China is opening its financial market to foreign banks. The challenge new banks need to face is to communicate with Chinese clients using Chinese platforms. The opportunities China offers are a lot because China is a digital country, where online payment and online financing is widespread.
The Chinese banking sector is opening to foreign banks
The opening-up of the Chinese banking sector dates back to 1980, when the first international branch of a foreign bank, from Japan, was established in Beijing. In 2001, the entrance into the World Trade Organization (WTO) represented a great occasion in which China agreed to undertake a series of financial liberalization policies.
In April 2018, China announced to further open up its financial industry to foreign institutions. China tried to open its financial industry with a number of significant measures. Some of the notable policy changes include the relaxation of foreign share ownership restrictions in the banking, securities, and insurance sectors.
The Chinese insurance sector will be opened up, seeing fewer restrictions on the establishment of foreign financial institutions, on the business scope of foreign financial institutions, and in the areas related to the Sino- foreign financial market cooperation.
Which measures have the Chinese government taken?
In this framework, the Governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), announced 11 measures in April 2018.
He highlighted three principles regarding the financial opening:
- Pre-establishment National Treatment (i.e. treated the same as Chinese companies) and the negative-list management;
- Reforms encompassing the opening of the financial industry and exchange rate formation mechanism have a synergy effect with the reform of the capital account convertibility, and these reforms may progress in parallel;
- In the course of opening, it is critical to guard against financial risks to ensure that the financial regulatory capacity is compatible with the magnitude of the opening.
In addition to the PBOC measures, the Shanghai authorities declared their support for the city’s financial opening.
- The city will adhere to the market-driven principle, promote the internationalization of RMB, support innovation, and pilot RMB cross-border business and products, so as to perform well its role in the RMB pricing and settlement for bulk commodities.
- It will steadily promote the convertibility of capital accounts; support the city’s pilot reform of foreign currency management.
- It will further enhance its financial market and financial services and strengthen the market depth and breadth, level of convenience and efficiency for transactions to take place, legal and market environments, trusteeship, and clearing of transactions and etc. These efforts will enable Shanghai to develop itself as a robust market and as an excellent financial and market center.
- The essence of opening up China’s financial industry is to align the principle of national treatment by gradually relaxing the share ratio and business license limits. With its unique competitive advantages, Shanghai is working to get prepared for the strategic position of accommodating the presence of more foreign banks, securities, insurance, and investment bank institutions.
- The city will continue to advocate financial technology development.
The financial opening policy is compliment with a new round of foreign currency management policy reforms, which cover mainly three aspects:
- Cancellation of the requirement of a proportion of 20% for outward remittance of Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) funds;
- Cancellation of the lock-up period requirement of QFII and Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII);
- Permission of QFII and RQFII to carry out foreign currency hedging.
China is a digital payments’ country: a good opportunity for a foreign bank in China
A report released by the China Internet Network Information Center and dedicated to the development of the Internet sector in the country reported that total users of digital payment services in China reached 768 million in March 2020, representing 85% of the total 904 million Chinese Internet users, an increase of 168 million since the end of 2018.
According to the document, at least 765 million Chinese made online payments with mobile phones in March, representing 85.3% of all mobile phone users with Internet services, which amounted to 897 million.
WeChat Pay and AliPay are China’s most popular digital payment apps.
To enter the prestigious Chinese market, it is essential for every business to have at least one of these payment systems. The two Apps share the FinTech market equally, covering almost the entire sector with a percentage of 54% for AliPay and 40% for WeChat Pay. It is evident that the Chinese company is gradually moving away from the classic card and cash payment systems, to head towards the world of digital payments.
Why are digital payments so popular in China?
Cash is considered inconvenient and inappropriate for the digital market, while card payments, due to the inadequacy of the Chinese banking system, have never been particularly successful in China.
Furthermore, by definition, China is one of the countries that has invested the most in the technological revolution. That is why it is not difficult to identify the reasons for the enormous FinTech development of AliPay and WeChat Pay in China.
Foreign banks should seize the opportunity immediately and enter the Chinese market.
How can a foreign bank enter into the Chinese market?
The biggest challenge foreign banks that want to enter the Chinese market have to face is to communicate with their potential clients in China.
It is, first of all, a matter of trust. When it comes to money and, in particular, to store them Chinese people will not easily have confidence in a financial institution that they do not know.
