Barclays Bank will today formally launch its new international corporate banking service in Hong Kong. The division will be run by Katherine Morgan with a team of around 13 bankers supporting her.
The division aims to offer wholesale banking services to professional services firms such as accountants, lawyers, solicitors and trust companies, whose clients are the 100,000 or so import export companies that operate in Hong Kong and China.
Barclays will offer its services to the intermediaries - companies such as Ocra, Sovereign, and EQ - which can then offer the banking services to their clients. It is understood that just 40 companies control 80% of this market.
The new division has been developed in consultation with these professional service firms and is tailored to their needs. "Professional service firms and international trading companies in Hong Kong are experiencing a surge in business and they need a high level of banking expertise and service to help them manage their affairs," says Morgan. "To date these sections of the business community have been overlooked. Our presence here now changes that."
Specifically, the new division will enable these professional service firms to pool their client accounts under one umbrella account, getting a much high rate of interest from Barclays. Trade products such as letters of credit, collection services, a payments network and worldwide card services will be on offer, as well as foreign exchange services.
All of these services will be on offer through an internet banking platform that will allow one login for the professional services firms to manage the hundreds of different client accounts that they have.
"The feedback we've received from clients in other jurisdictions is that this type of tailored service is something the market here is crying out for," says Peter Horrell, head of Barclays' global international corporate banking division. "This service meets a specific need in the market place."
According to Horrell, the division has enjoyed a 10% growth in client numbers over the past year and now covers 48,000 end users globally. A similar level of growth is expected in Hong Kong.
"Hong Kong is one of the world's largest trading centres and growing in prominence alongside the rise of China," says Horrell. "Our corporate offer is hugely successful elsewhere and we expect the same level of success in Hong Kong. This is banking for professional service firms and their clients developed by professional service firms and their clients.'
Figures show China's trade with the rest of the world reached a record $1.1 trillion last year, up from $474 billion in 2000, as China continues to open its economy and lower barriers to trade.
The service will be focused on Hong Kong and China initially, but the bank will be looking at expanding in other parts of the region later in the year. "Our first phase goal is to set up in Hong Kong," says Horrell. "With Barclays Group's presence in the region it makes expansion elsewhere easier. We will assess the potential of South East Asia and the rest of the region going forward."