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Major bank expands China footprint

Australia’s second biggest mortgage lender has opened its first sub-branch in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ).

Created as a testing ground for a number of economic reforms, the Shanghai FTZ will become a key strategic zone for customers wanting to increase their presence in China.

Westpac announced yesterday that it has opened a branch in the FTZ, which will provide deeper support for Westpac customers and leverage the opportunities expected to come with China’s economic and financial market liberalisation.

Speaking at the opening, Westpac Institutional Bank chief executive Rob Whitfield said China is an extremely important market for Westpac and its customers.

“The Beijing leadership has made it clear that its ultimate goal is to become a high-income economy by 2030, with Shanghai as a first-tier international financial centre,” Mr Whitfield said.

“Westpac has been committed to China since the early stages of this journey, supporting our customers through the stages of currency and financial market liberalisation, so we are delighted that our Shanghai sub-branch in the FTZ will take this further,” he said.

“The closer economic relations built between the Chinese and Australian governments last month reinforce the strategic value of the Shanghai FTZ.”

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Mr Whitfield said Westpac is well positioned to help customers capitalise on the increasing trade, investment and capital flows, being one of the first banks in Australasia to connect with the RMB Hub in Sydney, as well as its leadership in supporting CNY/AUD foreign exchange flows in China.

The sub-branch will be an extension of Westpac’s service offering in China across trade finance, commodity finance, debt capital markets, derivatives and FX, complementing the bank’s branches in Shanghai and Beijing.

“We anticipate the volume of trade and financial activities denominated in Renminbi (RMB) will continue to build, with many of these activities taking place in both the Shanghai FTZ and Sydney,” Westpac International general manager Bala Swaminathan said.

“Customers with business dealings in China and Australia can now embrace the benefits of dealing directly in RMB in both markets, particularly as increased liquidity encourages more finance and hedging activity,” Mr Swaminathan said.

Westpac has been operating in Asia for 40 years, delivering a broad range of financial services to individuals, corporate and institutional customers, with branches in Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Mumbai as well as a representative office in Jakarta.

The bank is one of only two Australian banks granted a market maker's licence to directly trade AUD/CNY and NZD/CNY on the China Foreign Exchange Trading System.

Earlier this year, the bank was also granted a general derivatives licence to trade G7 interest rate derivatives and FX derivatives for G7 currencies and RMB.


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