Regional lenders reign supreme in Asia-Pacific Awards for Excellence

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Tapered growth in China and historically low pricing has hampered dealflow in the Asia-Pacific region.

Lenders are faced with heightened regulations, Know Your Customer initiatives and increased competition from regional and international lenders. As a result, this year’s Awards for Excellence has produced a diverse group of winners across both the established and emerging economies of the Asia-Pacific.

Some individual country awards are only in their third year and in Asia, international lenders may have difficulties in navigating some emerging markets’ jurisdictions. Therefore regional lenders have gone from strength-to-strength, possessing the capabilities to support their clients’ trade finance needs. In a market flush with liquidity, regional lenders are supporting exporters that are reportedly struggling to obtain finance from international banks, who are focused on established trade relationships with tier one and two clientele.

Bank of China edged out HSBC for top trade bank in China, a market that is gaining a lot of traction as the Chinese government loosens financial restrictions and aims to internationalise its currency. Best Trade Bank in South Korea meanwhile went to Kookmin Bank for the third consecutive year. Cathay United Bank scored a resounding back-to-back victory for Best Trade Bank in Taiwan. 

CIMB continued its fine performance in the ASEAN region taking home the awards for Best Trade Bank in Indonesia and Malaysia, narrowly beating Maybank in the latter category. Maybank however edged out CIMB for the Best Islamic Trade Bank, an award predicated on unique structures in an evolving sector of trade finance. 

In the Philippines, Bank of the Philippine Islands edged out BDO Unibank for the third year running and Vietcombank took out Best Trade Bank for Vietnam once again. Elsewhere in the ASEAN region Siam Commercial Bank took home the Best Trade Bank in Thailand, upsetting last year’s victor Kasikorn Bank, which finished in second place. In South Asia the State Bank of India took out the Best Trade Bank in India, upsetting last year’s winner Kotak Mahindar Bank, while ICICI Bank was left to play bridesmaid for the second year running.

Bank Alfalah meanwhile took out the Best Trade Bank in Pakistan award ahead of the National Bank of Pakistan. In Sri Lanka and Bangladesh however, the international lenders reigned with HSBC and Commercial Bank of Ceylon winning in each respective country for the second year running. The mature economies and traditional trade hubs outside of China received a flurry of nominations. Best Trade Bank in Japan went to the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ once again, with Mizuho coming in second. HSBC topped the polls for Best Trade Bank in Hong Kong, beating Citi and maintaining a grip on its home market. CIMB could not replicate its success from last year in the commodities hub of Asia as local lender DBS beat HSBC for the Best Trade Bank in Singapore.

Further south, ANZ beat out Westpac once again, taking home the Best Trade Bank in Australasia. Indicative of European banks beginning to re-assert themselves in the Asia-Pacific, Credit Agricole won the award for Best Supply Chain Finance lender from Standard Chartered, which finished runner-up for the second year running. Dutch banks continued their supremacy in commodities with ABN Amro winning the award again for the Best Commodity Trade Finance Bank from ING.

HSBC backed up its performance from last year taking out the award for Best Export Finance Arranger ahead of ANZ. HSBC has been at the forefront of several large-scale ECA deals in the last 12 months in shipping, telecoms and power. ANZ has been a worthy adversary however, leading the Deal of the Year-winning Burgos wind farm project in the Philippines. 

The Japan Bank for International Cooperation fought off the Export-Import Bank of Korea once again to win the Best ECA award. JBIC has Japanese exporters of all sizes looking to expand their businesses into emerging Asian economies, while it has also supported its tier two lenders’ aspirations to expand opportunities outside of Japan’s economy. Kexim meanwhile, continues to be a strong supporter of South Korea’s shipbuilding industry. The Asian Development Bank won the award for Best Development Finance Institution once again ahead of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. In the insurance sector Zurich took home the ward for Best Trade Insurer and JLT won the Best Trade Insurance Broker for the region.

Norton Rose Fulbright beat Allen & Overy for Best Trade Law Firm with strong representation across large-scale deals. For example, the firm partnered with Deutsche Bank to advise lenders on the $1 billion metals prepayment for Tangshan Iron & Steel, a Deal of the Year winner. Eurofinasia meanwhile, has once again won the Best Trade Finance Boutique award, a sector it continues to flourish in.

The biggest success in the region  goes to HSBC, which has won the Best Overall Trade Finance Bank for the Asia-Pacific. The British-headquartered bank narrowly edged out Citi, which won the award for Best Trade Advisor, to win the prize on the back of strong performances in export finance, renminbi-denominated financing structures and project finance.

HSBC was present on seven deals of the year and led multiple tranches for the $1.5 billion Kexim and K-Sure-backed Reliance Jio Infocomm transaction.

Category  Winner Highly Commended
Best commodity trade finance bank in Asia-Pacific ABN Amro ING
Best DFI Asia-Pacific ADB EBRD
Best ECA Asia-Pacific JBIC KEXIM
Best export finance arranger Asia-Pacific HSBC ANZ
Best overall trade finance bank in Asia-Pacific HSBC Citi
Best supply chain finance bank Asia-Pacific Credit Agricole Standard Chartered
Best trade advisor in Asia-Pacific Citi HSBC
Best trade bank in Australasia ANZ Westpac
Best trade bank in Bangladesh Citi HSBC
Best trade bank in China Bank of China HSBC
Best trade bank in Hong Kong HSBC Citi
Best trade bank in India State Bank of India  ICICI
Best trade bank in Indonesia CIMB Mizuho
Best trade bank in Japan Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ
Best trade bank in Korea Kookmin Woori
Best trade bank in Malaysia CIMB Maybank
Best trade bank in Pakistan Bank Alfalah NBP
Best trade bank in Philippines Bank of the Philippines BDO Unibank
Best trade bank in Singapore DBS HSBC
Best trade bank in Sri Lanka HSBC Commercial Bank of Ceylon
Best trade bank in Taiwan Cathay United Bank Hua Nan Commercial Bank
Best trade bank in Thailand Siam Commercial Bank Kasikorn
Best trade bank in Vietnam Vietcombank SMBC
Best trade finance boutique in Asia-Pacific EFA Group
China Trade Solutions
Best trade insurance broker Asia-Pacific JLT Marsh
Best trade insurer in Asia-Pacific Zurich AIG
Best trade law firm in Asia-Pacific Norton Rose Fulbright Allen & Overy
Best Islamic trade bank in Asia-Pacific