Bank of China and Singapore’s Fullerton Financial Holdings (wholly owned by the sovereign wealth fund Temasek) jointly established the first BOC Fullerton Community Bank in China in March 2011 in Qichuan, Hubei province to provide microfinance lending to China’s rural market via local village banks. By the end of this year it will have incorporated about 50 banks, and 2014 will see aggressive expansion to add another 30 to its network.
We spoke to SME Business head director Kenneth Tsao about the growth plans, and what impact it will have on hiring:
BOC Fullerton plans to increase the number of community banks to 80 by the end of 2014. Why such a significant increase now?
BOC Fullerton Community Bank aims to be the market leader for building and operating village banks, not just in terms of product offerings and service, but also in terms of presence and scale. We opened our first bank in March 2011 and by the end of last year we had 18 banks. By the end of 2013, we expect to have around 50 banks. Our fast growth this year and next year shows the support of China’s central government for this venture and demonstrates our bullish outlook on the rural financial services market in China.
Do you expect that this rate of growth will continue beyond 2014 into 2015 and 2016?
We expect continued growth beyond 2014. As many village bank licenses have been already given to other entities, strong growth beyond 2014 will largely be driven by acquisitions. Over 1,400 village bank licenses have been granted by the government already. China has approximately 2,000 counties and a village banking license is issued in each. As things stand today, BOC Fullerton has the single largest number of village banks.
What is your target market?
We are targeting counties with population of at least one million people, but we are also fulfilling a government ruling that our presence is spread across both developed and underdeveloped counties.
We are servicing the ‘smaller, underserved’ customers, so we offer business loans that accept a wide range of collateral types that other banks don’t accept. We also have very targeted agricultural loans for farmers, and we offer products and services for the elderly, retired population which are underserved by other banks. We are also deeply interested in providing housing loans to individuals for government housing projects built on collective land.
How many bank employees do you expect to recruit to staff these new banks?
Each bank needs around 34 staff, and some banks have opened sub-branches that have seven to 13 employees. We currently have close to 1,800 staff in our branches and expect to hire another 2,000 next year.
What types of roles are you recruiting for?
We are hiring branch managers, team leaders and relationship officers for the three business lines. We are recruiting risk experts, as well as a range of other front, middle and back office staff to cover operations, finance, and HR. We also have a head office where we recruit roles for each of our departments: sales, product, marketing, risk, legal and compliance, operations, IT, treasury, HR and audit.
What skills and experience should your ideal candidates have?
Branch managers and department heads need deep industry experience but at the same time must be willing to learn how to operate in a new company. For other roles we welcome people who don’t have industry experience but have a high propensity to learn and do well in a challenging environment.