The new CEO of China Construction Bank (NZ) Ltd, Jun Qi, says Auckland transport needs could give the comparatively recent arrival in New Zealand banking an "unparalleled opportunity to grow".
"I am surprised the traffic jams in Auckland are as severe as Beijing," he says. "People here deserve better roads, bridges, tunnels and trams.
"Obviously the government is taking action and we can help by providing debt financing and bringing along first-class construction companies."
It isn't just the traffic that is making Qi feel like he is coming back to his home town, just two months after taking over as CEO.
"This is a place where everyone knows each other; I believe that sense of familiarity and trust is the foundation on which businesses flourish and prosper."
Qi says CCB has done well in New Zealand in the past three years under "strong leadership" from the local board - and its localisation policy which has already seen the bank involved in funding the Puhoi-Warkworth motorway PPP, a project which was a finalist in the 2017 INFINZ Awards in the Debt Deal Of The Year category.
Another funding project by the bank, this time with CCB the sole funder - Christchurch's Adventure Park - was the other finalist and won the award.
CCB was established in China in 1954 and is currently one of the largest global banks by market capitalisation and total assets. It operates in 30 countries.
"Since our inception, CCB has aspired to be the first-call Chinese bank in New Zealand; to achieve that, we have pursued that localisation strategy," says Qi, including hiring local people, supporting the establishment of local businesses and developing products that best serve local customers.
The bank currently has more than 40 staff, seven seconded from China and the remainder all employed locally.
"We have strong local teams, that's what differentiates us, and we believe in diversity and integration of experiences and cultures," Qi says.
The bank achieved break-even at the end of last year, earlier than expected. At the end of March this year, the bank had total assets of $1.15 billion and recorded an after-tax profit of $1.85 million for the last three months. The loan book split evenly between wholesale and retail loans.
Fast growth has also attracted further support from the bank's parent. In the second half of 2016, CCB group injected a further $140m capital into the bank, in addition to the original capital of $58m.
"This is essentially a vote of confidence in the operation of the local subsidiary and, more broadly, in the New Zealand market," says Qi.
He is optimistic about the economy: "In the last decade New Zealand has achieved strong economic growth - far better than most OECD countries. I believe it is sustainable considering the booming migration, tourism and international education; the demand is there."
Another area Qi is keen to explore is to bridge bilateral investment and trade: "The ties between the two countries can only grow tighter and CCB is well-placed to service the flows of trade, people and money. We can leverage the huge networks of CCB in China and worldwide."
A senior banker with more than 20 years of working experience in CCB headquarters and overseas entities, Qi has been through a number of senior managerial roles within the banking group, including Deputy General Manager of CCB Seoul branch.
He was in charge of a number of departments including trade finance, corporate banking, finance and accounting, treasury and risk management and compliance. CCB Seoul branch has been rated AAA by Korea Rating for the last three years and in 2015 received a Level 2 grade by the local regulator after a regular and comprehensive inspection -the highest grade in terms of compliance ever accorded to a foreign bank in Korea.
"The past three years have been big years for CCB NZ, the bank is experiencing significant growth with exciting opportunities," says former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley and chairman of the board.
To realise these opportunities, obtaining a branch banking licence alongside the current subsidiary is a must, according to Qi.
Last December the RBNZ opened the door for small foreign banks to obtain dual registration.
"There is nothing novel about this, the big banks in the market have been operating in a dual registration model for quite some time," Qi says.
There are concrete benefits to New Zealand economy, he says, in granting CCB a branch licence: "The benefits are mainly efficiency and innovation-related. By operating as a branch, we will be able to fund infrastructure projects on a much larger scale, have access to cheaper funding which will benefit customers and new technologies fast emerging in China."
Deputy CEO Lloyd Cartwright has recently resigned and Dame Jenny and Qi acknowledged Cartwright's contribution, especially in the corporate and institutional banking and treasury space. The bank now is searching for candidates to be appointed as the head of corporate and institutional banking and the head of treasury.