Bay Area throbs with financial innovation

Updated: Mar 25, 2021 By ZHOU MO and CHAI HUA in Shenzhen, Guangdong China Daily Print
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Visitors gather at a financial trading event in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. LI ZHIHAO/FOR CHINA DAILY

Breakthrough measures, pilot programs to add new dimension to lenders, fintech

The Greater Bay Area, or GBA, which connects Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macao, is striving to excel in financial innovation.

Its larger goal is to take opening-up to the next higher level and forge cross-border cooperation in the financial services sector.

That, the GBA administration believes, will offer more conveniences and benefits to local businesses and residents.

In Guangdong province's Shenzhen, one of the core cities in the GBA, a pilot program was launched earlier this month to facilitate the cross-border use of funds among multinational companies.

The move is the latest in a series of financial innovations pushed forward in the GBA.

Under the trial, MNCs will be allowed to buy foreign currencies at will within a certain limit. They can then deposit the money into their major domestic bank accounts for overseas payments, according to a joint statement published by the People's Bank of China, the central bank, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange on March 12.

This facility will create a more favorable condition for MNCs to manage foreign exchange risks and help reduce their currency conversion costs.

Measures will also be taken to promote integrated management of MNCs' foreign and local currency cash pools. The two cash pools have so far been managed separately by the SAFE and the PBOC, and subjected to different rules, which was said to have been inconveniencing MNCs in their global fund allocations.

The trial will be first carried out among large MNCs with relatively high credit ratings, the statement said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a SAFE official in Shenzhen said the local branches of the PBOC and the SAFE will continue to introduce more innovations in cross-border financial policies to persuade more MNCs to set up global or regional headquarters in the city.

The pilot program will significantly enhance efficiency of a company's turnover of capital and help save on costs related to financial operations, said an executive of Shenzhen-based mobile phone maker Transsion Holdings, who wanted to be identified only by his surname Xiao.

Under the program, the company will be able to select the timing of foreign exchange purchases as per its needs, helping it to reduce currency conversion costs, he said.

Cross-border Wealth Management Connect program will allow GBA residents to carry out cross-border investments in wealth management products distributed by banks in GBA cities Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao.

Providers of financial services said the launch of the connect will be a breakthrough of sorts in cross-border financial products in the GBA.

Song Yuesheng, vice-chairman and chief executive of Hang Seng China, a commercial bank, said at a news conference on March 18 that the lender is well prepared for the connect.

"We are striving to be among the first batch of banks involved in the pilot scheme and it will become one of our key businesses," Song said.

He said the bank plans to roll out an array of new cross-border financial services under the program, including cross-border account opening, fund transfers and more digitalized products.

The bank's roots run deep in Hong Kong, and more than 40 percent of its branches, clients and employees are located in the GBA, which, in Song's view, is key to the success of the new products to be launched under the pilot program.

He, however, said connects of stocks, bonds and wealth management constitute just a part of the overall cross-border financial innovations in the GBA.

More positive developments would be possible if local governments carry out measures like facilitating the free flow of talent, funds and investment targets, Song said.

He also said he believes the GBA has huge potential for the development of green finance by way of establishing a free carbon trading zone, and linking up the Chinese mainland and international carbon markets.

Bai Hexiang, head of the PBOC's Guangzhou branch, said the GBA has the ability to set up a unified carbon trading hub, integrating carbon emissions of enterprises in the Bay Area.

He also said the GBA could try out some pilot policies in terms of coordinating domestic and international carbon trading standards, and mutual recognition of each other's carbon trading products.

Many qualified, green and low-carbon firms in the GBA could also take the opportunity to go global, he said.

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