Foreign banks have strengthened their expansion efforts in China, which remains one of the fastest growing economies in the world, as the global economic meltdown is ebbing.
"We plan to build 15 more branches in China within three to five years, and our target clients are small and medium-sized businesses," said Zhang Jinchen, president of the Philippines' Metropolitan Bank (China) Limited.
Metrobank has been in business in China since the 1990s, with branches and offices in Shanghai and Beijing. In early 2010 it opened Metropolitan Bank (China) Limited in Nanjing, becoming the first foreign bank to establish its headquarters in the city. The new bank serves as the base for Metrobank's operations in China.
"We achieved a balance of income and expenditure six months after the opening and will see a profit at the end of the year," Zhang said.
"The results are both pleasant and surprising. It shows our direction to serve China's small and medium-sized enterprises is right and China's financial market is really huge," Zhang said.
Foreign banks began a new round of expansion in China this year, two years after the outbreak of the global financial crisis triggered by the sub-prime crisis in the United States.
Standard Chartered Bank is preparing to open a branch in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, after having entered Ningbo in eastern China's Zhejiang Province and Hohhot in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region this year.
The British financial service company is planning to expand at a pace of entering three cities in China every year.
Citibank, a major international bank based in the United States, extended operations into Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province, and Guiyang, capital of southwestern China's Guizhou Province, in the fourth quarter of this year.
Also, the Bank of East Asia (BEA), a financial service based in Hong Kong, is expanding in China as it builds two branches every year, on average, instead of just one as in the previous years, said Xu Hua, president of the Nanjing branch of the BEA.
From 2008 to 2010, the BEA has set up branches in five cities across China, including Hefei, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Suzhou and Urumqi.
Foreign banks were competing to expand in China in 2007, but the pace slowed after the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008. However, they are picking up the pace of expansion again as the global economic meltdown is phasing out.
Jiangsu Province, home to many small and medium-sized businesses, has been directing foreign banks to expand their services throughout the province: from Nanjing and Suzhou to other cities with fewer financial services, said Xie Wenlan, director of the foreign-funded banks monitoring department under the Jiangsu Provincial Banking Regulatory Bureau.
"The Bank of Nagoya, Limited, a Japanese lender, has been preparing to branch out into Nantong, while other foreign banks are discussing with Jiangsu about further moves," Xie said.
Jiangsu Province is attractive to foreign banks in terms of economic growth and government support, Xie said.
"Foreign-funded banks can profit within one year after opening, and some can even profit within three months," Xie said.
Zhang Yansheng, an international trade researcher at the National Development and Reform Commission, said, "China's economy has entered a new round of growth circle and foreign banks eye the huge market."
"Many foreign banks have been boosting products sales in China," Zhang noted.
"China's mainland is definitely a promising market. Its GDP has been growing remarkably and exports recovering quickly during the global economic downturn. The bigger the cake is, the more chances we will have," Xu said.
Improving the credit environment in China's mainland has become more attractive to foreign-funded banks.
"The credit environment has really improved a lot in China's mainland. The central bank has set up many platforms and systems, forcing businesses to value clean credit records," Xu said.
Xie added, "Jiangsu Province supports expansion of foreign bank services, but is strict with approving of foreign banks' branches."
The Chinese government should guard against blind competition while staying open towards foreign banks, Zhang said.
Also, foreign banks face difficulties. "The biggest problem is a talent shortage. China's local banks have been expanding fast, bringing fierce competition," Xu said.