Best Cash Management House
Citibank continues its reign over the best cash management house award, securing it for the fourth time in a row. The distinguishing point of Citibank is its true regional coverage and commitment to the region. Citibank operates a 13-country regional cash processing centre which handles approximately 18,000 cross border funds transfers amounting to $19 billion per day, with 99.99% accuracy for the region. By launching a number of new initiatives in perceived "difficult" countries such as China, Citibank has demonstrated a true commitment to the region this year.
In a country where stationery used for processing payments is still regulated by the central bank, Citibank managed to acquire 70 new mandates in China this year, thanks to its new payments and collections products. Citibank's "Anywhere in China" payment software enables end-to-end automation by integrating with a company's ERP system. Payments can be effected in more than 7000 locations within 24 to 48 hours, with advices being auto faxed or e-mailed. Funds can be brought in within 24 hours from 64 cities from any bank in China with Citibank's collection product.
Citibank has been aggressive in expanding its networks in other Asian countries such as Indonesia and Thailand. Citibank Thailand has grown its collection volume by 354% over the past year and has seen an outstanding liability portfolio growth of 47% during the same period. In Indonesia, the bank has created a number of innovative solutions tailored to local conditions. For example, Citibank has launched EscrowPlus, a full escrow agency service required by companies undergoing restructuring with lenders. Overall, Citibank has grown its active customer base in Asia by 12% in a tough year.
Citibank also continues to stride ahead in relation to technological innovation, and making sure that Asia doesn't miss out on its offerings. This year sees the introduction of Citidirect, a global initiative that offers seamless access to all of Citibank's business banking products, including cash, trade, securities and foreign exchange, online. This initiative looks to make Citibank a "one stop shop" for all corporate banking needs on one integrated online platform and a pace-setter in the new century.
Best Foreign Exchange House
This year, the Best Foreign Exchange House Award goes to HSBC. This was not an easy decision, as the competition was very tough.
We tried to focus on specific areas of forex competence such as innovativeness and problem solving, quality of advice, pricing, internet strategy, straight-through processing (STP) capability, derivatives, Asian presence, and development of markets in coordination with regulators.
Having the largest dealing room in Asia located in Hong Kong, and with over 19 dealings rooms in all, helps HSBC reach a greater segment of the market. The Asia Pacific president of a Scandinavian power generator manufacturer cited the round the clock availability of HSBC: When you add a night desk to the picture that treats you like a king, you are truly talking about a bank that is there for you, 24 hours a day.
HSBC won the popular vote in our web site s poll, and gained well over 100 votes. While unofficial, the results required the contact details of the voters to avoid any rigging. A sample of the voters was telephoned to get their endorsement in person.
I regard HSBC as a confidential counterpart, says the treasury officer from a Korean power concern. And they provide reliable market news and information.
A Malaysian client said: They always provide unbelievable competitive rates.
A Hong Kong corporate client cited the team approach: Monica Chan and her team are at all times most helpful, informative and quick in their response and execution of instructions.
A major Indonesian company officer said: Their professionalism is outstanding. They give good pricing, fast response, and are friendly people.
A Hong Kong professional said: I really admire their services, especially the hedging strategies they introduce for our foreign currency exposures. Their rate quotes are efficient and always a bit better than others.
HSBC received votes and testimonials from every country in Asia from India to Hong Kong, where obviously HSBC has a historical stranglehold on the foreign exchange business. With an estimated market share of 16% in Asia and about 79% of transactions below $1 billion, HSBC performed relatively stronger than the other banks.
Late last year, HSBC won the Hong Kong Monetary Authority s mandate to handle the US dollar clearing system for the territory, one of the two key financial centres in Asia.
This category is definitely one of the most highly contested of all our awards especially given the strength of Citibank and having seen the battle this year, the winner cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
Best Loan House
Citibank/Salomon Smith Barney
In an age when loans are becoming commodity products that are often mis-priced for relationship reasons, Citibank/SSB has taken a value-added approach to the product for both itself and its clients.
The firm displays a commanding presence in the sheer number of transactions it arranges and participates in. This diversity is seen in the number of countries it does deals in, the number of sectors it lends to, and the different types of borrowers it deals with. The firm appears equally at ease being the sole lead underwriter on smaller deals as well as organizing and participating in jumbo club deals. It also takes a very creative approach to the loan business seeking structured deals with more upside for itself and its clients, rather than just loading its books with plain vanilla paper.
Furthermore, the bank views loans as an essential part of its overall product mix a strategy that is clearly enjoyed by its clients. The firm has led over 70 deals in the first three quarters of 2000, lending nearly $20 billion to companies throughout the region in both local currencies and in G3 currencies. This strength of balance sheet and willingness to put it to work shows the firm has a long-term commitment to the loan product. This marks it out as a stable, long-term participant, rather than a short-term, opportunistic lender that makes one or two headline loans, but overall is rather uncommitted.
Out of the 70 plus deals the bank has closed this year, one or two landmark deals stand out. In Singapore, the bank underwrote and arranged the largest syndicated loan ever done in the city-state when it organized the $820 million equivalent deal for Chartered silicon Partners. Huge, and with a complex structure, the deal nevertheless attracted strong commitments in the general syndication. In Hong Kong, the firm has been at the forefront of the renaissance in jumbo real estate financings, showing the bank s commitment to the resurgent Hong Kong property market. It has done power deals in Thailand, telecom deals in the Philippines, bank deals in Korea and technology deals in Taiwan. It has lent to 15 countries and counts some of the biggest corporate names in Asia as its clients. Citibank/SSB is the lender of choice for most of corporate Asia.
Best Trade Finance House
It would be a difficult task to wrestle this award away from HSBC. The bank has well and truly entrenched itself in the region and continues to do so this year. This is a bank that knows how to leverage on its geographic reach to take advantage of Asia's booming trade economy.
However, HSBC's trade presence in 680 branches in 22 countries and territories, is but one of its strong points. The bank's knowledge of its Asian customers and their markets has been the key differentiating factor among its competitors. As one multinational customer put it: "They really understand our business and needs, wherever we are." Another had this to say: "Our relationship has evolved over the last decade from being a purely business relationship to a personal one. There exists a bond of trust and friendship between us, which can only be stronger with time."
How do they do it? HSBC has trade sales and service teams who are known for their undiscriminating dedication and commitment to both large and small customers. During the financial crisis, the bank continued to serve these customers, and is currently reaping the rewards for that dedication. HSBC turned over of 205,000letters of credit to the value of $21 billion, and opened 9600 new accounts in the first three quarters of 2000.
While old-fashioned service has been HSBC's focus, the bank has not neglected the technical and technological side of trade finance. The bank has a number of new products, including TradeCollect, which looks to leverage on HSBC presence in India and China to accelerate the payment of export bills. HSBC is also aiming to move all trade transactions on to the internet. Its trade services web site currently offers trade tutorials, live news-feeds, and exchange rates. Soon, customers will be able to create documentary collection schedules in their own office and dispatch them directly to the collecting bank through the web site.