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Zhu Min, Bank of China: What China’s banks have learned from the crisis

In an exclusive interview with Euromoney Zhu Min, group executive vice president at Bank of China, talks about lessons learned from the financial crisis, the limitations of Basle II, and reforming the bank’s risk management.

Q: The financial crisis has led most of the world’s financial institutions to re-examine their risk management procedures. As you look to continue reforms at Bank of China, what can be learned from the problems others have faced?

A: We were to a certain degree immune from the crisis not because we had better risk management but because we had a more vanilla business model focusing on loans—

Q: But there were some losses, of around $1 billion. Did your strategic investors RBS and UBS influence your decision to invest in sub-prime CDOs?

A: No, I don’t think so. Only 2.37% of our total investment portfolio at the start of the crisis was in sub-prime related assets. This has been a great learning experience for us, during the past 18 months we have completely rebuilt our market risk management system. We have seen some issues in the market to try and avoid, and RBS and UBS have sent us people to help with that process.

I think ultimately the major banks relied too much on models with 3 somewhat flawed assumptions:

1) that risk can always be distributed to somewhere

2) that the market is always 100% liquid

3) that there will be a normal distribution of events with no flat tail, where the centre is always the mean

We have been careful to build our own model to be aware of these issues.