To attract investors as well as to attract customers, you need to take care of your brand image both online and offline. To give yourself visibility, be present on the various Chinese social networks, starting with Wechat and Weibo. The more your brand appears in the search results, the more you will be trusted.
Foreign Bank Need a Website in Mandarin & Baidu SEO/SEM
If you want to succeed in China, you need to have your own website in the most used Chinese search engine. This will increase your visibility and will give you authority.
Baidu is the most popular search engine in China, with 70% of queries. It is structured like an ecosystem (Baidu Search, Baidu Promotion, Baidu Video, Baidu Maps, Baidupedia) and it has more than one billion mobile active users.
A bank website localized to China’s Standards
When you create your website, you must focus on some aspects. It must be translated into Chinese mandarin because Baidu works mainly in the Chinese language; it must be hosted in China, so it will be high-performance and its content must be localized; which means that you have to consider Chinese tastes and follow them. For example, they use to like the eccentric layout and bright colors like red and gold.
To rank your website in a good position, you should combine a good Seo & Sem strategy. Seo, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, will not only get traffic on your website and increase your credibility online. For a real SEO, make sure the site has localized hosting and domain; create ad hoc content in Chinese (simplified Chinese for Mainland China, traditional Chinese for Hong Kong and Taiwan); do link building; carefully analyze the results; adjust the campaign as a result of monitoring.
To Increase their Website authority on Baidu, Foreign Banks need Link building
Link building is the strategic activity aimed at increasing the number of inbound links to a website, which in this way gains greater authority in the eyes of the search engine. A valid strategy to do link building is to create optimized articles for one or more specific keywords that represent a possible in-depth analysis of the topic in question in the article and in the host site.
Press Release is key for foreign Bank reputation in ChinA
PR is a popular way for websites or businesses to get immediate exposure for their product or service. They are an effective and affordable method to promote your business and get your message out to the right audience. Some of the major benefits of a press release include:
- Immediate exposure to an established audience
- Affordable cost
- Potential sales increase
- Major SEO benefits
- Increased web traffic to your website
- Possibility for return customers
- Provides authenticity to your brand
Get More B2B Clients for your bank with Lead Generation
China has a history of scandals and a culture of scams. Everyone has been scammed once in their life. Therefore, any Chinese consumers or businessmen will do researches before contacting or collaborating with you. If they can’t find anything online about you, you’ll probably not be considered. Letting them find you when typing related keywords on Baidu and then doing some researches about your company will help the conversion process.
Lead generation is the dream of many into B2B. Less time spent on cold calls and prospection. Instead, prospects do their research online, find you, and then contact you. You’ll enable lead generation by increasing your online visibility through SEO/SEM but also social media. The more visible you are, the more talked about you are, the more your bank will appear to be legit and worthy of trust.
In short, a Lead is a potential customer interested in the product/service offered by a company. Drawing up a contact list is possible through a careful lead generation strategy, which can use advertising and acquisition tools, both online and offline.
Word of mouth in China is really important, especially when we speaking about Banking
Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) is the most efficient way to increase and improve the image of a product, a brand via real people’s network which is more persuasive. It can even be more effective than common advertising. Money and finance are sensitive topics and if your clients are satisfied with your services will speak in a good way about your bank and this will enlarge your community.
There are some platforms, like Zhihu, Baidu Zhidao, Wenwen, etc that can help your bank to generate awareness and that use the power of Chineses Online communities.
Use Zhihu to educate your clients about your bank services in China
Zhihu is the biggest Chinese platform for questions and answers. It boasts more than100 a million answers.
Thanks to its artificial intelligence programs, the useless answers are deleted so it just has high-quality content. 80% of users are well educated (has a degree or more), 30% are well paid (they earn 10.000 RMB per month) and 40% of users live in first or second-level cities. Users are mainly men. 78.2% of users have more than 25 years: this makes it the perfect platform to address more aged and rich consumers.
Zhihu is indicated for those companies, like banks, that work for longer-term brand building than for hitting sales goals.
Chinese Forums are great tools for Organic Traffic and e-reputation
Viral campaigns come and go in the blink of an eye. While a high-quality post on Zhihu essentially lasts forever.
First, they let good and relevant content stick around and come up first in searches, even when those results were published a while ago. Second, it enjoys a high domain authority on mainstream search engines, meaning Zhihu posts often rank higher than most other platforms. The platform has an array of features that can be used to create and manage a community around a topic related to your brand. Use these tools to engage with your audience and exchange information with them but also to build your authority. Here are some of these tools:
- Zhihu column
- Zhihu bookstore
- Zhihu Roundtable
- Zhihu live
- Zhihu tip service.
