The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is the largest bank in the world by total assets and market capitalisation. It was the first Chinese bank to gain a New Zealand banking registration in this country.
The New Zealand subsidiary of ICBC was established in February 2014 and has just celebrated its third anniversary operating in New Zealand.
At the end of 2016, overall assets for ICBC NZ increased to NZ$900 million, a 20 per cent increase on the previous year. In the same year, retail mortgage lending increased by more than 70 per cent, and lending to the construction sector by 250 per cent.
As the subsidiary matures in New Zealand, it focuses on three areas for future growth: continuing its work as a bridge between the two countries, being creative and innovative, and using its diversity to its advantage.
"ICBC NZ wants to be the most respected Chinese bank in New Zealand, and recognised as an economic, financial, and cultural bridge between New Zealand and China," says Karen Hou, chief executive of ICBC New Zealand.
ICBC's global chairman, Yi Huiman, visited New Zealand last year to meet Government officials and discuss the bank's expansion plans.
Hou says his visit demonstrates the importance the bank places on bridging the two countries.
"Infrastructure investment is a big focus for ICBC NZ," she says.
"Aside from capital, China has significant experience across many infrastructure classes -- including roading, water and energy facilities."
ICBC NZ and its parent bank provided significant financing support to the banking syndication for the Transmission Gully motorway, joined a funding facility for a telecommunications company, and is funding a key gas transmission and distribution network in the North Island.
ICBC NZ director John Dalzell says the China-New Zealand connection deepens local resources.
"Infrastructure programmes can seek extended funding lines through the world's largest lender, and avail themselves of other resources and expertise the bank can offer via its global network."
ICBC is actively working with its customers in China looking to operate here, educating them on investment opportunities available and the expertise needed and assisting them with New Zealand business practice and culture. "New Zealand and China are finding more common ground all the time, but there are still many differences, and it is difficult for a business in one market to enter the other without some kind of conduit," says Hou.
"That is how we see ourselves -- as a bridge to help New Zealand and China take advantage of the opportunities offered in each market."
ICBC NZ wants to be the most respected Chinese bank in New Zealand, and recognised as an economic, financial, and cultural bridge between New Zealand and China.
Over the past three years, ICBC NZ has introduced a series of new products to market to make transactions between China and New Zealand cheaper and more efficient.
It was the first bank in the Southern Hemisphere to offer the dual currency UnionPay credit card, which can be used for New Zealand dollar transactions locally and renminbi in China.
The banks e-mall, introduced here in 2015, provides a platform to link New Zealand's best brands directly to Chinese consumers.
ICBC NZ carefully selects those brands that are most suitable for the bank's discerning customers in China.
There are now more than 60 brands on the e-mall, including honey, chocolate and organic cosmetics -- products that best showcase pure New Zealand.
"The bank is very selective about the brands and the suppliers selling into China," says Hou.
"We take particular care to make sure all products sold through our e-mall are genuine and of a consistently high standard."
We want to hire the best people for the bank -- having a diverse team has allowed us to be innovative in our thinking for new products and services.
The bank is working with New Zealand Post, allowing customers in China to order through the online platform, and receive its products direct from New Zealand.
Money received from the sale can be put into the exporter's account either in renminbi or converted into New Zealand dollars.
Recently ICBC introduced its mobile banking app to New Zealand, that along with more traditional e-banking services (including management of accounts, term deposits and loans) allows the transfer of funds between China and New Zealand in three currencies: New Zealand dollar, Chinese renminbi, and United States dollar.
Though international transfer of funds has in the past been a difficult and lengthy process, funds transferred between international ICBC accounts can be done instantaneously, with significantly reduced transfer costs.
Hou, who has worked for ICBC's Head Office in China, Korea, Europe and Latin America prior to heading up the New Zealand subsidiary, says the trick to being successful when doing business between China and New Zealand is having a management team, board, and staff that reflect both regions.
"ICBC NZ has a diversified team who understand how the mix of cultures align and differ."
ICBC New Zealand has grown from 23 people in 2014 to a staff of 50. Hou says that by Christmas, the bank expects to have 60 employees, mostly Kiwis from countries including New Zealand, UK, China, Sri Lanka, South Africa and India.
Hou says ICBC's family-focused culture and opportunities for career progression have attracted many talented employees.
"We want to hire the best people for the bank -- having a diverse team has allowed us to be innovative in our thinking for new products and services."
Milestones of ICBC NZ
• February 2014 -- formally opened and started operation in New Zealand.
• June 2014 -- issued first dual currency Unionpay debit card and credit card, the first Unionpay credit card in the southern hemisphere.
• December 2014 -- introduced VISA Paywave into New Zealand.
• July 2015 -- signed RMB Strategic Alliance MOU with ANZ, Westpac, BNZ and ASB.
• October 2015 -- ICBC and China Central Depository & Cleaning Co co-hosted 'China Bond Market' seminar in Auckland.
• November 2015 -- launched ICBC e-commerce platform 'E-Mall' in New Zealand.
• February 2016 -- joined Bulk Electronic Clearing System for transfers between New Zealand banks.
• December 2016 -- launched updated version of mobile banking application