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ING takes a long view of regional expansion


Cees Maas

Could it be that ING knows something about Asia that other global financial institutions do not? Increasingly, global players have been cutting back in Asia: Morgan Stanley has closed its retail brokerage business in Japan, ABN Amro has exited that country's domestic cash equities business altogether, and last month Citibank and Salomon Smith Barney merged their Asian sales coverage for fixed-income products.

ING has been taking the opposite tack. It is busy buying its way back into the region, not least in China - a country in which it is notoriously difficult to turn a profit - where it is setting up a second joint venture in insurance.

Nor would it seem that ING is complaining about the costs involved. Cees Maas, the chief financial officer of ING Group, says of the company's greenfield or start-up operations in Asia: "The faster you grow, the faster you lose.

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