ICBC says it has no direct liability for the product.
“We did not assume that kind of fixed responsibility,” ICBC chairman Jiang Jianqing (姜建清) told US financial television channel CNBC.
“For investors, this incident provides them with a case whereby they can learn lessons. In future, when they invest in wealth [management] or other products, they must see clearly the risk,” he said.
However, Chinese investors have few choices on where to park their money, with low deposit rates, government controls over the property market, capital controls limiting overseas investment and one of the world’s worst-performing stock markets last year.
The combination has caused a boom in informal lending offering better returns.
Investors might still get some money back. An insurance company and an asset management firm — set up to handle banks’ bad loans — have been cited by state media as possible rescuers.
Richard Chang, a buyer who organized a gathering of investors in Shanghai, said they would insist ICBC makes good any losses.
“We will never give up unless we get the money,” he said.