The Bank of China has become the first mainland bank to enter the country's insurance sector since Beijing set rigid barriers between banking, insurance and securities broking several years ago. The bank entered the market through its Hong Kong-incorporated vehicle, Bank of China Group Insurance. The insurer yesterday opened its first mainland branch in Shenzhen after winning 'special approval' from Beijing in October. Bank governor Liu Mingkang said at the branch opening yesterday it had been a trend of domestic financial companies to develop comprehensive financial services, embracing banking, insurance and securities broking. In China, financial companies, such as banks, are restricted to providing only banking services. Mr Liu said the latest trend would bring China more in line with developed economies, where universal financial services were allowed. Other mainland banks are tipped to follow the Bank of China. 'They can first set up an insurance arm in Hong Kong and re-enter the domestic market as overseas insurers later,' an analyst said. Earlier this month, mainland-backed ICBC (Asia) was seen as the likely buyer of a 24.9 per cent stake in Shenzhen-incorporated property insurer Tai Ping Insurance. The bank is the Hong Kong-listed arm of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China - the mainland's largest commercial bank. The deal has yet to be struck. The Shenzhen branch of Bank of China Group Insurance will be restricted to selling non-life policies to foreign-invested enterprises in the city. The branch will capitalise on existing clients in the city for business. The Shenzhen branch has HK$100 million working capital and aims to net 40 million yuan (about HK$37.4 million) in gross premiums next year.