Bank of East Asia targets wealth management and fintech in Greater Bay Area from newly opened Qianhai tower

Bank of East Asia targets wealth management and fintech in Greater Bay Area from newly opened Qianhai tower

Bank of East Asia targets wealth management and fintech in Greater Bay Area from newly opened Qianhai tower

Bank of East Asia (BEA), Hong Kong’s oldest family-run bank, on Friday officially opened its 18-storey BEA Tower in the Qianhai special economic zone in Shenzhen, as part of its push in the Greater Bay Area targeting wealth management and fintech.

“The official inauguration of BEA Tower represents a milestone for our business development in the region,” Adrian Li Man-kiu, BEA’s co-CEO, said at an inauguration ceremony for the tower located in the heart of Qianhai.

“This building will serve as our strategic hub for the Greater Bay Area, facilitating closer collaboration between members of the BEA group and enabling us to provide more seamless cross-boundary services to our customers.”

The 105-year-old bank has invested 1.4 billion yuan (US$196 million) to develop the grade A building, which will serve as its southern China headquarters. BEA’s mainland headquarters is in Shanghai.

The BEA Tower is located in the Qianhai special economic zone in Shenzhen. Photo: Enoch Yiu

Mainland Chinese regulators in the last couple of years have unveiled dozens of measures to develop the Greater Bay Area, including promoting the banking and services industry in the Qianhai financial area, opening up opportunities for businesses from Hong Kong.

Last February, policymakers rolled out a package of 30 measures to connect Qianhai with Hong Kong’s capital market at a high level by 2025 and to build a financial system on par with international standards by 2035.

The tower, which has a gross floor area of 42,700 square metres (460,000 sq ft), houses the bank’s Qianhai branch, a fintech innovation centre called Beast and a data lab, with some 500 employees working in the building.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu welcomed the lender’s investment in the bay area.

A pre-recorded video message by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee is played at the inauguration of the BEA Tower in Qianhai on Friday. Photo: Enoch Yiu

“Hong Kong’s internationalised market, product offerings and talent pool can make proactive contributions to the financial liberalisation and innovation of the Greater Bay Area, not only in such established sectors as securities, banking, insurance and asset management, but also in the emerging fields of green finance and fintech,” Lee said in a pre-recorded video message.

Lee said BEA should capitalise on the opportunities presented by the development of Qianhai, which serves as a services pilot area for cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

The tower’s inauguration was attended by senior Hong Kong and mainland Chinese government officials and bankers, including BEA’s executive chairman David Li Kwok-po, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po and Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s deputy CEO Arthur Yuen Kwok-hang.

Qianhai and Hong Kong can work together in the areas of wealth management, fintech and green finance, Chan said.

He said more banks and family offices could be set up in Qianhai to capture the wealth management business in the bay area.

Brian Li Man-bun, BEA’s other co-CEO, said the bank has always been a supporter of the development of the bay area.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan (centre) with Bank of East Asia co-CEO Adrian Li, deputy chairman Arthur Li, executive chairman David Li and co-CEO Brian Li at the inauguration of the BEA Tower in Qianhai, Shenzhen, on Friday. Photo: Enoch Yiu

“The [bay area] is the most developed and wealthy area in the country,” Brian Li said. “We have a wide range of wealth management products to meet the demands of customers in the area.”

Like its competitors, HSBC and Standard Chartered, BEA is betting on Hong Kong’s expanded role in the Greater Bay Area to tap the growing affluence and potential for wealth management in southern China.

Adrian Li said since the border reopened last January, the bank has seen a substantial growth in account openings by visitors from across the border to manage their wealth.

“With the opening of the new Qianhai Tower, we believe we can capture growth opportunities in the [bay area],” Adrian Li said.

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BEA operates 48 branches in Hong Kong and manages 63 outlets across 38 mainland cities, including 20 in the bay area. Its global network covers Singapore, Malaysia, the United States and Britain.

The bank was co-founded by the brothers’ great-grandfather Li Koon-chun, great-uncle Li ­Tse-fong and seven others on November 14, 1918, just three days after the end of the first world war.

It formally opened for business in January 1919. David Li joined the bank in 1969 and was its CEO for nearly four decades, from 1981 to 2019. He handed the reins to his two sons in 2019 as co-CEOs.

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