Bankers' finances to be put under the microscope

Executives at mainland banks will have their interests, and those of their families, examined under new rules designed to stamp out graft

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 December, 2013, 11:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2016, 1:21pm

The financial status of bankers’ families and the interests of their relatives will come under scrutiny when banks nominate top executives from the middle of this month, as Beijing sets up firewalls before a flood of privately owned banks enter the scandal-plagued financial sector.

People will not be qualified to become board directors or senior executives of financial institutions if they or their spouse have “a relatively large amount” of overdue debts, according to new rules for senior executives in the mainland’s banking sector – including banks, trust firms and asset-management companies.

The new regulations, to take effect in a fortnight, also cap lines of credit acquired from a bank to the net value of the stake the director holds, if the director and his or her relatives hold a combined stake of more than 5 per cent in the bank.

Relatives include spouses, parents, children, brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren.

These are basic professional ethics to prevent insider trading and ensure personal financial prudence
Professor Zhuang Deshui

Economists said rampant insider trading and graft as bankers tapped to bank funds through companies controlled by relatives had prompted the extension of scrutiny to executives’ families and the activities of relatives,

“China’s banking sector will have more diversified shareholders as private companies are encouraged to set up banks and invest in other financial institutions,” Zhao Xijun, a finance professor at Renmin University said. “The possibility is increasing that directors and senior executives will act under the influence of shareholders behind them.”

Reckless loans and misappropriation of assets already occur in the mainland’s banking sector, even though it is dominated by state-controlled and local government-owned banks.

In July last year, Yang Kun resigned as an executive director of Agricultural Bank of China, one of the Big Four state-owned lenders, after being detained in Beijing for more than a month amid a widening probe into allegations of illegal gambling and misappropriation of clients’ money.

In yet another embarrassing scandal involving the mainland’s banking system, Postal Savings Bank of China president Tao Liming was arrested last December for alleged illegal fund raising, accepting bribes and extending illicit loans.

Liu Zhiyun, a professor from the Centre for Financial Law at Xiamen University, said regulations introduced by the mainland’s banking regulator were usually stricter than those of international peers, however the domestic financial sector was still plagued by irregularities because “many problems cannot be solved by the regulator, for example, improper intervention by party organs or government departments”.

Professor Zhuang Deshui, from Peking University’s anti-corruption research centre, said the new regulations did not go so far as to ask senior executives to regularly disclose their financial status or that of their families, put their qualifications under the microscope regularly or publicly announce their qualifications, which made them far from effective in preventing irregularities.

“These are basic professional ethics to prevent insider trading and ensure personal financial prudence,” Zhuang said. “It has a long way to go to make the executives, or party cadres the in case of state-owned banks, declare their own wealth and related interests.”