“Version 2.0” of China’s plan to open the financial sector to foreign investors was reinforced during the weekend when a senior regulator said market access thresholds for banks and insurance companies would be lowered or abolished.
Speaking on March 23, Wang Zhaoxing, vice-chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said some rules, including certain “quantitative” requirements on the scale, years of operation and share proportions of foreign financial institutions will be eased.
The move is aimed at persuading more professional overseas banks and insurance companies to enter the Chinese market.
“We are studying withdrawing or lowering these restrictions,” Wang told the audience at the China Development Forum 2019, a large event that has been held by the think tank of the State Council, China’s Cabinet, for 20 consecutive years.
Wang said the regulator will allow foreign companies to provide more diversified financial products and services in the onshore market, taking advantage of their capabilities in terms of risk control and high-standard compliance.
Executives of foreign financial institutions expect the “second stage” of China’s financial opening-up to progress at a faster pace than previous developments and feature more market-oriented competition.
“We hope progress will continue and the Chinese market can keep opening so our bank can provide more business here,” said Bill Winters, CEO of Standard Chartered Group, who expected to see more unified competition rules.
Further opening-up of the financial sector seeks to channel more foreign capital to support economic growth amid trade tensions and weaker domestic investment. Last year, Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, announced a package of financial opening measures.
During the past year, the Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission has launched 15 specific policies to open the market further.
The measures include allowing foreign-funded banks to conduct operations such as underwriting government bonds, and lifting foreign ownership limits on banks and financial asset management firms.
In his address on March 23, Wang stressed that during the extended opening-up procedure, regulators will work to prevent systemic risks by strengthening the prevention of financial risks and building financial regulatory capacity compatible with the greater openness of the financial sector.
Ng Keng Hooi, president and CEO of AIA Group, said: “We are looking forward to the next stage of China’s opening-up in the financial sector. As a foreign insurance company, we can bring in new ideas to facilitate the development of the domestic insurance industry.”
On March 22, Bank of Beijing and ING Group, a banking and financial services corporation in the Netherlands, announced that they plan to establish a joint venture bank, becoming the first commercial lender in China controlled by a foreign shareholder.
On Jan 28, the PBOC announced that it had approved an application from S&P Global to establish a wholly owned subsidiary in Beijing called S&P Ratings (China).
Meanwhile, the National Association of Financial Market Institutional Investors also released a public notice confirming it had approved the registration of S&P Ratings (China) to conduct a bond credit ratings business in the interbank bond market, signaling the entry of the first foreign credit ratings agency into the domestic market.