ICBC (Asia) aims to become one of the leading banks in Hong Kong within five to eight years through a combination of organic growth, acquisitions and asset injections, according to chief executive Zhu Qi. Mr Zhu said ICBC (Asia) hoped to be Hong Kong's fastest-growing commercial bank this year. The key drivers would continue to be non-interest income, supported by retail banking. However, the bank also would look to acquisitions and asset injections from its parent to boost the scale of its operations, he said. 'Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the mainland's largest bank with over 30,000 branches. ICBC (Asia), which is a relatively small bank, also hopes to become a major bank in Hong Kong,' he said. Formerly Union Bank, ICBC (Asia) became the mainland bank's Hong Kong-listed flagship when it bought a 52.3 per cent stake from China Merchants Holdings in 2000. ICBC has since taken its stake in the bank up to 75 per cent. Last year, ICBC (Asia) bought its parent's commercial banking business in Hong Kong for HK$3 billion. This transaction doubled the Hong Kong unit's consolidated assets to HK$43.5 billion. The newly acquired assets - mainly syndicated loans - helped the bank report a 120 per cent rise in profits to HK$330.4 million last year, the biggest profit growth among Hong Kong banks. 'Earnings this year will definitely be higher than last year,' Mr Zhu said. He said this year the bank would reshape its retail banking business and offer new products which could capitalise on the strength of its parent's extensive branch network. It would focus on China mortgages, which at present accounted for only a small portion of the group's overall business. However, Mr Zhu said organic growth would not be fast enough to raise the banking group's business and asset scale to the desired level. The bank would consider making acquisitions from third parties, while further asset injections from its parent were possible if Beijing rules allowed. He did not elaborate. At the end of last year, ICBC extended its interests in China's financial-services market by taking a 9.9 per cent stake in mainland-backed China Insurance International Holdings (CIIH) for HK$474 million. It had been rumoured that ICBC Asia would increase its stake in CIIH and there has been market speculation that it would take a 24.9 per cent stake in Shenzhen-based Tai Ping Insurance, which will specialise in motor and property risk. Mr Zhu declined to comment on the speculation. He said mainland rules prevented foreign firms from taking more than a 25 per cent stake in mainland insurance companies and many foreign firms were interested in buying a stake in Tai Ping. ICBC (Asia) is widely expected to expand its interests in the mainland insurance market further, following the CIIH stake acquisition.