Retail Banking in China: Opportunities and Strategies

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20 January 2009


The retail banking business is playing an increasingly important role in China’s banking sector. In 2007, retail banking income increased by 46.9 percent, reaching $84 billion US dollars and accounting for 33% of banks’ revenue and 27% of their profits.

The rapid increase of per capita income and investment channels, continuous improvement of the payment system, relaxation of regulations regarding separate operations, and other factors all contributed to retail banking’s growth in China. In 2007, interest remained the main revenue driver for the retail banking business, accounting for 74.5% of income and having an annual growth rate of 29.6%. Comparatively, fee-based business accounted for only 25.5%, with an annual growth rate of 138%.

According to a new Celent report, Retail Banking in China, deposit and lending business trends will include: the RMB deposit-taking business maintaining a 10% growth rate; foreign currency deposits dropping; the proportion of demand deposits continuing to grow; mortgages experiencing slow growth; and credit card loans having rapid growth, reaching US$200 billion in 2010 to become the second largest loan business after mortgages.

The fee-based businesses with the highest revenue in 2007 include the agency business, bank cards, financial management, and payments. Banks may adopt the following approaches to develop the agency business: develop online banking; make full use of the branches; and expand in both region and scope. The bank card business is growing quickly but has a low yield. Banks need to focus on price, service, market segmentation, and promotion to increase credit card usage and customer spending.

"Banks should take the following strategies into account with respect to the financing businesses: highlighting and stressing brand; taking full advantage of branches, allowing commissioned sales by other banks or developing online channels if the bank doesn’t have enough branches; enhancing wealth management products; and developing telephone banking and online banking, as well as developing employees," says Hua Zhang, Celent analyst and author of the report.