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Cash management: A revolution in cash for China

Demand for sophisticated cash management services in China is rising as the authorities press for greater business efficiency at home and Chinese corporates expand their foreign operations. Renminbi liberalization is another driver.

For many global lenders, China once embodied both ends of the financial spectrum, but little in between. Banks until very recently harboured fantasies of becoming local retail banking powers; others coveted plum mandates on mainland stock sales. A very few desired both.

Fewer focused on the middle ground, often for good reason. Transaction banking, the heart and lungs of global banking, offered much in the longer term, yet it remained wrapped in red tape. The frustration was felt both by Chinese firms keen to go global and by multinationals desperate to inject efficiency into sprawling mainland operations.

Yet within just a couple of years, all that changed. Cash management is suddenly in vogue in China, and everyone wants a piece of the action. At Shanghai-based Bank of Communications (BoCom), the country’s fifth-largest lender, revenue from the cash management division is rising by 75% a year, according to Yao Wei, BoCom’s head of cash management.