Finance brands face China challenge

14 September 2011

BEIJING: Large financial services brands will have to rethink their strategies in China, where customers increasingly prefer local companies to both overseas and major state-owned operators.

McKinsey, the consultancy, interviewed 20,000 consumers across Asia regarding their attitudes and behaviours in the retail banking sector, and has now broken out the findings for China.

It reported that, partly as a consequence of the economic downturn, 87% of respondents in China "prefer to deal with a local institution", a leap of 12 percentage points measured against 2007.

"The implication is that, having a global brand may be less of a competitive advantage than it was before the crisis," McKinsey said.

Residents of Tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai are also leaving the "Big 4" state-owned banks - Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank and ICBC.

In 2004, these institutions held 86% of primary bank accounts - based on deposits, chequeing and transactions - in Tier 1 markets, a total now standing at 75%. Nationwide, the big four's share has fallen from 66% to 58% during the same period.

Joint stock banks, where ownership is split between the state and private investors, are also rated better than the "Big 4" on four of five key factors driving loyalty: familiar procedures, convenient locations, ATM access and courteous staff.

More broadly, 39% of Chinese customers have developed long-term financial plans, a jump of 11 percentage points since 2007, and ahead of the 36% logged in Singapore and 33% in Hong Kong.

"Professionalism" was a further trend cited by McKinsey, as 40% of the Chinese panel used formal assistance in attempting to map out how best to organise their money going forward, up 12 percentage points on 2007.

Despite the country's rapid economic growth, caution remains particularly widespread, even among affluent individuals boasting $50,000 in liquid assets, only 25% of which would accept high risk for high reward, off from 41% in 2007.

The number of customers who have tried internet banking has increased from just 3% in 2007 to 18% in 2011, figures coming in at 4% and 12% for telebanking, and reaching 1% and 3% concerning mobile.

Data sourced from McKinsey; additional content by Warc staff