Maybank not affected by US-China trade spat

Greater China only accounts for about 3% of the bank’s total loans, says CEO


Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) has a small loans exposure to the China’s market, cushioning the country’s largest lender from any significant fallouts from the escalating US-China trade spat.

Washington and Beijing have been sparring threats in the last few weeks, unsettling the equity markets, rattling the financial sector and adding uncertainties to the global economy.

Maybank group president and CEO Datuk Abdul Farid Alias said the bank will not be affected by the ongoing trade disputes between US and China, despite the lender’s loans exposure to Asia’s largest economy.

He said Greater China only accounts for about 3% of the bank’s total loans, which include local companies.

“There is no impact, not right now. This story is still evolving, the parties are reacting to each other,” he said at the bank’s AGM and EGM in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The US and China are the world’s two largest economies. Any fallout between the two economic titans will have a global impact.

But Beijing’s recent tone has been conciliatory, adding that liberalisation will occur in the world’s most populous nation. Abdul Farid hopes “the market will rebound a little bit and that level-headedness will prevail”.

The banking group has branches in Shanghai, Beijing, Kunming and Shenzhen, and counts Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore as its home markets.

Meanwhile, he said Maybank is currently in the early stages of reskilling and upskilling its employees to make them fit for the bank’s digital agenda.

“We decided late last year to retrain every employee as we realised there is a demand for reskilling and upskilling due to new technology. We are quite ambitious. We’re trying to finish it by the middle of the year, but it’s quite a stretch to get 27,000 people reskilled,” Abdul Farid said. The focus of the retraining programme will be on data analytics, coding and programming.

Malaysia’s largest banking group by earnings is also open to the idea of blockchain utilisation in its operations, having already conducted test runs of the distributed ledger technology on which cryptocurrency is based.

“We are monitoring this. We have tested blockchain in Maybank and it worked like a charm. The opportunity is exciting, but at this point in time, it’s still not real,” Abdul Farid said.

He said one of the challenges in adopting blockchain technology is the different standards set by different countries in implementing the technology.

“I like the idea of a distributed ledger and being able to conduct transfers faster in real-time at a fraction of the cost. But first, everyone needs to adopt blockchain. Right now, there are just too many ideas.

“We are nimble in this area. We can react very quickly because we’ve tested blockchain. So, we will see what happen,” Abdul Farid said.

Industry players that have already begun using or experimenting with blockchain include Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays plc, HSBC Holdings plc, Royal Bank of Canada, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc and the State Bank of India.