December 3, 2019 / 12:13 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-UBS to double China investment banking business headcount in 3-4 years

* UBS has about 400 people at China investment banking JV

* UBS China joint venture exploring new services offerings (Adds additional comment, context)

By Sumeet Chatterjee

HONG KONG, Dec 3 (Reuters) - UBS Group AG plans to double its current headcount of about 400 people at its majority-owned China investment banking joint venture in the next three to four years, the bank's head of global banking in Asia Pacific said on Tuesday.

Last year, UBS became the first foreign bank to get Chinese regulatory approval to take control of its securities business by raising its holding to 51%. The venture's operations include debt and equity underwriting, and financial advisory.

The bank's expansion plans come at a time when China is opening up its financial markets to foreigners. This has resulted in increased demand for local securities and dealmaking services.

"Overall, our plan is to steadily grow China onshore headcount, but we are not just going to compete on size," David Chin told reporters, referring to its investment banking joint venture in that country.

Hiring by foreign banks in China is set to pick up as some take control of their local brokerage joint ventures and expand their services offerings ranging from equities trading to research and securities underwriting to M&A advisory.

Global investment banks are currently able to own up to 51% of their China operations.

But Beijing in October also announced a firm timetable for opening its futures, brokerage and mutual fund sectors fully to foreign investors next year, the latest step to deregulate the country's financial industry.

Limits on foreign ownership of securities firms will be removed on Dec. 1, 2020.

Besides UBS, JPMorgan and Japan's Nomura have this year obtained approval to set up majority-owned China ventures. Others including Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse have applied for majority control.

Western banks' lack of control over their joint ventures, along with their limited contribution to revenues, have long been a source of frustration for foreign banks in China.

Management control would allow foreign banks to offer more services through their joint ventures and potentially leverage their global networks to win China market share.

Tommie Fang, UBS head of China equities, said the Swiss bank was exploring new service offerings under its investment banking joint venture in China, and is expected to get approval to offer over-the-counter derivative products next year. (Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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