Euromoney Market Leaders: Asia’s banks prove their mettle in testing times
Euromoney Market Leaders, an accreditation programme launched in 2022, provides a comprehensive and dynamic ranking of banking and finance names across a wide variety of sectors. In this round of rankings, the team sets its sights on institutions from China, Indonesia and Malaysia.
China’s Covid-19 crisis is about to preoccupy bank boardrooms for the fourth year in a row.
Confusion over whether president Xi Jinping is easing up on pandemic lockdowns or doubling down is sure to dominate market trajectories from Jakarta to New York in 2023.
It’s not just China, of course. In the US, the Federal Reserve is carrying out its most aggressive tightening cycle since the 1990s. One needs to go back to the early 1980s to find a worse period for global inflation. Uncertainty about where Russia takes its Ukraine invasion – a major cause of surging commodities prices – next is anyone’s guess.
But the 2022 Euromoney Market Leaders rankings detect a common disruption dynamic in the region that could help key economies to raise their game.
Case in point: how a digital arms race among banks, non-financial institutions and governments is upending economic models for the better across countries.
China’s challenges are well understood. The country’s draconian zero-Covid policy has sparked the biggest protests since Tiananmen Square in 1989 and has led to the slowest growth in 30 years. That has banks across Asia grappling with the worst market turmoil since 2008 – if not since the Asian financial crisis of 1997.
This is most evident in Indonesia, southeast Asia’s biggest economy, and neighbouring Malaysia.
Yet Indonesia is beating Japan, Singapore and South Korea in the race to generate unicorn startups, with a bias to the fintech space. Entrepreneurs are introducing unprecedented innovation and automation to customer-facing services, lending and borrowing, money transfers and payments, financial education, and investment and wealth management.
Indonesian success stories – for example, payments platforms Doku, Ovo and Xendit, digital wallet Dana, investment app Ajaib and the foray of Jack Ma-backed e-commerce major Bukalapak.com into fintech – is turning heads.
The even better news is that the Euromoney Market Leaders rankings team found strong evidence that many legacy banks throughout Asia are responding in ways that boost their profits, market share, productivity and competitiveness.
This year’s market leaders in digital solutions in Indonesia include Bank Mandiri and Bank Central Asia. The ranks of highly regarded banks point to clear progress in digitalization but with room for greater innovation. They include Bank Rakyat Indonesia, Bank Tabungan Negara, Maybank Indonesia and Bank Danamon Indonesia.
In conversations with Jakarta-based executives, for example, Euromoney Market Leaders researchers found particular emphasis on using tech tools to realign practices, service offerings and products for a post-Covid era, because the pandemic had forever altered the ways in which customers interact with banks. Indications are that banks are rising to the challenge.
Take Malaysia, where political gridlock often means that it is the banks leading the charge to build a more vibrant, transparent and competitive economy.
This year’s Euromoney Market Leaders top rankings for digital solutions went to Hong Leong Bank, followed by highly regarded banks CIMB, HSBC and Maybank. The top digital priorities include recruiting the best talent, staying at the cutting edge in the use of artificial intelligence to predict customers’ needs, financial education and improving cybersecurity.
China’s digitalization boom offers intriguing counter-programming to the recession fears that are dominating world markets. The Euromoney Market Leaders team finds mobile apps, big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other transformative technologies upending China’s banking scene as much as anywhere, if not more.
Market Leader honours go to China Merchants Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. They’re followed by a large and growing class of highly regarded names, both local and international: Agriculture Bank of China; Bank of China; Bank of Communications; China Construction Bank; Citi; HSBC; and Ping An Bank.
Gaining attention, too, in the digital space are banks in the notable category: China Everbright Bank; China Guangfa Bank; Industrial Bank; and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.
Also intriguing is what the Euromoney Market Leaders rankings say about where mainland CEOs are focussing attention in the year ahead.
Banks are thinking more about the fairness of digitalization, and ensuring that the growing ranks of the elderly aren’t left behind. And there’s more focus on harnessing digitalization to accelerate green development.
Indeed, this year’s Euromoney Market Leaders rankings flagged a significant ramping up of efforts to adopt environmental, social and governance principles. In China, ESG market leaders include Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, China Merchants Bank, HSBC, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
The highly regarded lot in ESG include Bank of Communications, China Citic Bank and China Everbright Bank, followed by notable players China Guangfa Bank, China Minsheng Bank, Industrial Bank and Ping An Bank.
ESG initiatives are sweeping all of Asia, too.
In Indonesia, for example, market leaders include Bank Negara Indonesia and Bank Central Asia, followed by highly regarded firm UOB Indonesia and notable Bank Rakyat Indonesia.
In Malaysia, the market leaders are CIMB and HSBC Malaysia, followed by highly regarded Hong Leong Bank and notable pick Public Bank.
