Bullish On Asia

ANZ is upping the volume on China as it looks to nurture its region-wide strategy.


There’s value in knowing who you are. In an interview with Global Finance at SIBOS in Singapore, Carole Berndt, managing director and head of global transaction banking at Australia’s ANZ uses the term super-regional to describe ANZ’s business model and reach.

“We have a competitive advantage because our home market—Asia-Pacific—is truly home.

Multinational customers, particularly those based in growing Asia, know from experience that banks typically fall back to their home markets in times of market turmoil.

“Since our home market is here,” says Berndt, “we have a competitive advantage. They know that all our focus is on this region.”

Berndt, who described herself as a “hardened transaction banker,” said that ANZ would continue to build on its already strong Asian roots.

The Australian bank launched its region-wide strategy in 2007 under current chief executive Mike Smith, who announced his retirement in October.

Shayne Elliott will take up Smith’s post early next year, and has hinted that the bank’s Asian strategy will embrace a larger client base.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Andrew Géczy, CEO, international and institutional banking at ANZ says this means engaging new borrowers in China that are not “just the very, very top state-owned enterprises and the top multinationals.”

This could mean increasing loan exposure in China and lending for long durations.

ANZ’s presence in China is already formidable. Berndt says that the bank has 300 people in total working on the mainland, which is large for any major financial institution.

ANZ was one of the 19 banks selected by the People’s Bank of China to participate in phase one of the China International Payments System, which was launched last week.

CIPS is a cross-border payments system for renminbi based partly on the US Clearing House Interbank Payments System, otherwise known as CHIPS.

Berndt says that clients in Asean are now looking for ‘smooth’ renminbi transactions as their businesses expand in the region and links to Chinese suppliers and customers grow.

She is a China bull. “People talk about a slowdown in China, but if 6% growth in the world’s second largest economy is a slowdown, then I’ll take it,” she says.

ANZ is expanding in Asean as well, having recently obtained a banking license in Myanmar.

Berndt says she plans to take customers there soon on a fact-finding mission. “It strikes me as a sensible way to understand what clients will need there,” she said.