Foreign institutions to increase participation in sectors like securities, insurance
Although it is still uncertain as to how long COVID-19 will ravage humanity and wreak havoc on markets worldwide, indications point to Shanghai increasingly becoming a global business hub, and these views are supported by the many job ads posted shortly after the new year began.
Public information from online recruitment platform Glassdoor shows major asset management company BlackRock has announced many vacancies for its Shanghai operations since the beginning of the year, including openings for a vice-president with an annual remuneration of at least $133,000.Likewise, New York-based hedge fund Two Sigma and multinational investment company Fidelity International are looking for professionals in areas including compliance, trading and distribution in Shanghai.
Mark Leung, chief executive officer of JPMorgan China, said the financial sector in Shanghai still promises strong growth momentum despite various uncertainties in the global market. As an important window showcasing the progress that China has made in terms of financial innovation and opening-up, Pudong New Area in Shanghai has become the best example of financial industry cluster, Leung said.
The vibrancy of Shanghai's financial sector, which is best illustrated by the widespread presence of industry leaders, also helps to consolidate confidence for further expansion in the megalopolis at the mouth of the Yangtze River.
Lujiazui, in the heart of Pudong, has become a popular choice for foreign financial institutions to make their initial mark in China.
Public information shows that nearly half of the foreign banks registered with Chinese central regulators have now set up their regional headquarters in Shanghai. Up to 80 percent of assets managed by foreign banks registered in China have been realized in Shanghai. The world's 10 largest asset management firms have all set up branches in the city. Of the 32 private fund managers registered with the Asset Management Association of China, 29 are located in Shanghai. The city also accounts for nearly half of foreign insurers operating in China, which holds true for total premiums collected.
Shanghai has also witnessed many industry firsts over the past few years. China's first foreign-controlled wealth management venture－Amundi BOC Wealth Management Co－opened in Shanghai in late September.
With offices already set up in Shanghai, two US industry giants－BlackRock and Neuberger Berman－applied with the China Securities Regulatory Commission to set up wholly foreign-owned mutual funds in China on April 1, the first day restrictions on foreign ownership in such firms were removed.
But more breakthroughs are on the way as "a number of opening-up projects are in the pipeline", said Ge Ping, deputy director of Shanghai Municipal Financial Regulatory Bureau.
Efforts will be made to attract more leading and pioneering projects to set up in Shanghai. Foreign institutions will be encouraged to set up jointly-invested or wholly-owned operations in securities, funds, futures, insurance, pension management and fund advisory, Ge said.
Shanghai-based foreign financial services providers will be supported to expand their business, which means that they will be allowed to apply for interbank bond market underwriting qualification, securities fund trust qualification and non-bank businesses. Foreign institutions are likely to be more vibrant and active in the market with the extended business scope, he added.
More overseas market entities will be encouraged to participate in the financial sector. To that end, international financial products such as shipping index futures and crude oil options will be rolled out in the near future. Inter-market linking mechanisms, including the stock connect program between Shanghai and Hong Kong as well as the exchange-traded-fund connect program, will be further optimized, Ge said.
Looking ahead to the next decade or even longer, Shanghai's role as a global financial center will have more influence on an increasingly more internationalized renminbi, said leaders and experts.
While addressing a grand gathering in November to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the development and opening-up of Shanghai's Pudong New Area, President Xi Jinping said that support will be rendered to facilitate cross-border renminbi transactions in the area. Likewise, development of cross-border trading settlements and overseas financing services will be supported so that an international financial asset trading platform will be nurtured in the long run.
Tu Guangshao, former president of China Investment Corp, said in late December that Shanghai's position as a leading financial center was faced with new requirements when China adopted its dual-circulation development strategy.
A long-term goal should be set for Shanghai for the next 15 years. By 2035, Shanghai should aim to be a top global financial center featuring yuan-denominated assets accessible to investors from all over the world as well as a modern and open financial market, Tu said.
To promote the allocation of yuan-denominated assets worldwide, opening-up in the financial sector is vital. To be specific, foreign institutions should be allowed to conduct more business. Cross-border transfer of renminbi assets should be launched and conducted steadily. An international securities trust institution should be set up in Shanghai. Capital account convertibility should be advanced via multinational companies' capital pool, which over time will also help to optimize the integrated capital pool of domestic and foreign currencies, Tu added.
Shanghai should be able to guarantee liquidity when investors are settling or hedging risks for renminbi assets, said Zhou Chengjun, director of the research institute at the People's Bank of China, the central bank.
Zhou said overseas entities now hold up to 6.8 trillion yuan ($1.05 trillion) of renminbi assets, most of which is invested via the Shanghai and Hong Kong bourses, and this large amount does not make for an ideal scenario.
Throughout the process of the internationalization of the renminbi, an increasing number of people not residing in China will show preference for these new products. But not all overseas individual investors are able to open stock trading accounts in China. Besides, unlike large institutions such as Bridgewater and Blackstone, which both have the willingness and ability to manage risk, individuals are less aware of procedures for registering, depositing or trading renminbi assets.
So the best solution is to allow these individuals to buy renminbi assets in their home countries where they will be subject to local laws and regulations, Zhou said.
Under such circumstances, the trading of billions of yuan assets may not be settled in Shanghai in the future. This may seem contradictory to Shanghai's drive to become a global financial center, but it should be noted that the final clearing and depository venue should be located on the Chinese mainland. The high yield of renminbi assets will be eventually realized on the Chinese mainland, Zhou added.
"Therefore, we should set up a multi-tranche renminbi asset depository system which covers all the world and is centered in Shanghai. World leading investment institutions can open accounts in Shanghai and buy renminbi assets. They can then redistribute the renminbi assets to investors all over the world. Foreign investment banks can also issue renminbi assets in their home countries and use financing to invest in Shanghai as long as they are competent," he said.