said at the Reuters China Investment Summit held at the Reuters office in Shanghai.

But he said such a balance would not come overnight.

"Consumer banking is a relatively young business ... we are still investing in building networks, building the sale force so it's very much an investment phase right now," he said.

About 40 foreign banks have set up locally incorporated units in China, which allows them to carry out yuan-related business, since 2007 when the first batch of banks were approved.

However their growth has been slow, making up only about 2 percent of the current total market share, partly because of reluctance among Chinese consumers to bank with a foreign name but also because of the tight regulatory environment.

"If you look at the whole spectrum of consumer banking activity, China has liberalized a lot since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, but there are still some areas that could be opened up," Lim said.

He pointed to some areas of wholesale banking as another example of where StanChart was hoping the government would continue to open up further to foreign participation.

The London-headquartered bank, which makes more than 80 percent of its earnings in Asia and other emerging markets, posted a 16 percent rise in revenue in China in the first half of the year.

It operates 19 branches in China. Citigroup Inc (C.N) has 13 branches, while HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L)(0005.HK) runs 24.


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