Asiamoney best transaction banks in China 2018

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View the results of the 2018 Asiamoney best transaction banks in China awards here.


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Transaction bank of the year

Best transaction bank for payment services

Best transaction bank for domestic cash management

Best transaction bank for international cash management

Best transaction bank for supply chain finance

Best transaction bank for trade finance

Best transaction bank for electronic banking services

Best transaction bank for mobile banking services



Award winners


Transaction bank of the year: China Merchants Bank

Every year, senior managers at China Merchants Bank oversee a competition that pits top financial technology teams against each other to invent applications that help corporate clients with functions ranging from handling salary payments more efficiently to sorting out payment invoices. 

The winners not only get prize money or promotions, but also receive funding to launch the applications into the commercial world.

The bank’s goal is to become a financial technology bank, according to senior managers at the headquarters in Shenzhen’s Futian district, who add that it is investing heavily in a range of financial technologies to lead growth. 

The bank is so serious about it that it invests as much as 1% of annual gross revenues in a fund to develop new applications for its 1.4 million corporate clients.

All banks offer basic services, such as cash settlement and financing, China Merchants managers say. The key to having a competitive edge in China today, they add, is to offer technology applications that rivals do not have.

In the bank’s annual fintech competition, funding does not just go to the top teams. All of the top 100 teams get funding, according to the bankers, who note that one of their latest innovations is an application that allows big corporate clients to use China Merchant credit risk systems to lend their own money out to other bank clients.

The bank says it is not afraid to lose clients or that customers will go direct to each other. That is because the platform that clients use offers a risk management system that holds them there. It also offers an online lending platform that allows the bank to do co-financing deals with clients.

With such a constant flow of innovation, China Merchants Bank certainly deserves to be named China’s transaction bank of the year.

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Best transaction bank for payment services: China Guangfa Bank

Executives at Guangzhou-based China Guangfa Bank know full well that those banks that offer the best product suites and customer services are the only ones that can compete effectively in the 21st century.

Guangfa, which caters primarily to private enterprises across a range of industries – including manufacturers in home appliances, the food and automobile industries – also knows that its clients are a demanding lot and that it must offer them the most effective payment services to keep them long term.

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Xingfei Chen,
China Guangfa Bank

It’s vice-general manager is Xingfei Chen. Guangdong province was a pioneer in private enterprise development, and its economy is primarily driven by private enterprises. To compete effectively, those firms are often highly price conscious, including when it comes to vendor payments. 

The bank has developed a cost-effective and efficient online payment service for its clients in the last five years. The bank calls it a one-stop shop payment service that includes a full range of e-payment and order management services, from treasury and savings to credit lines and invoicing that help customers establish tightly knit relationships with every supplier, vendor and subcontractor in its supply chain.

The bank also applies artificial intelligence on its e-payment platform, which automates a self-learning mechanism that over time provides a custom-made experience for every client.

Moreover, the bank offers its enterprise clients a risk-management system that is based on credit analysis of trading partners. The system, developed in-house, is especially useful to the bank’s small and medium-sized enterprise clients that may lack their own risk management systems.

The system is designed to be easy to use, allowing clients’ finance teams to simplify all payment processes without having to develop their own systems. It also gives every client instant access to a range of information that helps them in their payment management system.

All together, these help the bank to maintain a high customer retention rate.

There is no question the bank’s highly effective e-payment services deserve recognition.

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Best transaction bank for domestic cash management: ICBC

As the largest Chinese commercial bank and leading cash management bank in Asia, ICBC has delivered a variety of high-level, value-added cash management services to corporate clients. 

Leveraging on its global presence, advanced information technology systems and integrated solutions, ICBC also extends these advantages to its domestic clients.

ICBC’s cash management platform presents a full range of services, including customized account opening, global account management, centralized collection/payments and cross-border cash pooling, all of which are backed by a strong IT platform, an extensive branch network both inside and outside of China and a professional team of online and offline service assistants.

