Sat, Dec 15, 2012 - Page 14 News List

Local banks could offer yuan services next year

LUNAR DEALS:While many Taiwanese expressed an interest in yuan-based products, the FSC said it would enforce rules requiring banks to operate sustainably

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Domestic banks may offer yuan-based products and services onshore without prior regulatory approval once the central bank settles technical details with China’s appointed clearing agency, the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) said yesterday.

The deregulation came as Taiwan vies with Singapore and Sydney to become another regional yuan-trading hub, after Hong Kong.

The operations, currently restricted to corporate customers via offshore banking units, may become available at domestic banking units for individual clients who wish to own yuan-denominated assets by the Lunar New Year in February, said Jean Chiu (邱淑貞), deputy director-general of the FSC’s banking bureau.

“There is no need for regulatory approval beforehand as banks can simply include yuan in their foreign-currency product lines,” Chiu said by telephone.

The commission has made known its stance on the matter in a letter to the Bankers Association of the Republic of China (銀行公會) on Thursday, allowing domestic lenders to start preparations straight away, Chiu added.

The new business is expected to be a key earnings driver for a banking sector that is struggling to grow profits amid excessive competition and low interest rates over recent years.

Yuan deposits may account for 15 percent of total deposits in Taiwan in five years and 30 percent in 10 years, or 2.5 trillion yuan (US$398.79 billion) in terms of value, the local unit of Standard Chartered Bank forecast last month.

More than 40 percent of Taiwanese have expressed interest in owning yuan deposits, suggesting 4.4 million potential customers based on a population of 11 million aged between 30 and 60 years old, the British banking group said.

Tiew Siew-chuen (張秀娟), the newly installed head of consumer banking at Standard Chartered, said the lender would offer interest rates of more than 3 percent for yuan time-deposits to win customers.

First Commercial Bank (第一銀行), the banking arm of First Financial Holding Co (第一金控), told Chinese-language Economic Daily News yesterday it would set interest rates at 3.25 percent for one-year-term yuan deposits in excess of five million yuan.

Taiwan Business Bank (台灣企銀), another state-run lender, said it would offer interest rates of 3.2 percent for yuan deposits larger than 600,000 yuan.

To curb vicious competition, the FSC said it would demand explanations from lenders that adopt unreasonable pricing strategies.

“The commission will not sit by when banks offer interest rates that are not sustainable or reasonable,” Chiu said.

Under Article 61 of the Banking Act (銀行法), the commission is authorized to penalize banks that do not operate on a stable basis and it could determine whether a bank has disrupted the domestic market order with its interest rate offer on a case-by-case basis.

Lenders may start to provide yuan-based deposits, lending, remittance, trade settlements, trade financing, wealth management products and services after the central bank settles currency-clearing details with the Taipei branch of Bank of China Ltd (中國銀行), Chiu said.

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