Capturing the Investment-Banking Opportunity in Southeast Asia

Banks that serve midmarket and overseas companies will have opportunities to grow revenues and improve skills.

December 2008 | by James Cocco

The economic rise of Asia has been much noted. But many have not realized that this is not just a story about the emerging giants, India and China. Countries that are a part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are also an important contributor to Asia’s growth. By 2009, this region already accounted for nine percent of Asian wholesale banking revenues and thirteen percent of capital markets and investment-banking (CMIB) revenues. To be sure, these are not dominant positions. But several key ASEAN economies will grow faster than the rest of Asia over the next five years. GDP growth in Vietnam (7 percent), Indonesia (6 percent), and Malaysia (5 percent) will be notably faster than in the established markets of Japan (2 percent) and Australia (3 percent).

Several forces are propelling ASEAN growth. Chief among these are the need for new roads, ports, and power plants, and governments’ determination to expand capital markets. Evidence of both was seen in the announcement at the July 2010 ASEAN summit in Hanoi of a plan for road and rail development across the region. ASEAN’s brightening star will likely attract yet more investment from global banking majors, many of which have already built formidable presences across the region. For local banks, an inflection point is at hand. As Asian companies expand into new regions and the largest go global, incumbent banks will need to redouble their efforts or risk losing a substantial share of their investment-banking franchise to the big international banks. We see five core capabilities that local banks must build, including the coverage model, account planning, research, cross-border capabilities, and the talent proposition.

A leading incumbent bank in India set out to build these five capabilities, with considerable success: among other achievements, average monthly fee income increased by twenty-one percent over baseline. Several ASEAN banks will probably achieve similar success, and that in turn will increase the pressure on foreign banks to respond. We see three likely responses for these global firms, including balancing their “footprint,” capturing the mid-corporate opportunity, and developing capabilities to deliver cross-cutting solutions.

Local companies are likely to start asking for solutions that cut across wholesale funding and capital market products—for example, some companies are likely to need structured finance for infrastructure projects as well as sukuk. To deliver on these multifaceted needs, global firms should establish local-currency balance sheets to more effectively structure deals. Firms organized in product groups will need to develop mechanisms and incentives to link organizational “silos” to create effective client solutions.


Executive Editor

Ms Anna Sullivan

Ms Anna Sullivan