SHANGHAI: Bank of East Asia, Hong Kong's third biggest lender, this year plans to add about 20 outlets and at least 1,200 staff on the mainland, where the bank derived almost a quarter of its profit last year.
With a network of 53 outlets, second largest among overseas banks after HSBC, with 66, the bank will expand its presence beyond the mainland's prosperous areas to central, western and northeastern parts, Chan Kay-Cheung, vice-chairman of mainland operations, said in a press conference in Shanghai.
New branches will be set up this year in Tianjin, Urumqi and Hefei, he said. The bank will also devote much of its efforts to personal banking and wealth management services.
"We are putting much attention on the wealth management business partly because of a slowdown in lending, as required by the government," Chan said. "We are confident our business will generate rapid growth this year."
He also said the bank will invest in brokerages. It is in talks with securities firms and will "make the decision when the timing is right".
Following their local incorporation a year ago, overseas banks including HSBC, Citigroup and Standard Chartered Bank are stepping up expansion on the mainland.
HSBC on Monday said it will add 2,000 to 2,500 personnel to its current 4,900 on the mainland, and open new outlets as soon as the regulator clears them.
Bank of East Asia's profit on the mainland saw an explosive 73 percent growth last year, or HK$926 million, generating 22.34 percent of the group's total profit.
In retail banking, the lender launched 68 wealth management products and will expand its target to reach out to the country's surging net-worth individuals.
"In the second half of the year, we will launch the private banking business" targeting those with $1 million or more in net assets, Chan said. Its major rivals including HSBC and Citigroup have already launched the service.
The Hong Kong bank is also looking to issue debit cards this year.
On whether it is interested in going public on the mainland, the bank said it's studying the possibility of listing its local entity or the group as a whole.
"We will study both, but I can't say which we will choose," Chan said. "We are waiting for the announcement of regulations and we don't have a timetable."