Grow­ing­with no mar­gin for er­ror

Led by Zou Jian­glei, ABNAMRO’s Shang­hai branch is in­tent on help­ing Chi­nese firms to ex­pand glob­ally

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - ByWUYIYAO in Shang­hai wuyiyao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

At the heart of Lu­ji­azui, Shang­hai’s fi­nan­cial hub over­look­ing theHuangpu, the China branch of Dutch bank­ing giant ABN AMRO has seen much ac­tion of late. And Zou Jian­glei, 41 and al­ready the branch man­ager, has been wit­ness to the trans­for­ma­tion of the space from a con­crete-and­metal skele­ton to cor­po­rate so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

The of­fice — it is marked by ex­pen­sive glass, shiny wood, gleam­ing metal, bright paint and the pol­ished el­e­gance of bam­boo-pat­terned floors with el­e­ments of decks and boards — re­minds vis­i­tors of the Dutch tra­di­tion of voy­ages, of Euro­pean ex­plor­ers set­ting sail in well-stocked ves­sels for desti­na­tions far and away.

Zou is one of the youngest branch man­agers of for­eign banks in Shang­hai. In the past few years, he has acted like a cap­tain of a ship out on a voy­age. He re­built the ABN AMRO brand and reestab­lished the bank’s foot­print in China.

He ex­panded his crew from just two at what was hith­erto a Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Of­fice to 20 now at the newly es­tab­lished full-fledged branch, of which he has been the skip­per since Jan­uary.

One of the FAQs that Zou fields is this: how is the cur­rent ABN AMRO dif­fer­ent from its pre­vi­ous avatar? “To­day’s ABN AMRO is dif­fer­ent in terms of struc­ture, cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, and in many other as­pects — it is a new bank,” he said.

But at the same time, “we’re proud of our her­itage”, of “our client net­works” that go back a long, long way. “As a fi­nan­cial ser­vices provider, we are in close con­tact with our clients. We al­wayswantto stay rel­e­vant to the China mar­ket.”

That ap­proach has helped the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Of­fice, which started in 2012, to grow from just li­ais­ing with coun­ter­parts, prospec­tive cus­tomers and reg­u­la­tors to a full-fledged branch on Jan 1. Ever since, the busi­ness has “grown steadily”

We are cau­tious, be­cause risk man­age­ment is key.”

branch man­ager, ABN AMRO Bank NV, Shang­hai Branch

Zou Jian­glei, ZOU JIAN­GLEI Na­tion­al­ity: Fam­ily:

Chi­nese Mar­ried, fa­ther of a daugh­ter

Ca­reer: Since 2015:

Branch man­ager of ABN AMRO Bank NV,

and the hand­ful of core clients are mainly in the com­modi­ties sec­tor.

That marks a long way from the time ABN AMRO en­tered China as a fi­nan­cial ser­vices brand in 1903. Back then, it was the Nether­lands Trad­ing So­ci­ety which later be­came ABN AMRO.

TheChina busi­ness of the old ver­sion ofABNAMROwas taken over by Royal Bank of Scot­land in 2007. The new ABN AMRO was es­tab­lished in July 2010, fol­low­ing the merger of the Dutch busi­ness of ABN AMROand For­tisNether­lands.

Ger­rit Zalm, chair­man of the man­ag­ing board, said at the Shang­hai branch open­ing that up­grad­ing the bank’s foot­print in Shang­hai is a key step to­wards in­ter­na­tional growth.

Mau­reen Derooij, coun­try ex­ec­u­tive, Greater China, said at the same event, “With the new Shang­hai branch, we can bet­ter serve our clients in en­ergy, com­modi­ties and trans­porta­tion (ECT) in­dus­tries.” Shang­hai Branch

Head of the Chi­nese main­land and chief rep of ABN AMROBank NV Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Of­fice

2010-2015: June 2009-May 2010:

Head of ALM Mod­el­ling, BNP Paribas For­tis

Mer­chant bank­ing ad­vi­sor, For­tis Bank

She also un­der­lined China’s im­por­tance as the lead­ing global con­sumer of en­ergy and pro­ducer of com­modi­ties.

Zou said he is “cau­tiously op­ti­mistic” about driv­ing ABN AMRO's growth in the Chi­nese main­land. The op­ti­mism comes from the bank’s con­fi­dence in the long-term growth prospects of China, ECT in­dus­tries to which it pro­vides rel­e­vant fi­nanc­ing so­lu­tions, and Dutch clients. These clients are among the top play­ers in their re­spec­tive sec­tors.

“But at the same time, we are cau­tious, be­cause risk man­age­ment is key. We would like to grow in a sta­ble and steady man­ner, main­tain­ing a mod­er­ate risk pro­file. We don’t like to grow for the sake of grow­ing or do ev­ery­thing all over the world. We don’t want to make mis­takes. For for­eign banks in China, one mis­take could cost years of profit,” said Zou.

That is why, ABN AMRO's Shang­hai branch has in­vested sub­stan­tially on tech­nol­ogy, to Oc­to­ber 2006-June 2009:

PhD in ap­plied eco­nom­ics, Katholieke Univer­siteit

Ed­u­ca­tion: 2001-2006: en­sure its cross-bor­der busi­ness stays smooth and ef­fi­cient. The core deal sys­tem links the branch’s op­er­a­tions with the bank’s head of­fice and other in­ter­na­tional en­ti­ties. The risk man­age­ment sys­tem mon­i­tors credit risk, mar­ket risk and liq­uid­ity risk on a daily ba­sis.

The Shang­hai branch works closely with other branches in Asia, in­clud­ing those in Hong Kong and Singapore, and ABN AMRO's global net­work to pro­vide fi­nanc­ing so­lu­tions to clients on a global ba­sis. It will sup­port China clients in their global ex­pan­sion.

“We’ll pro­vide qual­ity ser­vice to our clients to helpthem­meet their growth tar­gets. Talk­ing to our clients and learn­ing about their fas­ci­nat­ing suc­cess sto­ries gives me a lot of con­fi­dence,” said Zou.

He said he be­lieves in “co­op­er­a­tive com­pe­ti­tion” — learn­ing about peers, their busi­ness, shar­ing knowl­edge and ex­chang­ing in­for­ma­tion with them. Leu­ven, Bel­gium

MA in ap­plied eco­nom­ics, North­west­ern Univer­sity, China

1997-2000: Hobbies and in­ter­ests:

Read­ing, swim­ming, golf­ing, trav­el­ing, scuba div­ing

“Ev­ery for­eign bank in China has­spe­cific ex­per­tise, an­de­v­ery client has its own spe­cific de­mands. Some­times, in or­der to serve in the best way, we work closely with peer banks with sim­i­lar or com­pli­men­tary knowl­edge,” said Zou.

“I do be­lieve that co­op­er­a­tive com­pe­ti­tion will be the way for fi­nanc­ing in the fu­ture, cre­at­ing a vir­tu­ous cir­cle.”

Zou is not con­tent with a PhDin ap­plied eco­nom­ics. For him, life­long learn­ing is a must. This trait also helps him keep the bank rel­e­vant to the China mar­ket.

Zou sees great op­por­tu­ni­ties in the in­creas­ing num­ber of Chi­nese en­ter­prises that are go­ing global, and in the ren­minbi in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion, given that a new for­eign bank branch can start ren­min­bibased busi­ness af­ter its first year of op­er­a­tion.

“We want to be ready and fully pre­pared so we can start as soon as we get the green light,” said Zou.

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