A CHINESE banker based in Canberra is spending the next two months in China, trying to discover why Australian banks have been unsuccessful there. Mr Joe Zhang Huaquiao, a lecturer in banking and finance at the Australian National University in Canberra, thinks Australian banks have fallen into the trap of hiring expensive, big-name consultants rather than researching the practicalities of doing business on the mainland. Mr Zhang, a former Central Bank of China manager and speech writer for the bank's deputy governor, moved to Australia four years ago. He believes there are three basic reasons why no Australian bank has won a banking licence in China since the country opened to foreign banks in 1981, despite the three major commercial groups - Westpac, ANZ Banking Group and the National Australia Bank - opening representative offices there in the early 1980s. During the past decade, 57 foreign banks have gained banking status. Mr Zhang says the banks are in the wrong places, all trying to compete in Beijing; are seeking full licences rather than trade finance or advisory work; and their staffing needs improvement to help them lift their profile. ''I am saying since they have invested a huge amount of money there they should quit if it is not worthwhile and lift their game if it is worthwhile,'' Mr Zhang said. He approached the banks to finance research to test his hypotheses, but only Westpac agreed - providing A$2,000 (about HK$10,600) of the $6,000 he needed to visit Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. ''Not only the banks, but a lot of Australian companies have the same problem: they are very enthusiastic initially about China but after several failures usually become disappointed and impatient and give up,'' Mr Zhang said. ''I personally think there are many areas they could improve. For example, before they go to China or do anything they should get someone to offer them some sort of background briefing. ''Very often they go to someone with the title of professor or a big name, but those people's interests are very diversified and they don't really know the practical and concrete things.''