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The 5 Biggest Banks in China

Statrys Team
Published: 07 May 2021

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    China has the second-largest economy in the world, and in terms of assets, China’s banking sector is the largest in the world.

    They had over 4,398 banking institutions as of 2016. The size of their banking system is because they are the largest exporter in the world and the need to make money remittance to China easier.

    Their state-owned banks are among the largest banks globally.

    In such a financially strong country, you can expect to find strong banks, and we did.

    Here we discuss the best five banks based on strength, services offered, and awards received.

    Overview of China’s Banking System 

    China’s banking used to be dominated by the People’s Bank of China (still the central bank of China) conducting all the banking operations in the country, but in the early 1980s that began to change when they opened five state-owned banks.

    The banking system is currently rated as stable by Moody’s.

    Currently, China has four types of banks:

    1. Specialized banks are majority-owned by the state. These are the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the China Construction Bank (CCB), the Bank of China (BoC), the Bank of Communications (BoCom), and the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC).
    2. Specific lending purpose banks that specialize in loans for specific sectors or purposes.  These include the  Agricultural Development Bank of China (ADBC), and the China Development Bank (CDB).
    3. Commercial banks are banks as we know them, that offer checking and savings accounts, loans, and other financial services.
    4. Foreign banks are banks that are based in other countries but do business and have branches in China.

    Banks in China are highly regulated to protect the financial stability of the country. 

    Deposit insurance regulations (like FDIC) are now in place to protect depositors. 

    The banking system is transitioning to a more privately owned structure as China moves toward a more capitalistic economy.

    If you’re thinking of opening a bank account in China, read more here.

    Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)

    ICBC is ranked 7th on The Asian Banker strength list of Asian Pacific banks, which ranks banks based on the strength of their balance sheet.

    ICBC is a specialized commercial bank and was ranked the largest bank in the world by assets in 2017 and 2018 and was listed as the largest global public company by Forbes in 2019. 

    They were ranked first by The Banker’s Top 1000 world banks from 2012-2019. It has over 400 overseas subsidiaries.

    ICBC had what was, at the time in 2006, the world’s largest IPO with a value of over $21 billion.

    It was the first company to ever be listed both on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the Shanghai Stock Exchange

    Their last reported net income was almost CNY 300 billion, and they have assets of over CNY 27 trillion.

    They employ over 450,000 people.

    ICBC offers a wide range of services to consumers and corporate customers and specializes in business loans to manufacturers, power companies, retailers, and other businesses.

    ICBC won the Finance Asia Best Bank in China award in 2019 and has received numerous other awards.

    Bank of China (BOC)

    BOC is ranked 10th on The Asian Banker strength list of Asian Pacific banks and is the second oldest bank in mainland China.

    It was established in 1912 to replace the Imperial Bank of China, It is one of the four largest state-owned banks in China.

    Their last reported net income was over CNY 190 billion, and their assets are over CNY 21 trillion. 

    They employ over 300,000 people. It was the fourth-largest bank in the world at the end of 2017 in terms of assets.

    BOC offers a wide range of services to consumers and corporate customers and is one of the largest loan providers in the country.

    BOC is also licensed to issue banknotes in two of China's Special Administrative Regions.

    It operates more internationally than any of China’s other banks, operating in 57 different countries.

    They were the first large bank to allow Chinese currency (renminbi) investments in the United States.

    BOC has won several awards, including the Best RMB Clearing Bank by The Asian Banker and the Best FIG issuer by Global Capital China.

    Agricultural Bank of China (ABC bank)

    ABC bank is ranked 7th on The Asian Banker strength list of Asian Pacific banks (tied with ICBC).

    Globally, ABC bank is the third-largest lender and has almost 25,000 branches internationally. It was founded in 1951.

    Their last reported net income was over CNY 202 billion, and their assets are over CNY 22 trillion.

    They employ over 470,000 people.

    ABC bank was originally a specialized bank intended to lend to businesses in rural China, but now it offers a wide range of consumer and corporate services. 

    They serve over 300 million consumer customers and over 3 million business customers.

    In addition, they have a Treasury Operations division that conducts money market or repurchases transactions, debt instrument investments, and the holding of derivative positions. 

    ABC bank had its initial public offering in 2010, and at the time it set the record for the world’s largest IPO, raising over US $21 billion, beating out ICBCs IPO in 2006.

    ABC has won several awards, including awards in corporate social responsibility, company culture building, and service to small and medium-sized enterprises.

    China Construction Bank (CCB)

    CCB is ranked 5thth on The Asian Banker strength list of Asian Pacific banks.

    CCB had a rapid period of growth in the early 2000s, and in 2015 was the 2nd largest bank in the world based on market capitalization.

    Their last reported net income was over CNY 255 billion, and their assets are over CNY 23 trillion.

    They employ over 340,000 people.

    CCB offers a full range of consumer and business services at over 15,000 branches, and subsidiaries in Luxemburg, South Africa, South Korea, the United States, and Australia.

    It is a commercial bank, although its name might indicate otherwise. 

    It was originally founded as the People’s Construction Bank of China when it was founded in 1954.

    They have won numerous awards, including the Best Domestic Bank In China awarded by Asia Money, Best Corporate Lending by Global Finance, and Best Mortgage Loans Bank by Global Finance.

    Bank of Communications

    Bank of Communications is ranked 146th on The Asian Banker strength list of Asian Pacific banks, however, they are one of the oldest banks in China and were one of the first banks to issue banknotes.

    It is the 5th largest bank in China (mainland).

    Its last reported net income was over CNY 77 billion, and its assets are over CNY 10 trillion.

    They employ over 87,000 people.

    Bank of Communications offers a range of consumer and corporate services, mostly domestically.

    It is one of the top 5 banks in China, with over 2800 branches.

    It was founded in 1908 and headquartered in Shanghai.

    Bank of Communications was named a Fortune Global 500 company in 2020 for the 12th straight year and ranks 11th on the Top 1000 Global Banks by The Banker for the fourth time.

    However, doing business in China doesn't mean you have to rely on using Chinese banks for your business.

    Open a business account with Statrys and you'll get a business account in Hong Kong, accessible from anywhere, anytime.

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