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Myanmar's best international bank 2017: UOB


Stay in any international-standard hotel in Myanmar and if you pay by credit card, there’s a good chance you’re a customer of Singapore’s UOB Bank. That’s because Myanmar doesn’t have a clearing system to speak of, so Singaporean bankers stepped up. UOB, now run by Loi Kai Cheow, first opened an office in Yangon back in 1994, when the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest. And such are UOB’s intimate connections here that many of Myanmar’s banks – such as CB Bank – have ex-UOB staffers on board.

In 2015, UOB’s perseverance in Myanmar was rewarded by being granted branch status in Yangon, and permitted to handle corporate loans, trade financing and cash management for clients.

In 2013, UOB became the first foreign bank to establish an investment advisory unit in Myanmar to help its clients explore business opportunities in the country. With its cultural and historic connections dating back to colonial times, Singapore is probably Myanmar’s oldest and best friend in Asean, with a well-practised ability to look the other way as it provided economic succour, political support and boltholes to the junta of generals who ran the country for years.

Today, that discretion is paying off. Singapore is Myanmar’s second-largest investor and trading partner after China, commanding $10 billion in investments. Some of that is Singapore-based Myanmar interests investing back home. But regardless, it’s fair bet that UOB will be involved somewhere in these deals, where other international banks are not.