Foreign Banks in China should use Wechat to nurture their Leads
Mailing does not work in China. People mainly use WeChat to communicate.
WeChat is a super-app, similar to Whatsapp. It has 1,08 billion active users every month, more than 1,5 million active brands, more than 17 million official accounts, and it is used for 86% by people 18-40 years old.
People use Wechat to pay, book a holiday, buy things, create “moments”, send messages (private or chat groups, text or vocal messages), use the Kol-programs (e-commerce, games, augmented reality).
Foreign Banks in China Need a Wechat Official Account
A service account allows you to send 4 push notifications every month. It is more complete because it offers extra services like the geolocalization of users, best visibility, e-commerce, and multiple Qr Code.
For your bank, it is really important to have an official account because WeChat is the most important platform to communicate with potential clients. You can attract clients, send push notifications, have more followers, and redirect users to your website. The articles in Wechat are similar to newsletters that the users receive. The design must be captivating and well-finished. It is better to create a located content, in line with Chinese tastes.
There are three kinds of advertising on Wechat:
- Kols (an agreement between an advertiser and a popular blogger that will be paid for the creation of advertising content in the form of a newsletter),
- banner (it is an announcement that appears at the bottom of the article mode of another official account. It uses the same targeting system as WeChat Moments ad).
WeChat CRM for your Bank
Set up in the app, Wechat CRM is a great tool to communicate with your followers/customers and it can be used as a replacement for a newsletter. For example, your bank can send the last updates about some new functions and so on. People in China don’t read emails so this tool is vital. With a well-set Wechat CRM, you can answer automatically any questions your followers may have, welcome new ones, offer special discounts, etc.
You don’t need to spend time doing it, and it increases your trust level with followers.
Weibo: an open platform to increase your Bank Visibility
Weibo is one of the most common social media in China. It is similar to Twitter. It is an open social media, everyone can see everything and comments everywhere which encourages people to comment and engage between them and with the brand.
Good commercial content on Weibo can be a lot more impactful than on Wechat. With Weibo, it is easy to share and get viral.
On Weibo, you can have more followers and faster but on Wechat you have more impact on call to action, so you should learn to use them at the same time. One doesn’t exclude the other. Weibo helps to increase brand awareness, to ensure great visibility for events and promotions through ad-hoc communication with user-friendly content.
It is crucial to keep in touch with your Weibo followers by answering their questions, or suggestions but also by keeping your Weibo page alive. You should post good content. They must be easy to consume and easy to share. Your post will get only some seconds of attention so make it count. It can be a great tool for being commercial. Weibo users are usually looking for discounts and commercial offers.
There are four ways to advertise on Weibo:
- Display Adverts,
- Weibo Search Engine Promotion,
- Fan Headlines,
- Fan Tunnel.
Display ads are mainly placed in the search section, on the Weibo home page, and alongside new posts. Weibo allows a targeted approach through keywords selected on user searches.
Weibo Search Engine Promotion gives companies the opportunity to pay an economic fee to appear among the first search results. This is a very effective way to give visibility to your account.
Fan Tunnel is the most targeted and intelligent way to reach new consumers and followers. It functions as a “headline” that appears at the top of the news section on the home of targeted audiences defined by age, gender, region, interests, and even device types.
Fun Headlines are sponsored posts or accounts that will appear at the top of the follower news section for 24 hours. This increases the likelihood of re-sharing. The post will appear as “推广” (Promoted) or “热门” (hot) at the top of the feed. It is a way to create engagement and increase the number of followers.
How can a foreign Bank attract Chinese investors?
To hope to find Chinese investors for your bank, everything can be summed up in one word: visibility. Once your bank will have a good reputation in the Chinese digital world, investors will come to you. The secret is to inspire trust and confidence in potential investors.
Our agency can help you advertise your project to potential investors through both online and offline practices. Social networks, question/answer forums, SEO referencing on Baidu, events (conventions, conferences, pop-up stores …), we have many resources to support you from the start to the end of your project.
Do you want to enter the Chinese market with your foreign bank? Contact us!
Gentlemen Marketing Agency is a Digital Marketing Agency that is an expert in helping foreign companies to establish or strengthen their position in China. We are a growing team of 75 marketers with a passion for China and digital marketing.
We can help your luxury brands enter the Chinese market, contact us to discuss it further!