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Chinese banks react differently to regulator's call on investment products

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BEIJING, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC), the nation's banking regulator, has advised banks across the country to stop selling short-term investment products in a bid to standardize the off-balance-sheet business.

On-spot investigations by Xinhua found although quite a few major banks have suspended selling their one-month-term investment products since November upon the non-binding oral notice by the CBRC, some smaller banks chose to wait and see due to their deposit-taking pressures to meet loan-to-deposit requirement.

Liu Jianjun, director of retail business department of the China Merchants Bank, said the CBRC's latest move aimed to curtail the fierce competition between banks to allure deposits under the disguise of short-term investment products with higher yields.

Liu said the regulator's guideline would be helpful to protect the healthy development of the wealth management industry because many banks used to depend on such investment products to compete for deposits to meet the loan-to-deposit regulatory requirement.

Earlier this month, CBRC new chairman Shang Fulin ordered banks to strictly implement the loan-to-deposit requirement on a daily basis and prohibited them from wooing depositors under the veil of short-term investment products with higher yields.

One of the banking sector's most profitable businesses, the wealth investment products targeting the high net worth (HNW) people expanded rapidly among Chinese banks in recent years, so did the complaints about misleading disclosure and falsified sales.

About one-fourth of the Chinese clients surveyed said they had been misled into buying investment products from banks, while more than 16 percent of respondents said banks exaggerating their yields without adequately disclosing the risks, according to a report by the Nasdaq-listed website Bankrate.com on Thursday.

Hua Ercheng, chief economist of the Baoshang Bank, a regional bank headquartered in the northern city of Baotou, said as the benchmark interest rate is negative in real terms, the average people have strong demand for such investment products to hedge their wealth against inflation.

The benchmark interest rate of one-year deposits stands at 3.5 percent in China, compared with an inflation rate of well above 5 percent in the first 10 months of this year.

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