Bank of India has become the first Indian bank to offer trade settlement facility between the rupee and the Chinese RMB from Hong Kong. This follows intense persuasion by the China Banking Regulatory Commission, which is trying to gain acceptance of the RMB as an international currency.
"We are the first Indian bank to offer real-time settlement facility in RMB to Indian exporters and importers. It will be save a lot of time because settlement in US dollars usually takes three working days," Arun Kumar Arora, BoI's chief executive in Hong Kong, said during a recent visit to meeting regulators in Beijing.
Indian buyers are at present making payments in US dollars, and they often have to convert rupee into the US currency for the purpose. The US dollars will no more be the intermediary currency as the BOI is offering direct settlement between the rupee and the Chinese money.
Chinese exporters want their money in the local currency, which is regarded as more stable compared to the US dollar. They are also in a position to have their way because Indian buyers do not have an alternative source of low-cost goods, sources said.
The process has been facilitated by a recent memorandum of understanding signed between the Reserve Bank of India and the CBRC to enhance banking relationship between the two giant neighbors.
BoI has opened a RMB with the Bank of China, which will provide real time settlement with buyers and sellers across all provinces of China. The move is part of a campaign by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, which has persuaded 100 foreign banks to enter into arrangements with Chinese banks for trade settlement in RMB.
"We will sell RMB against the US dollar, and companies can buy as much as they want provided they have the right papers. For individuals, the limit of 20,000 RMB a day," Arora said. He expects settlements for an amount ranging between 200 million and 300 million in the first year.
Hong Kong is the only offshore market for the Chinese currency. The past year saw $400 billion of Chinese yuan being traded in Hong Kong against other currencies.
BoI is also awaiting permission from Chinese regulators to establish a branch in Beijing, where it has been running a representative office for the past four years. It has recently signed an MoU with the CBRC on converting the representative office into a branch. The bank has been running a branch in the boom city of Shenzhen for the past four years. The Shenzhen branch will also be involved in providing additional support for the trade settlement business.