The platform helps corporates, governmental agencies and public institutions gain access to cash flow information, to manage receivables and payables, and allocate funds efficiently. In addition, the platform offers clients various investment opportunities that help them increase yields on their capital investments. 

Services help customers to gain an accurate picture of the company’s cash position in China, as well as overseas, in a timely manner, giving them the ability to allocate domestic or overseas receivables or payables from one location and one pool of cash.

Executives at the bank’s settlement and cash management department say the bank set up a transaction banking centre 20 years ago, offering management services initially to just 6,000 enterprise clients. The centre operates a platform that helps clients with account and information services, trade finance and investment risk management, enabling them to manage liquidity, gain access to short-term financing, invest and manage financing across a domestic as well as global supply chain.

The bank developed its cash management offering in-house. It says it has the largest onshore cash management customer base – some 1.38 million. Furthermore, they say, the bank employs 17,000 people in its IT support department, the largest of any bank in China.

For its commitment to the development of a vast onshore cash management banking system, ICBC deserves to be named the best transaction bank for domestic cash management.

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Best transaction bank for international cash management: Bank of China

For years, the Bank of China has been the nation’s most international bank, serving Chinese industrial and commercial companies across 54 markets around the world, with wide coverage of nations that make up the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The bank offers clients a large global network of branch offices in cities such as Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Frankfurt, Paris, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and countries such as Hungary, South Africa, Zambia and the US.

It has invested in building a substantial global IT network that offers clients the ability to manage cash across networks of other global banks.

Chief among the offshore units is the bank’s transaction banking unit in Hong Kong, which operates as part of Bank of China International and serves as a nerve centre for the bank’s global cash-management system. Unlike other banks, which tend to insist that clients use only their in-house payment systems, Bank of China cooperates with outside strategic partners such as Alipay, the global online payment system of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holdings.

Bank of China is also investing in financial technology to provide more value-added experiences for clients, including smartphone technology to service individuals as well as enterprises, according to bank executives. 

The bank is also working with Chinese internet technology firm Tencent Holdings to develop technology and software for online payment services that make cross-border cash management easy for anyone with a smartphone.

For its commitment to building and maintaining a global network, Bank of China deserves to be named the best transaction bank for international cash management.

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Best transaction bank for supply chain finance: Bank of Communications

Shanghai-based Bank of Communications adopted an up- and downstream approach to its supply chain financing strategy back in 2005, and has seen business balloon from 3,000 enterprises to a client base of more than 30,000 that includes many of the customers, vendors and subcontractors of the original 3,000. 

To illustrate this, the bank cites the example of two firms from the automobile sector: Liaoning-based First Auto Group; and Hubei-based auto-manufacturer, Dongfeng Automobile. Initially, the bank served just First Auto and Dongfeng, but over the years also picked up many of their clients and suppliers.

The bank found that auto companies needed help to push sales, so it offered its services first to them, then to their suppliers, subsidiaries, affiliates and finally to their dealerships.

The bank then expanded this approach to clients in other industrial sectors, especially home appliances manufacturers such as Midea Group and Gree Appliances.

The bank even developed smartphone apps for enterprise clients, and in recent years has developed blockchain technology for payment services.

The bank celebrates its 110th birthday this year, and there is no question it certainly has come a long way from its early days. Founded in 1908 by the government of China’s last imperial government, the Qing Dynasty, the bank started out by selling bonds to finance the government’s purchase of foreign-built railroads in China, which at the time were at the leading edge of technology.

For its dedication to continuous innovation through the ages and its more recent development of smart application technology in up- and downstream supply chain finance, the bank deserves to be named the best transaction bank for supply chain finance.

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Best transaction bank for trade finance: Bank of China

Bank of China is the most global of Chinese banks when it comes to trade finance. It offers clients a large global network for renminbi exchange and clearing that is anchored by offshore branches served by an army of 22,000 offshore employees, who are capable of conversing in 27 languages and hundreds of dialects.

