New Party Chief Chosen for Ailing Private Lender
The former chief executive of Bank of China’s Hong Kong unit has been appointed as the new Communist Party secretary of China Minsheng Banking Corp. Ltd., one of the country’s largest privately owned banks.
Gao Yingxin, who resigned from Bank of China (Hong Kong) Ltd. on Monday, will take over for Zheng Wanchun, who remain at the bank as its deputy party secretary, the bank announced on Friday.
The bank also said that Shao Yaping will replace Chen Jinzhong as the head of its discipline inspection commission and will join the bank’s party committee.
The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) made the personnel changes to meet Minsheng’s needs for reform and future growth, according to the bank. Gao has pledged to make Minsheng a first-tier commercial bank.
Typically, Minsheng’s party chief also serves as its top executive.
Minsheng, established in 1996, has a diverse ownership structure, with private companies making up 10 of its largest shareholders. Conflicts between the bank’s shareholders and management have been much fiercer than at many other banks, insiders say.
Minsheng’s price-to-book ratio, which compares a company’s market value with its book value, currently sits at around 0.53, which is below the average ratio of 0.6 to 0.7 for other listed Chinese banks. It’s also nowhere near rival China Merchants Bank Co. Ltd.’s ratio of 1.5.
With its stock trading below book value, Minsheng has been relegated to the second tier of China’s joint-equity commercial banks.
The new party leadership appointments came at a challenging time for Minsheng, which has been criticized by its shareholders for its underperforming stock. In addition, management, shareholders and the banking regulator have clashed over key candidates for its next board, the election of which had to be postponed in February due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Caixin has previously reported. It has yet to be rescheduled.
Current board members have disagreed with the CBIRC over who should succeed Hong Qi as board chairman, several people close to Minsheng’s shareholders told Caixin. Hong, 62, has served as chairman since 2014. His second term will end this year.
In 2019, Minsheng gave the CBIRC the names of two candidates to be its next president, Caixin has learned. The regulator rejected both. Instead, it recommended Gao, who joined Bank of China in 1986 after completing graduate school with an engineering degree.
Gao’s appointment is still subject to shareholder and board approval. Based on past scheduling, the bank’s next shareholder meeting hould take place in mid-June.
One longtime investor in Minsheng, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Caixin that he supports the candidate recommended by the regulator and hopes the new chief can put change at the beleaguered bank.
Several people at Bank of China said Gao’s rapid rise was due in part to his overseas experience. Bringing in someone with a significant banking background and an international perspective to be chairman might be the regulator’s way reshaping Minsheng’s culture and reconciling the differences between the board and the management, the sources said.
A previous version of this story used the incorrect name for China Minsheng's new Communist Party secretary. It is Gao Yingxin.
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