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OCBC Bank opens China headquarters
Publication Date : 13-09-2013
OCBC Bank officially opened its new China headquarters on Thursday as it moves to cement its position in one of its key growth markets.
It bought the six-storey building in Shanghai's New Pudong District, making it the first Singapore bank to own and operate its own headquarters in China.
The bank spent a year refurbishing what is now called OCBC Tower, which sits on 23,000 sq m of land. Including the cost of the building, OCBC spent around a billion yuan (US$163 million).
The 500 Shanghai-based employees of OCBC China have moved in but the building, which has 18,000 sqaure metres of office space, has room for at least 200 more staff members, as the bank expects to expand its headcount as business grows.
The tower allows the bank to consolidate its various divisions, including its consumer and corporate banking units and the middle office and support functions, under one roof, said chief executive officer Samuel Tsien.
He told a briefing in Shanghai on Thursday that the move will not only increase efficiency and productivity but also raise OCBC's profile in China.
"If you have your own establishment, you send a very good signal to the market that you are committed; and particularly for Asian markets, I think owning a piece of real estate is a very good message that we are sending to the market that we are really here for good. It will increase our image and visibility in the local market, which is conducive for us to win new business."
The move comes as the bank is enjoying steady growth in the Greater China market.
OCBC has been in China since 1925, but business really took off after it was locally incorporated in 2007, said Tsien.
Since 2008 - the first year of operations for OCBC China - its customer base has grown more than sixfold. Revenue at the unit hit a billion yuan last year, more than double that of 2008, and total assets at the end of June this year were worth 48.3 billion yuan, three times the amount at end-2008.
Several of OCBC China's corporate clients have grown together with the bank, bringing in more business not just within their home market but also abroad, Tsien said.
"In our business banking division, for every dollar of loans that we book with these Chinese companies in China, we are now booking an additional S$1.30 (US$1.03) outside China with this segment."
Chinese companies make up 55 per cent of OCBC China's corporate customer base.
The various economic plans unveiled by the Chinese government will make China an even more exciting place to do business, Tsien said.
For example, the planned Free Trade Zone in Shanghai, announced in July, could be a game changer, he noted. "No details are out yet but there is talk about allowing freer currency conversion in this region, freer trade, fewer restrictions on foreign investments coming into or going out of the zone," he said.
"I think it is going to be quite transformational, in order to allow the country's economy to be more converted to the outside world, in terms of converting to a market economy."
*US$1 = 6.12 yuan