Home AWARDS The International Banker 2023 Asia & Australasia Awards Winners

The International Banker 2023 Asia & Australasia Awards Winners

by internationalbanker


In a bid to combat the weakness of the yuan, China’s currency regulators are pressing domestic commercial banks to reduce or postpone their purchases of US dollars. The informal instruction—or so-called “window guidance”—is the latest in a series of steps taken by regulators to boost the currency, which has suffered during China’s sluggish post-pandemic economic recovery as well as due to rising yields for the US dollar and other major currencies. The yuan has lost 3.6 percent against the dollar this year, hitting an eight-month low in July.

The State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) told Reuters that exchange-rate expectations were stable and that it would push for a “risk-neutral” mentality at companies and financial institutions. “The yuan exchange rate expectations are stable, and the foreign exchange market has the foundation to meet authentic and compliant FX needs,” SAFE stated, adding that it will aim to keep the yuan stable at reasonable and balanced levels. The window guidance “suggested that the central bank maintained its stance to support the yuan”, said Ken (Kin Tai) Cheung, chief Asian FX strategist at Mizuho Bank in Hong Kong. “It also showed that the PBOC has ample tools to defend the currency.”

The share of bad loans compared to the Philippines’ banking sector’s total loan book climbed for the fifth straight month in May to reach a nine-month high, as rate hikes implemented by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) continue to take their toll on borrowers in the country. The central bank’s data showed that the nonperforming loan (NPL) ratio of Philippine banks rose to 3.46 percent in May, the highest since August 2022 and 0.05 percent more than in April. Banks’ bad loans also climbed by 1.6 percent to ₱436.12 billion in May from ₱429.11 billion in the same month last year. The ratio peaked at 4.5 percent in July 2021 amid the country’s struggles with the pandemic before improving to a two-year low of 3.16 percent in December 2022.

Since then, however, borrowers have struggled to repay loans, raising the total amount of soured loans on banks’ books, with the banking industry’s bad debts steadily rising in the five months to May from ₱398.79 billion in December. But according to the Bank of the Philippine Islands’ (BPI’s) lead strategist, Marco Javier, the NPL ratio of Philippine banks should remain stable at 3 to 4 percent this year. “We’re looking at low single digits for credit growth and NPLs probably near the three to four (percent) handle. Again, the lag effects of monetary tightening will probably be creeping in the latter part of this year,” Javier said. “But again, they (NPLs) should still be relatively lower than the peak that we saw during the height of the pandemic.”

India’s central bank (Reserve Bank of India, or RBI) has reassured domestic commercial banks that it will intervene should it be required to manage any market fallout due to the outflows of Russian funds held in rupees with local banks. Bankers have become increasingly concerned over the size of the eventual outflows of these funds, but Reserve Bank of India officials have assured them that adequate buffers remain in place to manage such a scenario.

With Western sanctions restricting Russia’s use of the US dollar for trade purposes, India has been using the dirham, yuan and rupee to trade with Russia, with local banks holding such funds in special accounts. And with India’s imports exceeding its exports, Russian companies have accumulated billions of rupees largely held in local Indian government bonds until the funds are repatriated, according to its foreign minister. Brokerage firm CLSA claimed that US$20-$30 billion of Russian oil imports have been paid in rupees and may be invested in government debt.

Thanks mainly to asset sales overseas and a domestic stock rally, Japanese megabanks Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG) are leading their Asia-Pacific (APAC) peers by posting the largest gains in market capitalisation for the second quarter. MUFG maintained its eighth position on S&P Global Market Intelligence’s ranking of Asia-Pacific’s 20 largest banks in the April-June period after its market capitalisation grew by a hefty 27.45 percent from the first quarter to $88.57 billion. SMFG, meanwhile, saw its market capitalisation surge by 14.8 percent quarter-over-quarter (QOQ) to $56.83 billion, pushing it up the list by one position to the 14th.

In the year to June 30, MUFG’s share price jumped by 46 percent, “benefitting from the closing of the sale of its U.S. Union Bank, which will improve the bank’s cost-income ratio going forward and lower risk-weighted assets, along with its surprising strong dividend guidance,” said Michael Makdad, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar. SMFG’s share price soared on the back of a weaker yen, prompted by higher US interest rates, Makdad added, which boosted its overseas profits.

Malaysia’s banking sector may miss Affin Hwang Capital’s loan growth target of 4 percent this year should local market conditions remain subdued for the second half. The investment-banking group noted that recent US economic data suggested interest rates would likely be higher than previously anticipated, adding that the sector’s loans moderated in June, growing at a subdued 0.2 percent month-over-month (MOM) and 1.4 percent year-to-date (YTD). However, domestic funding and liquidity conditions remained conducive to loan growth, Affin Hwang added.

