BlackRock has received approval to begin operating a wealth management business in mainland China, as the world’s biggest international investors push to access the country’s vast pool of savers.
The joint venture, which is 50.1 per cent owned by BlackRock and includes China Construction Bank and Singapore’s state fund Temasek, gained approval from the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission according to an announcement on Wednesday.
BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, is one of several large international investment groups seeking to expand in China and capitalise on growing savings and maturing markets as the country liberalises its financial system.
“The Chinese market represents a significant opportunity to help meet the long-term goals of investors in China and internationally,” said Larry Fink, BlackRock chief executive, in a statement. “We are committed to investing in China to offer domestic assets for domestic investors and look forward to creating a better financial future for more people.”
A report from Boston Consulting Group and China Everbright Bank showed that China’s wider wealth market was worth Rmb121.6tn ($18.9tn) in 2020, up 10 per cent from a year earlier.
China’s wealth management sector is dominated by banks and BlackRock is an early overseas mover into the space.
French asset manager Amundi became the first foreign majority-owned business in China to offer wealth management products after its joint venture with Bank of China received regulatory approval and began operating last year.
The Chinese government also last year began allowing foreign businesses to fully own their mutual fund companies, which BlackRock gained initial approval for in August. Its wealth management venture is separate and will rely on distribution by China Construction Bank and will invest in domestic assets.
The opening up of China’s investment industry, which has included groups such as JPMorgan Chase announcing that they would fully own their mainland fund business, is part of a wider wave of reforms that have made the country’s financial industry more accessible to overseas businesses despite tension between Washington and Beijing.
“The whole point of what’s going on at the moment [with Chinese reforms] is for global companies to enter the fund management business in China,” said Stewart Aldcroft, Asia chair of Cititrust, an arm of Citigroup.
JPMorgan in March said it would also take a stake in the wealth unit of China Merchants Bank.
In November, China announced rules making it easier for foreign investors to tap into mainland futures markets. Overseas buyers last year flocked to buy Chinese assets on the back of the country’s rapid economic recovery from Covid-19.
Reforms have also hinted at the prospect of liberalisation of China’s restrictions on outbound investments. The Wealth Connect programme, for which China released draft rules on Friday, will allow households in southern China to buy investment products in Hong Kong and vice versa.
“You have to believe, and I’m sure most of them [international asset managers] do, that at some point they will be able to start offering non-Chinese products,” Aldcroft said.