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Upgrading financial services lures foreigners

HSBC Shanghai: first mover

For financial institutions from Europe, the US and Japan, China is the last great frontier. Though the country's membership of the World Trade Organization, which came into effect last month, will bring major changes across the economic board, the revolution is likely to be most radical in banking, share markets, insurance and allied services.

As well as foreign banks taking equity stakes in their Chinese counterparts, the way is open for insurance firms, pension funds, financial managers, lawyers and accountants - so long as they can work with national partners in the joint ventures that form the model for foreign companies in the Chinese market. The sheer size of China and the government's commitment to high growth mean that revenue forecasts quickly jump into the top league. GMAC, the financial services arm of General Motors, for example, talks of the country becoming one of its top 10 markets five years after it starts operations there this year.

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