Overall best national retail bankChina Construction Bank
China’s urban population is among the most tech-savvy in the world, yet members of its rural population often have much more basic needs. China Construction Bank, more than any other bank in China, has been able to serve both populations.
The bank set technology innovation, financial inclusion and mortgage lending as the three main pillars for its 2019 strategy. CCB, under vice-chair Zhang Jianguo, has made steady progress in all three, while being the top earner among the big four Chinese banks in the retail banking segment.
Pre-tax profit from CCB’s retail banking division reached Rmb85.9 billion ($12.2 billion) for the first six months of 2019, the most recent period for which public data is available. That represents a 6.4% increase year on year, meaning the bank has both the largest retail profits and the fastest profit growth among the big four state-owned banks.
Best retail bank for credit cardsChina Merchants Bank
|Liu Jialong, China Merchants Bank|
China Merchants Bank had more than 90 million active credit cards by the end of the first six months of 2019, ranking fifth in the country. However, the volume of CMB’s credit card transactions grew 12% year on year and reached Rmb2.04 trillion ($290 billion), ranking top among all Chinese banks and Rmb420 billion more than the nearest rival. CMB also managed to secure the top spot in both credit-card business revenue and offshore credit-card transaction volume in 2019.
What has set CMB apart from formidable competitors including China’s big four state-owned banks – each of which had issued more than 100 million credit cards by the first half of 2019 – is the bank’s effort to use technology and big data.
Chinese consumers have leapfrogged a generation of consumer finance, moving straight from debit cards and cash to mobile payments. But CMB was way ahead of its peers in seeing that coming. The bank linked its credit cards to its own mobile payment app in 2010, three years before WeChat Pay was born.
The CMB Life app – its Chinese name can be roughly translated as: ‘Life on your palm’ – can be downloaded and used by everybody, not just CMB cardholders. In fact, by June last year, 29% of the users of the app did not have a CMB credit card. That has played a crucial role in helping CMB acquire new credit card users.
By June last year, the app had more than 80 million users, with a monthly active user base of more than 39 million, way ahead of similar apps developed by other banks.
The consumer finance transaction volume on CMB Life accounted for 48% of the bank’s total of such credit-card turnover.
Best retail bank for online bankingIndustrial and Commercial Bank of China
|Zhou Yang, ICBC|
Best retail bank for innovation in technologyChina Merchants Bank
|Zhang Dong, China Merchants Bank|
Many Chinese banks have made impressive progress in promoting technology innovation, but the bank that has pushed furthest in all aspects of its business is China Merchants Bank, led by Zhang Dong.
In the first half of 2019, the bank spent Rmb3.63 billion ($517 million) or 2.8% of its operating income on information technology, up by 64% year on year.