China's best bank for SMEs 2017: Bank of China
Bank of China
There is a long- and widely held assumption that Chinese lenders are bad at funding the nation’s best young firms. It’s a belief that persists, often for good reason. China’s big banks prefer to fund big corporates – sometimes through force of habit, sometimes for political reasons (because they are told to).
But this overlooks the strides specific lenders have made in reaching out to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Shenzhen-based China Merchants Bank has done a great job banking SMEs in the Pearl River Delta, a sprawl of cities connected to Hong Kong, and deserves a special mention. But the award for best SME lender this year goes to Bank of China. Traditionally the most international-facing lender, it has made much of its desire to support and profit from the country’s best up-and-coming corporates and the minds that run and own them.
So far, the bank has hosted 28 matchmaking events across five continents, including 10 in 2016 alone, in a concerted effort to connect more than 20,000 mainland SMEs with new suppliers and customers, and to deepen their links to global capital and trade flows. Outstanding lending by Bank of China to domestic micro, small and medium-sized enterprises rose 12.2% year on year in 2016, hitting Rmb1.28 billion ($187 million), while the lender counts on its books 3.11 million small corporate customers.
And if proof of a financial institution’s expertise in a single field is best embodied by the awards it accumulates, look no further than the Hong Kong General Chamber of Small and Medium Business, which handed Bank of China its best SME partner award for the ninth straight year in 2016.