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WHOLESALE BANKING | Cesar Tordesillas, Australia
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ANZ leads Australia's growth drive in Asia

The ANZ Group is seeking a licence in Thailand as National Australia Bank opens its first branch in India.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra met ANZ chief Mike Smith on Friday to discuss reducing the two-year waiting period for a licence so that ANZ could set up its wholly-owned subsidiary. ANZ only has a representative office in Thailand.

An ANZ spokesman said the bank had been looking to turn its representative office into a full branch so it could better service trade and investment flows between Thailand, Australia and New Zealand and other Asian countries. “It’s not a strategic priority but it’s an important part of having a fully fledged Asian network,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, NAB is following ANZ and Commonwealth Bank of Australia into India by opening a branch in Mumbai. In an interview with the Rupee Times, Rob Wright, chief of NAB’s Asian unit, said the branch opening followed demand from clients for the bank to do more in India.

“We are attracting some very good people who are looking for more stability for securing their future,” he said.

NAB’s Indian branch comes two months after it opened its first branch in China. CBA also recently obtained an Indian banking licence.

Credit Suisse analyst James Ellis said ANZ’s Asian strategy remained in a different league from those of the other major banks. “You don’t often see Australian banks willing to make the sort of scale of investment over a period of years in new businesses that ANZ is willing to undertake,” he said.

“If anything, the trend in the last 20 years has been back to the core markets. Westpac used to have a substantial international presence in the late 1980s. NAB reached its peak of being international in the late ’90s.”

CBA’s main interest in Asia is in Indonesia where it has that country’s largest foreign-owned branch network. It recently set a goal of doubling that network to 150 ranches in the next five years.

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