As the economic fallout from the pandemic sets back living standards, banks are going bigger on investments in corporate social responsibility, for example in China, where CSR market leaders include Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, China Merchants Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
China’s highly regarded in CSR include Bank of Communications, China Guangfa Bank, Industrial Bank and Ping An Bank.
Indonesia’s CSR market leaders include Bank Rakyat Indonesia and Bank Central Asia. Standard Chartered Indonesia earned a shoutout as highly regarded, while notable honours go to OCBC Indonesia and UOB Indonesia.
CSR market leaders in Malaysia include HSBC Malaysia, Maybank and Public Bank. Among the highly regarded: AmBank and RHB Banking Group. Notable institutions include Affin Bank and Hong Leong Bank.
The Euromoney Market Leaders team also found that banks are concerned about financial risk.
Default risks in the property sector, which can generate as much as 30% of economic growth, remain a major worry. So does how quickly, and efficiently, China’s Communist Party frees the country from economic quarantine given it is Asia’s biggest trading power.
Despite the concerns, China’s financial institutions continue to deliver.
China’s markers leaders among securities firms include China International Capital Corporation, Citic Securities, Haitong Securities and Huatai Securities. Among the ranks of the highly regarded are China Securities and Guotai Junan Securities.
What’s interesting, though, is how the banking industry is acting quickly to increase China Inc’s global footprint. The Euromoney Market Leaders analytical team found increasing enthusiasm over Beijing’s success in peeling back restrictions on foreign banks to compete in the second-biggest economy.
That goes for curbs on foreign shareholding ratios for securities, futures and investment firms. In 2021 alone, Credit Suisse, Daiwa, DBS Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Nomura and UBS got the green light to help level China’s financial playing field.
The market leader among foreign investment banks in China is Goldman Sachs, followed by highly regarded Citi, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and UBS, and by notables DBS and HSBC.
It helps that Beijing is signalling that a top priority in the government’s next five-year term is internationalizing the financial system. The to-do list includes streamlining the initial public offering process and simplifying regulations to prod small and medium-sized enterprises to go public to diversify the universe of listed companies.
But the real game changer is how international investment banks are raising the heat for local giants, no matter how politically connected.
The steady entry of global firms is enriching mainland China’s product mix and the quality of services. While this is challenging domestic securities firms, the increased competition has Chinese executives embracing change and seeking to differentiate brands via digital and technology development.
Tech investments among Chinese banks is increasing exponentially. The Euromoney Market Leaders team reckons tech investments by the top 10 securities firms on average accounts for 6% to 8% of revenue. Some exceeded 10%, putting them near the orbit of leading international peers.
As this digital transformation plays out, governance structures are having to adapt and evolve. Although China is not yet ready for technology leadership prime time, disruption is changing business in Asia’s most-watched financial arena.
Yet speed bumps abound. One is a limited domestic talent pool relative to rising demand for experienced relationship managers with solid Chinese and English skills. As more and more household-name, international investment banks enter the local market, talent shortages are becoming an increasingly acute problem.
This bidding war for talent could present challenges as demand for wealth management services surges in the most populous nation.
International banks boast generations of experience in asset management, retirement funds and pension funds. Attracting and cultivating talent is vital to mainland banks competing in this most promising of sectors.
Another wild card: how China’s troubled property sector might affect Asian markets in the year ahead.
For all the focus on zero-Covid policy, the contagion risks emanating from a key pillar of China’s economy have global investors in a risk-off crouch. China’s commercial banks, too, are feeling the heat, given their exposure to the default-plagued real estate sector.
This means an active year of risk mitigation for China’s corporate banking sector. The Euromoney Market Leaders among them are: Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, Bank of Communications, China Construction Bank, China Merchants Bank, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
It also means a year to come of investment and corporate banks navigating extreme turmoil from east and west. Confusion about China’s exit from Covid lockdowns – both the timing and the scale – will keep bankers on edge. So will events in Washington, where the outlook for additional Federal Reserve rate hikes is as uncertain as ever.
Strategists say the highest inflation in the US, Europe and Japan in 40 years suggests markets in 2023 might be no tamer than in 2022.
Yet as the Euromoney Market Leaders rankings attest, bankers in Shanghai, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur aren’t necessarily letting the crises of the last two years go to waste. Indications are, they will continue raising their competitive games no matter how much noise the global economy generates.
Euromoney Market Leaders is a new, comprehensive, country-level ranking system. Banks are ranked according to their strengths across eight categories: investment banking; corporate banking; small and medium-sized enterprise, or SME, banking; ESG; Islamic banking; digital solutions; corporate and social responsibility; and diversity and inclusion.
Conclusions are based on bank initiatives, case studies, products, specific projects, transaction breadth, individual policies and numerical data and targets.
Relevant accreditation such as awards, rankings and ratings are also taken into account. We also look for evidence of creativity, innovation and significance of market impact based on a universe of quantitative metrics.
For more detail on the methodology and to see more Euromoney Market Leaders rankings, please visit www.euromoney.com/euromoney-market-leaders