HBL International Strategy
HBL is the largest Bank in Pakistan, with a presence in major trade zones across the world. HBL’s international footprint is important for the Bank to better serve its domestic and international clients by providing connectivity across HBL’s network. The Bank will continue to grow and maintain its presence in most countries in South Asia, the Middle East, selected countries in Europe and Asia, and China most importantly. China is the lynchpin in HBL’s international strategy and is HBL’s second home market.
With the vision of becoming a leading regional bank, HBL established a Representative Office in Beijing, China, in 2005 with a perspective of establishing a banking presence in China in the long run. Since then, significant investment and hard work have achieved several milestones.
The first major milestone was establishing an HBL branch in Urumqi in 2017 and becoming the first and only Pakistani bank to have a branch in China. Located in the Core Area of the Silk Road Economic Belt, Urumqi City has been declared as the regional hub for finance, trade, and logistics by the Chinese government. The Urumqi branch presents the opportunity for greater trade, investment, and economic cooperation for China and Pakistan.
Read more: First Pakistani private bank opens branch in Beijing
In 2018, HBL was given the RMB license by the Chinese banking regulator. With the commencement of RMB operations in November 2019, HBL created history when the HBL Urumqi Branch formally commenced the RMB business by becoming the first and only Bank from Pakistan and one of the three banks from South Asia and MENA region to offer end-to-end RMB intermediation.
In 2018, HBL was elevated to a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Interbank forum. Presence in SCO-IBA allows HBL to play a role in promoting regional trade, investment, and cooperation between Pakistan, China, and Central Asian countries.
As part of the China strategy and to further enhance HBL’s market penetration in CPEC and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) context, HBL inaugurated its Beijing Branch in March 2021. With the commencement of the Beijing Branch, HBL aims to remain at the forefront with regulators, major state and private-owned enterprises, and leading financial institutions to facilitate its customers with their projects along the BRI.
HBL’s Advantage (Trade, CPEC, BRI)
In 2013, HBL established a dedicated China coverage team in Pakistan across three cities (Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad) consisting of Chinese and Pakistani bankers to provide financial services exclusively to Chinese Companies. In 2016, HBL signed an MOU with China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) for strategic cooperation making HBL the first Bank to set up a branch in the Gwadar Free Zone (GFZ). The GFZ branch is a dedicated branch for Chinese investors and individuals setting up factories in the zone.
With the success of the China Coverage team set up in Pakistan, HBL expanded this model to UAE, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and East Africa (through its affiliate Diamond Trust Bank). HBL is now able to service Chinese customers in multiple jurisdictions and has become a Bank of Regional Relevance for these fast-expanding Chinese companies.
Read more: HBL: Pakistani Bank with a China Vision
HBL is the preferred partner of Chinese Institutions in the Investment Banking space. In 2018, HBL entered into an agreement with the China International Capital Corporation (CICC) to jointly offer investment banking services to companies in Pakistan and China. HBL had led 6 CPEC transactions worth over USD $6Bn, underlying its status as the lead local financial advisor and arranger in CPEC transactions.
By leveraging its local advantages, HBL has actively cooperated with Chinese financial institutions to provide Chinese companies with various services, including financing in local currency, financial advisory and consulting, and remittances, which has promoted the construction of CPEC.
HBL also represented Pakistan at a global forum in China geared towards promoting green investment. This resulted in the development of a ‘Green Light System,’ which seeks to evaluate and minimize the potential eco-environmental implications of BRI projects. HBL is honored for being the only Pakistani Bank as a signatory of the Green Investment Principles (GIP) China. HBL has recently signed an agreement with Tsinghua University, Beijing, to develop the Green taxonomy and develop world-class policies.
Read more: Editorial Periscope: Where we Stand on CPEC and Looking Forward
CPEC Phase II
- The second phase of CPEC involves industrialization, socio-economic development, agriculture, blue economy (maintaining and sustaining oceanic resources), and tourism activity.
- In the recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China, the Framework Agreement on Industrial Cooperation was signed, putting the focus on the development of various industries in Pakistan with Chinese assistance.
- Development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is one of the major aspects of promoting industrial activity under CPEC Phase II. HBL has entered into an agreement with China Road and Bridge construction to attract domestic and international investors to the Rashakai Economic zone (REZ). In this regard, HBL has recently established a branch in REZ to facilitate investors.