The yuan will be 'almost' fully convertible in five to 10 years, according to Citic Bank International, which also expects the mainland's securities regulator to launch a trial programme this year to allow foreign investment in the A-share market. The major obstacle to promoting the use of the yuan in the international community was that the currency was not fully convertible, said Dr Liao Qun, chief economist and strategist for Citic Bank International. Mainland authorities were still cautious about liberalising capital markets. 'The yuan capital account is already partially open, but the steps made towards a fully convertible currency are slower than expected,' Liao said. 'I don't think [the mainland regulators] will speed that up because what they really need to do first is to introduce reforms in the financial markets.' Looking ahead, apart from Hong Kong and Macau, Singapore could be the next offshore yuan centre for settling trades and to provide yuan services primarily to Southeast Asia. Singapore has been keen to tap the yuan business, and China says it will establish a clearing bank in the Lion City. Liao believes many countries in Southeast Asia would be happy to use the yuan but the currency might still not be 'internationalised' on a par with the US dollar or the euro. 'It depends what you're measuring it against ... if you compare [the yuan] with the US dollar,' Liao said. 'It could take a very long time.' Meanwhile, Hong Kong, as an offshore yuan centre, was still working towards have a full range of yuan investment products, including bonds and equities. The first yuan-denominated real estate trust Hui Xian launched last month failed to attract the level of investor interest the finance industry anticipated. Liao believes that the subdued interest will not deter other yuandenominated offerings. He expected the launch of the so-called mini QFII (qualified foreign institutional investor ) this year to be the next big step to broaden the range of yuan products available in Hong Kong. The mini QFII allows local fund houses to raise money offshore for investment in the mainland's equity markets. Liao estimated yuan deposits in Hong Kong would total 800 billion yuan (HK$957 billion) to 1 trillion yuan by the end of this year.