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China Retail Banking Awards

Best retail bank for credit cards 2020

China Merchants Bank

Liu Jialong,  CMB.jpg
Liu Jialong, China Merchants Bank

China Merchants Bank had more than 90 million active credit cards by the end of the first six months of 2019, ranking fifth in the country. However, the volume of CMB’s credit card transactions grew 12% year on year and reached Rmb2.04 trillion ($290 billion), ranking top among all Chinese banks and Rmb420 billion more than the nearest rival. CMB also managed to secure the top spot in both credit-card business revenue and offshore credit-card transaction volume in 2019.

What has set CMB apart from formidable competitors including China’s big four state-owned banks – each of which had issued more than 100 million credit cards by the first half of 2019 – is the bank’s effort to use technology and big data.

Chinese consumers have leapfrogged a generation of consumer finance, moving straight from debit cards and cash to mobile payments. But CMB was way ahead of its peers in seeing that coming. The bank linked its credit cards to its own mobile payment app in 2010, three years before WeChat Pay was born.

The CMB Life app – its Chinese name can be roughly translated as: ‘Life on your palm’ – can be downloaded and used by everybody, not just CMB cardholders. In fact, by June last year, 29% of the users of the app did not have a CMB credit card. That has played a crucial role in helping CMB acquire new credit card users.

By June last year, the app had more than 80 million users, with a monthly active user base of more than 39 million, way ahead of similar apps developed by other banks.

The consumer finance transaction volume on CMB Life accounted for 48% of the bank’s total of such credit-card turnover.

CMB has strengthened several features over the last year, including the ability to pay for movie tickets, ride-hailing services and parking spaces. It also developed an e-commerce marketplace within the app and an interactive platform for car-buyers to learn more about auto suppliers and auto financing companies.

CMB has employed both artificial intelligence-driven and celebrity endorsement marketing strategies, using big data algorithms to accurately target potential card users and inviting famous writers and actors to unveil new credit card products.

As a result of its efforts, the number of active CMB credit cards increased 7.5% year on year in the first half of 2019. Income from the bank’s credit-card sector also jumped 33% year on year in the same period.

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