Security officers stand guard outside a branch of ICBC in Madrid, Spain. The mainland Chinese bank’s brand value grew 32 per cent year on year to US$47.8 billion. Photo: EPA

China’s ICBC overtakes Wells Fargo as world’s most valuable bank brand, says survey

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has for the first time surpassed Wells Fargo to become the world’s most valuable banking brand, helping China itself become the No 1 country in terms of aggregate banking industry brand valuation, an industry report said.

ICBC’s brand value grew 32 per cent year on year to US$47.8 billion, the Beijing-based bank said on Monday, quoting the Top 500 Banking Brands 2017 ranking by UK-based The Banker magazine.

China’s aggregate banking brand valuation increased 25 per cent to US$259.2 billion in the 2017 list, surpassing the United States as the top country, The Banker said on February 1. However, China’s growth rate decelerated from a 42 per cent year-on-year rise in the 2016 rankings.

The ranking of the most valuable banking brands globally, in its 11th year, determines the net present value of a bank’s trademark and associated intellectual property, or its brand value. The survey is conducted by Brand Finance on behalf of The Banker.

Consistent revenue growth and improving macroeconomic factors have provided significant uplift to the valuations of Chinese banking brands, The Banker said.

China’s big-four state-owned banks, including ICBC, China Construction Bank, Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China, made it into the top 10 global banking brands.

Eleven new Chinese banks joined the top 500 ranking for 2017, bringing the total number of Chinese banks on the list to 45.

Many Chinese banks are represented in the fastest climbers group, both by percentage brand value increase (12 of the top 20 climbers) and by rank (seven of the top 20).

China’s banking industry still needs to press ahead with reforms and improve its efficiency to serve the real economy
Zhang Xingrong, BOC Institute of International Finance

“The rise of Chinese banking brands reflects China’s growing economic clout after years of steady growth and banking reform,” said Zhang Xingrong, managing director at the BOC Institute of International Finance. “However, we shall also bear in mind the structural difference of the financial industry between China and the United States. In China, banking takes the lion’s share in financing while in comparison, direct financing takes the lead in the US.

“For the long term, China’s banking industry still needs to press ahead with reforms and improve its efficiency to serve the real economy and shoulder social responsibility to keep building up a good reputation and branding recognition,” he added.

Qiu Zhicheng, an analyst at ICBC International, said he isn’t surprised to see the rise of Chinese banks considering the sector’s vast industry base.

“It’s easy to be front-runners globally in an industry considering China’s large economic scale,” he said. “The ranking alone will help boost banks’ brand recognition at home and abroad.”

Big-name Chinese banks are expanding abroad to diversify their income sources and take advantage of the nation’s One Belt, One Road initiative.

An unnamed spokesperson from ICBC’s brand management department was quoted in the report as saying that ICBC’s brand has gone global during the process of serving its customers and supporting their participation in international markets.

US-based Wells Fargo slipped into second place in the rankings after four years at number one. Its brand value contracted by 6 per cent to US$41.6 billion, narrowly ahead of China Construction Bank in third place. The account opening scandal that engulfed Wells Fargo in 2016 had the biggest impact on its brand value, The Banker said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: ICBC ranked the most valuable global bank