I read today that China Construction Bank (CCB) has floated on the HK stock exchange with an IPO of some US$8billion, making it the largest floatation for 4 years. Now as everybody jumps onto the latest China bandwagon, let me tell you my own personal experience with CCB so you can decide whether you would invest your last RMB into such an enterprise.
Whilst living in China, I owed my friend a small amount of money when he moved to a different province (Zhejiang) while I stayed in Yunnan. He was a CCB account holder. No problem I thought. I will just go in to a CCB office in Yunnan, give them his account number, and the money will appear in his account. The teller told me I’d have to pay a small fee, but that was water off a ducks back. Easy? You must be kidding. A week after making the deposit, the money hadn’t arrived. I returned to CCB.
They told me there’d been an input error or I’d supplied the wrong info. So I double checked, paid the fee and sent the money. A week later, it hadn’t hit the account.
The third time, I asked my friend to photocopy his passbook so I could take it into the bank, and there could be no mistake about it. Armed with a Chinese speaker for back up we went into the branch to remit the money. Once again I sent the money. Once again I paid the deposit. Once again the money didn’t arrive.
We returned to the branch to find out WTF was going on. Why could they not do a simple thing like deposit money to one of THEIR own account holders. I was bemused. The manager came out and apologised for the fiasco and agreed to refund my fees. He said that unfortunately CCB didn’t have the facility to transfer money from province to province. Well, thanks for telling me. But he had a great suggestion, and I did as he instructed thusly:
I opened a CCB account in my name. I deposited the money in the account. POSTED the passbook to my disbelieving friend, then emailed him the PIN number. He then made the withdrawal in Zhejiang.
So, such is he reality of life at CCB. At a time when everything China-related is hot investment news, it pays to know the reality on the ground. I wouldn’t put a bean into CCB shares until they can convince me that they have anything but a medieval banking system.