Raymond Or says lender's top priority is to boost its interest in Industrial Bank Hang Seng Bank's top priority for its mainland expansion strategy is to increase its stake in the Industrial Bank, according to vice-chairman and chief executive Raymond Or Ching-fai. 'I believe that when investing in the mainland, the most important thing is that we must remain focused,' Mr Or said. 'Both [the Industrial Bank] and our own mainland operations have been showing very healthy growth and we're happy to see that. 'So if we have the money, I'd rather we increase our stake in them than finding another bank in which to invest.' Mr Or admitted that the odds of achieving that goal would be 'very slim' in the near term as mainland banking regulations stipulated that foreign investment could amount to only 25 per cent of any single commercial bank. Hong Kong's third-largest lender by assets is Industrial Bank's largest foreign shareholder, having bought a 15.98 per cent stake for $1.72 billion in December last year. The other foreign shareholders are Government of Singapore Investment Corp with 5 per cent and the International Finance Corp (IFC), the World Bank's private-sector lending arm, with 4 per cent. Mr Or's comments came a few days after news that two of Industrial Bank's mainland shareholders were planning to put their stake up for sale with Hang Seng being unable enter a bid because it would exceed the limit on foreign share ownership. Mr Or reiterated the bank's goal of increasing the profit contribution from its mainland operation to 10 per cent within three to five years from 3 per cent currently. Hang Seng has branches or representative offices in 12 mainland cities. Mr Or, who joined the bank from parent Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp in November last year, also hinted that renovation work would be carried out on some of Hang Seng's branches to make them look more comfortable for customers. About 10 per cent of Hang Seng customers' transactions are done through its branches and the figure has been dropping every month, according to Mr Or. He said that the lender was in the process of reviewing its branch operations. 'There are a lot of issues that we have to look at, such as whether a specific branch needs renovation to make customers feel more comfortable when they walk in,' he said. 'We have heard from our customers that with the branches' current layout, some of them are really not suitable venues for discussing business.' However, he dismissed suggestions that any large-scale, across-the-board renovation work would be carried out on all branches. Mr Or said that with lending demand showing few signs of a major pick-up, Hang Seng would continue to focus on the development of its commercial banking and wealth management businesses in the coming year. He added that earnings from treasury activities, a main drag on the bank's profit in the first half of this year, was unlikely to show any drastic improvement in the short term.