China has become the second largest economy in the world, with increasing integration into the global economy. There is good reason to believe that the Chinese economy has reached a point where its status as the biggest export country will soon become the biggest in outbound direct investment.

This new model requires not only Chinese enterprises to expand their global businesses, but also China's banking sector to accelerate its internationalisation.

One particularly striking feature of the multipolar world over the past decade was the rapid appearance of emerging market multinationals, in particular from the BRICS. These multinationals benefited from globalisation, and, in turn, have played increasingly significant roles in driving globalisation.

In addition, global business and its conventions have changed in many ways. For example, capital flows are no longer one way — from developed nations to the developing economies. Now both have become capital exporters. In contrast to the weakening of consumption in advanced countries, there is a huge amount of new consumers emerging in the developing markets. They have different demands for products and services, and are attracting world-class companies to shift business priority to them. Moreover, innovation is no longer a "patent" belonging to developed nations, as more enterprises operating in the emerging economies have become a source of innovative activities.

Nowadays, in the midst of the ongoing financial crisis, it is crucial for Chinese companies to adopt a "go-out" strategy. Such a process has already begun helping them enlarge their "growing space", break natural resource bottlenecks, shift part of overcapacity and extend value chains by making fuller use of overseas markets.

Following that, China has accelerated its outbound direct investment, totaling $437.3 billion in 178 countries and regions by the end of 2011. Even though the sovereign debt crisis in Europe is worsening, Chinese companies regard this region as one of the most attractive destinations for investments. This is apparently the main driving force for Chinese banks to follow their customers going abroad.

Meanwhile, with the renminbi's ongoing internationalisation, there has been a new choice for Chinese firms and banks to freely choose their settlement and investment currency, making it easier for them to lower the cost of finance and conversion by raising funds from different onshore and offshore renminbi markets. It is unimaginable that the renminbi can become a global reserve currency without support from Chinese international banks.

Admittedly, Chinese financial service providers lag well behind other enterprises going abroad. There is room for further improvement in providing enterprises with more cross-border products and services. These international businesses can not only improve customer experience, but also benefit themselves.

Despite facing the dangers and uncertainties in the ongoing European sovereign debt crisis, Chinese banks still have ample opportunity to explore their business in international markets.

Historically, the years before the global financial crisis saw rapid growth in the cross-border activities of banks. According to the Bank for International Settlements, the average year-on-year growth rate for cross-border bank credit to non-banks from 2000 to 2007 was 15.2 percent. European banks were in the vanguard, with around one-third of their assets outside their home markets.

But nowadays, they have had to shrink their balance sheets and pull back to their home countries. The IMF projected that banks in the EU would undergo a $2.6 trillion deleveraging over the next two years.

Obviously, this homeward migration of the European banks opens the door to other banks, including Chinese banks.

It is not all positive though, Chinese banks may be facing slowing growth in profitability in the domestic market as financial reforms and slowing economic growth begin to bite. To some extent, developing their international business can help them diversify income stream and disperse their risks.

It is important for Chinese banks to make an appropriate global strategy before going abroad. Usually, the first business focus should be serving Chinese enterprises, and banks should provide them with a full range of solution oriented products and cross-border services. Of course, multinationals and foreign firms that have a close relationship with China in trade and investment should also be a priority.

Choosing growth geographies is vital to the success of banks' internationalisation. With Chinese trade and investment with the rest of the world increasingly diverse, Chinese banks must further expand their global network so that they can have a larger coverage of overseas businesses.

In addition to enhancing their existing presence in Western countries, Chinese banks should attach more importance to delivering financial services in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, either by building up operating entities or through deepening co-operation with corresponding banks in the world.

Organic growth within the chosen geography will be a fundamental way of developing Chinese global banks, though it may take time to achieve the goal. However, that does not necessarily mean that mergers and acquisitions (M&A) cannot be used as an accelerator or supplement in implementing a global strategy.

The key issue on "organic growth" is to identify the fact that the rationale of M&A activities must be in line with the global strategy; in particular, the specific M&A target should have capabilities that the Chinese bank may lack. If an opportunity does not fit with a predefined strategy, then it should be given up. M&A is costly and complicated, so should be treated with caution.

In the early stage of internationalisation, Chinese banks should place a strong emphasis on corporate banking and cross-border services, rather than retail banking business. Resources within the group in question are limited and capabilities are probably not strong enough to compete with local banks.

There is a huge potential in corporate banking business lines such as international settlement and cross-border payment, which bring fee-based income. Trade finance, cross-border cash pool management and bank loans have played important roles in facilitating world trade, investment, manufacture and innovation.

Risk management capabilities are vital for any bank's survival during its journey to internationalisation. Since global businesses may encounter more challenges than domestic ones, Chinese banks need to revitalise their risk management processes in order to ensure that their capital, liquidity, credit and national risks are all controlled at a level aligned with the bank's global strategy.

Talented people are definitely critical to a bank's successful internationalisation. Banks need to invest a great deal of effort to attract, develop and retain talented managers and specialists, and make strengthening the talent pool a top priority.

Cross-cultural communication plays an essential role within any banking group following a global strategy. Having said that worldwide businesses and revenues may be geographically diverse, a global bank should operate as "One Bank", sharing common corporate culture and values, and being consistent with the basics of banking, regardless of where the employees come from.

Currently, the century-old Bank of China is the most internationalised of China's banks, with more than 590 branches, offices and outlets in 32 countries and regions including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Its overseas assets and post-tax profits accounted for 23 percent of the total in the first quarter of 2012.

The fact that the Bank of China was the only developing world institution included on the list of 29 global systemically important banks approved by the G20 summit not only represents the bank's strong international brand, it is

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