The bank continues to maintain its loan growth target of 4 percent for this year. “Loans in June 2023 rose 4.4 percent year-on-year (YoY), on the back of robust demand from business-finance activities, transportation/communications, agriculture and household sectors. Meanwhile, loans for mining and quarrying as well as manufacturing have been subdued. Household loans were mainly underpinned by mortgages, credit cards, passenger cars, and personal financing,” according to Affin Hwang. “The system gross impaired loan ratio, meanwhile, saw an uptick from December 2022 to June 2023, from 1.72 per cent to 1.76 per cent. Hence, it is not a surprise that some banks have remained hesitant with the writeback of the Covid-19 overlay reserves due to concerns of rising delinquencies.”

Effective August 16, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSI) cut the statutory reserve ratio for commercial banks by 200 basis points (bps) to 2 percent in a bold move to inject liquidity into the banking system and domestic money market. With interest rates being decisively cut by 450 basis points in both June and July as inflation eased in recent months, the decision to cut the reserve ratio is expected to inject about 200 billion rupees (US$2.4 billion) of liquidity into the domestic money market, which would enable a further downward adjustment in market lending rates as a result of the reduction in the costs of funds of Sri Lanka’s commercial banks, thereby supporting the expansion in credit flows to the economy.

“This was very unexpected, but the central bank has been expressing slowness in the decline of interest rates. This measure will address that,” Dimantha Mathew, head of research at First Capital, told Reuters following the announcement. “The central bank was also under pressure with the slowness of economic recovery, so this addresses the growth issue rather than anything else.” Cheaper lending rates should also help boost Sri Lanka’s growth prospects, particularly given the 7.8-percent contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) it registered for 2022 and the 2-percent decline expected this year. “The central bank will continue to monitor market developments and take appropriate administrative measures, if required, to ensure faster reduction of market lending rates,” the monetary authority also added, having earlier warned it would intervene to lower interest rates if commercial banks were slow to pass on rate cuts to the market.

Bangladesh’s central bank, Bangladesh Bank (BB), is on the verge of approving a framework for establishing digital banks as the South Asian nation seeks to transform into a cashless society with a target of 75 percent of domestic transactions being conducted digitally by 2027. “Digital innovation is continuously modifying the landscape of the financial system all over the world. Bangladesh Bank promotes an enabling regulatory environment allowing innovation to make a robust, efficient and secured financial system,” according to the central bank. “Accordingly, BB recognizes the role of digital platforms and usage of artificial intelligence in driving greater efficiency in the delivery of financial products and services and in widening the outreach of the financial system. Towards this end, BB has decided in principle to issue license[s] for full-fledged digital banking.”

Analysts expect Bangladesh’s second-largest mobile financial-services provider, Nagad, to be among the first leaders of this new industry, having been the first in the country to request a digital-banking licence in 2020. The digital banks will offer “efficient, low cost, and innovative” financial products and services, using “artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and other advance[d] technologies”, according to BB’s draft guidelines, while banks must have paid-up capital of 1.25 billion taka (US$11.55 million) each, which is lower than the requirements for conventional banks of 5 billion taka. And while they are not required to have physical presences other than head-office operations, any new digital bank will have to issue customers bank cards, QR (quick-response) codes and other advanced technologies to facilitate transactions.

Perhaps conscious of the 2016 hacking of Bangladesh’s central bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FedNY), which saw $81 million stolen, former Bangladesh Bank Governor Salehuddin Ahmed recently warned that “there are some risks” to digital banking. Should thieves target digital banks, “we would not be able to recover [the funds] because we don’t have that much expertise or required manpower in the IT [information technology] industry”. As such, the central bank requires that at least half of the board members of all prospective digital banks have knowledge and experience in technology-based banking, emerging technologies, and cyber laws and regulations. They must also have an AI (artificial intelligence)-enabled dispute resolution mechanism.

Three of Australia’s big four—Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Westpac Banking Corp and ANZ—recently stated their beliefs that no more interest-rate increases will be enacted in this cycle, while National Australia Bank (NAB) expects one further hike. “This second consecutive pause is significant. The Board no longer needs to continue its rapid-fire approach to hiking the cash rate now [that] the data is moving in the right direction,” RateCity’s Sally Tindall said. As for when rates will begin to fall again, Commonwealth expects the first cut in March 2024, the first of four rate cuts next year to bring the cash rate down to 3.10 percent.

