The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) will focus on retail banking services, said Tom Tobin, the new general director of HSBC Vietnam in the following interview. Excerpts:
How are you finding life in Vietnam?
I have been in my current position for less than a month, but prior to this, I have visited Vietnam many times. Vietnam’s beautiful scenery and friendly people have always attracted me. In economic terms, Vietnam has an average annual growth rate of over 7%, has doubled per capita GDP growth over the last ten years and an FDI growth rate of 55% a year is being considered symptomatic of the region. I hope that our bank will benefit from the country’s fast development.
In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Vietnam’s financial market?
I see that the Banking 2007 attracted participation of many people and customers. This demonstrated that Vietnamese people do not only pay attention to the current banking market but also want to know how the banking market will develop in the future in order to be able to meet their increasingly complicated needs. Vietnam presents great potential and in turn there are many opportunities available to banks. However, compared to many developed countries, Vietnam’s banking and finance market remains fledgling, which is demonstrated by restrictions on policies, regulations and operations of fund raising. Nevertheless, I believe that in the near future, Vietnam’s banking market will be on a par with other countries in the region and in the world.
What do you think government policies helping foreign banks expand their operations in Vietnam?
We laud policies of the Vietnam government regarding opening up the banking market, allowing foreign banks to be on a level playing field with domestic banks. The government’s opening of the banking market is systematic, gradual and controllable. This curbs adverse fluctuations for the Vietnam banking and finance market after Vietnam entered the World Trade Organization (WTO). However, in Vietnam clients of banks are now mainly businesses and big investors while small-scale enterprises still face difficulties in securing loans. This is also a restriction of Vietnam’s banking market. All businesses need capital for investment and production and naturally banks are the first destination. However if you open a bank and no one wants your loans, you fail. As a result of this, HSBC’s business views are absolutely different.
We always treat all customers equally and help them access our capital as well as save. This is the reason why HSBC was awarded the best and most successful foreign bank in Vietnam last year.
Can you tell me about HSBC’s strategy in the future?
HSBC is a global bank and in Vietnam we have been relatively successful, particularly in corporate finance, banking services for multi-national groups and financial institutions, monetary services and the capital market. In the near future, we will launch some new products and services in credit, payment and monetary management. Demand for retail banking services in Vietnam is big so we will focus on investing in this. As far as I know, only 8% of the country’s population have bank accounts. As a result, Vietnam presents great potential and opportunities for us to develop retail banking services by opening more branches as well as installing more ATMs outside our branches. In the long term, HSBC’s strategy is to invest in HSBC’s activities to spur continuous growth, and investing in strategic partnership. We can take advantage of the distribution network of our partner Techcombank with over 80 points of sales nationwide.