The bank has invested in building out a substantial global IT network that offers clients the ability to manage cash across the networks of other global banks, giving them the capacity to make as many as 1,000 transactions at any one time.

Chief among the offshore units, the transactional banking unit in Hong Kong, which operates as part of Bank of China International, serves as a nerve centre for its global cash management system. Unlike other banks, which tend to insist that clients use only their in-house payment systems, Bank of China cooperates with even non-banking payment partners such as Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group’s e-payment platform, Alipay.

Bank of China is also investing in financial technology to provide more value-added experiences for clients, including smartphone technology to serve not only individuals but also enterprises, according to bank executives; they note that the bank is working with leading Chinese internet technology companies to develop technology and software for online payment services that make cross-border cash management easy for anyone with a smartphone.

For its commitment to building and maintaining a global network, Bank of China deserves to be named the best transaction bank for international cash management.

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Best transaction bank for electronic banking services: Postal Savings Bank of China

Postal Savings Bank of China is an example of the rapid modernization of China’s banking industry. Once seen as an old bricks-and-mortar financial extension of China’s postal service, the bank has made a concerted effort to become a leading e-financial institution to serve consumers across all economic classes and geographies, chief among them villagers and village entrepreneurs in far-flung corners of rural China who – until the advent of smartphones – had no access to e-banking.

With the proliferation of smartphones in China, entrepreneurs and consumers across the country now have access to Postal Savings Bank of China’s new e-banking platform, which has 200 million individual clients and 230,000 enterprise clients. In 2017, those enterprises performed Rmb1.5 trillion ($234 billion)-worth of transactions.

“We offer online wealth management products, loans and other financial services,” says Wang Hang, general manager of Postal Savings’ internet finance department, “and also sell postal goods and services online such as express delivery, stamps and online reading.”

The bank has certainly come a long way. It began as China Post Savings, a service of the State Post Bureau, before it was spun off in 2007 into a commercial bank. In response to the rapid development of internet finance, Postal Savings Bank of China came up with its own internet finance plan, which helped transform the bank from one that relied on 40,000 physical outlets to a bank extending services through both online and offline channels.

“The bank has explored a path of self-dependent innovation and built a core banking system by replacing mainframe computers with minicomputer clustering on an open platform,” Wang says. “The system runs well and processes business smoothly, showing stable performance.”

For its innovation and development of leading edge financial applications, Postal Savings Bank of China deserves to be awarded the best transaction bank for electronic services.

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Best transaction bank for mobile banking services: China Merchants Bank

China Merchants Bank is realistic about where it can find its competitive edge.

“We cannot compete with the major top four banks, but we can offer innovation that they can’t,” one senior executive quips.

To drive cutting-edge innovation, the bank’s IT department employs a team of 4,000 people, many of which are constantly developing or co-developing smartphone apps for mobile banking services.

The apps, according to managers, will transform the way China’s private sector deals with banks. In the future, entrepreneurs will no longer stand in line waiting for service; instead everything they need will be done via their smartphones.

To ensure its apps are user friendly, the bank is teaming up with Tencent Holdings to offer other services as well as banking, from health to consumer. 

With research and development centres in Shenzhen and Hangzhou, where e-commerce firm Alibaba Holdings is based, China Merchants is tapping into the best software brains the nation has to help it transform itself into a financial technology-focused lender.

Banks can transform themselves in the coming three years through fintech, but changes is here to stay, says the bank, confident that banks as businesses will not become irrelevant in the fintech age. It notes that while no one can see how the financial industry will be transformed, it is clear that banks will no longer only be a platform for savings, investments and remittances. All banks offer basic services, but it is those that offer the most value-added services that will survive and thrive in the fintech age.

Doubtless, banks with the best smartphone apps will be the ones with the best chance to thrive in the future.

The key to success is finding ways to work closely with customers and to offer them services that they need, to be as close to them as possible, China Merchants executives say. Their ultimate job, the transaction bankers say, is to bring the customer as close as possible and to keep them for the long term. 

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