Standard Bank Group, South Africa's largest bank, said it had established an online trading platform for real-time trading of physical gold. The new platform is the first website aimed at trading physical gold. It comes amid soaring demand from Asia to buy into gold as a way to preserve wealth in the face of growing inflation. 'We had strong demand from our customers in Asia to introduce an online system. In these times of market volatility, the online facility enables customers to trade with greater ease and speed,' said John Wixley, Standard Bank's head of global markets in Asia. The trading service will be launched in Asian countries such as India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, but not in China. The service was designed to complement the physical gold trading in China where it was mainly done with its Chinese banking partner Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the African lender said. 'We are providing the online trading platform in Asia outside China, so as to complement ICBC's existing strength in gold trading,' Mr Wixley said. ICBC, the mainland's largest lender by market value, holds the largest market share of gold trading in China, one of the world's largest gold producers and the second-largest gold consumer after India. The state-owned lender has been offering physical gold trading since 2005. 'We are working closely with ICBC to increase product delivery to the Chinese precious metals market,' Mr Wixley said. Standard Bank sold its 20 per cent stake to ICBC in October last year in an attempt to access the lucrative finance revenues from surging Sino-African trade. Chinese banks' affinity towards Africa is driven by China's voracious appetite for natural resources, from oil to gold and other metals. 'Standard Bank is a market leader in gold trading and there is enormous potential for the two lenders to co-operate in this area,' said Ivan Li Sing-yeung, an analyst at Kim Eng Securities. In March, Standard Bank and ICBC signed an agreement to launch a US$1 billion global resources fund, focused on investing in Africa and China, especially in fields such as mining, energy and other natural resources.