A weighty new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers surveys the state of foreign banks’ operations in China. As with most other industries, the world’s banking groups are looking to China as a key source of growth in the coming years.

But for all of the country’s promise, the barriers to entry are daunting. Following a state-directed lending binge, China’s government-backed domestic banks took additional market share from foreign competitors, who now control only 2% of the country’s banking business. Despite increasingly sophisticated and service-friendly domestic rivals and “policy constraints that dictate the pace, scope and direction of their market penetration”, foreign banks remain firmly committed to China, PwC says. Of course, given the moribund state of financial services in the west, some would argue that they have little choice.

The banks surveyed by the consultancy expect to boost their headcount in China by nearly 50%, on average, over the next three years. There are few places in the world where banks could match that sort of growth (or, indeed, grow at all).

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