With reports revealing that Australians lost a record AU$3.1 billion to scams in 2022, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has given its approval for the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and its member banks to participate in discussions to develop an industry standard to prevent, detect and disrupt scams affecting individual and small-business customers. The interim authorisation applies to all ABA member banks, which currently include AMP Bank, ANZ, Bank Australia, Bank of Queensland Limited (BOQ), Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited, Citigroup, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), HSBC, ING Bank, J.P. Morgan Australia and New Zealand, Macquarie Bank, MUFG Bank, National Australia Bank (NAB), Rabobank Australia, Suncorp Bank and Westpac Banking Corp. The authorisation also includes strict measures to manage the risks of the banks coordinating on anything beyond scam prevention and customer redress.

“A coordinated response across government, law enforcement and the private sector is essential to effectively combat scams that are evolving rapidly and with increasing sophistication,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said. “We have acted quickly on this interim authorisation because the proliferation of scams is causing significant detriment to consumers and businesses alike, and the banking sector has a key role in combating scams and recovering losses.” Lowe added that the ACCC has placed reporting conditions on the ABA to ensure it is made aware of the progress of discussions.

New Zealand announced in June that it would conduct an inquiry into the profitability of the country’s banks and investigate whether competition in the banking sector is sufficiently serving consumers. The sector is dominated by four main lenders—ANZ Bank New Zealand, ASB Bank, Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) and Westpac New Zealand—all of which are owned by Australian institutions and account for 85 percent of mortgage and other lending, as well as 90 percent of deposits. “There have been long-standing concerns that the market is not working well for New Zealanders,” Minister of Finance Grant M. Robertson stated. “Banks have consistently made high profits over a number of years, and their returns have outperformed their peers in other countries.”

Robertson also said the government plans to establish a more competitive market for personal loans, mortgages and credit cards as households continue to struggle with higher living costs. “There has not been an in-depth look into competition issues in New Zealand’s banking for some time, and New Zealand lags other countries such as Australia and the UK into doing a detailed analysis into banking services,” he added, also noting that the inquiry will not cover the conduct of banks and culture. Rather, it will focus on whether any barriers are preventing new market competitors from entering or expanding, the introduction of innovative offerings and consumers’ ability to switch between banks.




Mr. Jun Ohta

Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (Japan)



Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) (Vietnam)


Best Banking Group China
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China

Best Banking Group India

Best Banking Group Japan
Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group

Best Banking Group Singapore
United Overseas Bank (UOB)

Best Banking Group South Korea
Shinhan Financial Group

Best Investment Bank Of The Year China
China International Capital Corporation Limited (CICC)

Best Investment Bank Of The Year India

Best Investment Bank Of The Year Japan

Best Investment Bank Of The Year South Korea
KB Securities

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Cambodia
Prince Bank

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year China
Bank of China (BOC)

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year India
State Bank of India (SBI)

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Indonesia
Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI)

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Malaysia
Bank Islam Malaysia

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Philippines
BDO Unibank

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year South Korea
Shinhan Bank

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Sri Lanka
National Development Bank (NDB)

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Thailand
Siam Commercial Bank (SCB)

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Vietnam
Asia Commercial Bank (ACB)

Best Private Bank Of The Year China
ICBC Private Bank

Best Private Bank Of The Year India
Kotak Private Banking

Best Private Bank Of The Year Malaysia
CIMB Private Banking

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Bangladesh
Bank Asia

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Cambodia
Prince Bank

Best Innovation In Retail Banking China
China Construction Bank

Best Innovation In Retail Banking India
Punjab National Bank (PNB)

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Indonesia
Bank Negara (BNI)

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Japan
Mizuho Bank

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Malaysia

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Philippines
Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank)

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Singapore
United Overseas Bank (UOB)

Best Innovation In Retail Banking South Korea
Woori Bank

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Sri Lanka
Commercial Bank Of Ceylon

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Thailand
LH Bank

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Vietnam
Asia Commercial Bank (ACB)

Best Islamic Bank Of The Year Indonesia
Bank BTPN Syariah

Best Islamic Bank Of The Year Malaysia
Bank Islam Malaysia






Mr. Shayne Elliott

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group



National Australia Bank (NAB)


Best Banking Group Australia
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group

Best Investment Bank Of The Year Australia

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year Australia
Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Best Commercial Bank Of The Year New Zealand
Bank of New Zealand (BNZ)

Best Private Bank Of The Year Australia
National Australia Bank (NAB) Private Wealth

Best Innovation In Retail Banking Australia
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group

Best Innovation In Retail Banking New Zealand
ASB Bank



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