Standard Chartered Bank became the first foreign bank to provide mortgage services to Chinese customers when it expanded its consumer banking services to Shanghai.
It put the bank three months behind its rivals in offering the services to domestic customers, but bosses said that would not be a disadvantage.
"Local customers can apply for mortgage financing in foreign currency from Standard Chartered, in addition to forex deposits,'' said Stanley Wong, the bank's chief executive in China.
The bank has signed agreements with several residential projects to provide such services to their customers.
Citibank, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the Hong Kong-based Bank of East Asia were given the green light in March by China's central bank to provide foreign currency services to domestic customers.
But these three banks are only allowed to conduct a limited scale of services such as taking deposits as none of them has been granted a permit for the mortgage business.
Mervyn Davies, group chief executive of Standard Chartered, said the bank has a profitable whole-sale banking business in China with seven branches and six representative offices across the country, one of the largest networks of foreign banks in China.
"We are actively pursuing opportunities to expand our consumer banking presence as the market opens up. The opening of the bank's flagship site in Shanghai is a significant step,'' he added.
Standard and Chartered aims to follow the opening of the new sub branch in Puxi Friday with the launch of its new brand image in China, which incorporates its latest innovative retail banking concept.
The branch occupies more than 700 square metres, making it the largest foreign retail branch in Shanghai.
The bank plans to launch a similar branch in Guangzhou later this year after upgrading its representative office there. Services will also be available in Beijing and Shenzhen in the first quarter of 2003.
Wong said Standard Chartered is looking to expand their business in China even further through automotive banking and e-banking services.
He also revealed the bank is applying for membership of China UnionPay, a unified national payment system that will eventually allow bank card holders to use their cards at any terminals in the country.
Davies confirmed the bank will sell shares in Hong Kong in the second half of this year when "investor confidence returns and the market is stable.''
(China Daily July 6, 2002)