Bank of China

BOC shortlists its candidates for top executive position

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2006, 12:00am

Putonghua language skills emphasised in hunt for replacement of foreign officer

Bank of China, the mainland's third-largest lender by consolidated total assets, has shortlisted candidates to replace its outgoing chief credit officer.

While not disclosing the background of the candidates - who are in line to replace the first foreigner to hold a top posting at a major mainland lender - people familiar with the search said the bank had emphasised their Putonghua language skills.

Previously, BOC said it would consider non-mainlanders.

On Tuesday, when the bank announced a 28 per cent jump in first-half profit, assistant president Zhu Min only said: 'We've interviewed the relevant candidates.'

He added progress had also been good for the recruitment of a chief audit officer and chief financial officer.

The Communist Party previously firmly controlled the appointment of top officials in a banking sector once known for showing more zeal in supporting economic policies than controlling risk.

But as part of the restructuring of the Big Four state banks to make them compete better with international rivals, BOC led the way in putting foreign professionals in top management positions when it hired former HSBC Asia-Pacific chief credit officer Lonnie Dounn in March last year as its first-ever chief credit officer.

A non-Putonghua speaking American, Mr Dounn tendered his resignation in April after what people in the know described as a stint frustrated by language barriers and even culture clashes. He is due to step aside at the end of next month.

China Construction Bank, another listed Big Four state bank, opted to promote internal candidates for chief credit officer and chief financial officer.

Having completed financial restructuring and human resources reforms in the past few years, BOC was moving on to improve its business structure, chairman Xiao Gang said during Tuesday's briefing.

'We'll gradually establish strategic business units in corporate banking, personal banking and global markets,' he said.

The lender is being advised on the reforms by its strategic investor, Royal Bank of Scotland.

A sign of importance the bank is placing on the internal reforms, BOC's board earlier this week promoted two assistant presidents, Zhu Min and Wang Yongli, to vice-presidents. Mr Zhu will continue to oversee legal compliance and strategic planning while Mr Wang will take primary responsibility for personal banking globally.

Their promotions still need to be vetted by the China Banking Regulatory Commission.

Separately, Zhu Xinqiang, a BOC assistant president heading the global markets operations, would soon take up a new position as an assistant president of the Export-Import Bank of China, sources said.

BOC's Hong Kong-quoted share price edged up 0.6 per cent to HK$3.38 yesterday.