How banks vie for China’s billionaires

There are now more super-rich living in China than in America. They are a worthwhile target group for banks. But it has its pitfalls.

The Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing

FRüher, his task was very clearly outlined: He should help rich Chinese to get their money out of the country, reports the employee of a European private bank in Shanghai, who is responsible for the so-called “high net worth individuals”. These are customers who have at least a million dollars to invest. Due to the Chinese government’s strict capital controls, it is illegal to move large sums abroad. According to the law, private citizens are only allowed to exchange currency with a value of 50,000 dollars per year.

But the corona pandemic has changed the business of the banker, who wants to remain anonymous: When China’s economy grew as the only one of the major economies last year, capital from abroad flowed into the country instead. “My customers didn’t want to diversify as much as they used to,” reports the banker. Instead, many approached him with a completely different request: He should help bring the children home to China in a private jet from America and Great Britain, which are much more severely affected by the virus. The offspring could not study at their overseas universities during the lockdown anyway – and wanted to go home to the People’s Republic as soon as possible. This is how the wishes of China’s rich for their bank are changing. “We always have to be flexible,” says the banker.