Doing Business

Case Study on a Singaporean Business Which Has successfully Started up in Vietnam

Nora Setiawan

July 10, 2020

According to a Singapore Business Federation (SBF) survey, the Singaporean business community listed Vietnam as its top market of interest. Singapore itself has ranked fourth among the 99 countries and territories investing in Vietnam in the first seven months of 2019. Thus, its investments will continue to increase through newly registered and additional Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects.

According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment, Singapore was Vietnam’s third-largest foreign investor and largest ASEAN investor in 2018, with more than 2.200 investment projects in the services, manufacturing and processing sector, as well as real estate, and finance industries.

One of the Singaporean businesses in the finance sector, which has successfully run in Vietnam is United Overseas Bank Limited (UOB). It is a multinational banking organisation that is headquartered in Singapore, with branches in most Southeast Asian countries.

Founded in 1935 as United Chinese Bank (UCB), it was set up together with a group of Chinese-born businessmen, and now it is the third-largest bank in Southeast Asia by total assets.

UOB offers an extensive range of financial services through its global network and partnership, also giving access to services like private banking, personal financial services, commercial and corporate banking, and investment banking.

Additionally, UOB is a market leader in Singapore. It is also a dominant player in loans to small and medium enterprises. Not only that, they also give a loan to private residential homes. UOB Asset Management is one of Singapore’s most awarded fund managers with a growing regional presence.


The General Information About UOB

Case study on a Singaporean Business which has successfully started up in Vietnam

On 6 August 1935, businessman Wee Kheng Chiang, together with 6 other friends, established the bank after S$1 million. Then, in 1970 UOB was listed on the Joint Stock Exchange of Singapore and Malaysia, at that time the stock exchange had an office in both countries.

In 1973, UOB acquired Lee Wah Bank, which provided services in Malaysia and Singapore. The company continued the acquisitions with Far Eastern Bank in 1984, then with Westmont Bank (now UOB Philippines) and Radanasin Bank (now UOB Thailand) in 1999. Then in 2001, the bank merged with the Overseas Union Bank Limited (OUB) in a deal estimated to be worth S$10 billion.

In 2002, UOB started expanding into the Chinese market by opening a new full-service branch office in Shanghai. UOB opened its Mumbai branch in 2009, then in 2011, UOB became the first bank in Singapore to establish a Foreign Direct Investment advisory unit to support clients’ regional expansion.

In 2013, UOB became the first bank in Singapore to offer retail customers online access to gold and silver savings accounts. Then, in 2014 UOB was named Most Admired ASEAN Enterprise for ASEAN Centricity by ASEAN Business Advisory Council.

In 2015, UOB had launched a mobile application called UOB Mighty, to enable people to open personal banking accounts online and cut the time taken to open them from 45 minutes to only 10 minutes. In 2016, UOB became the first in Singapore to use PayNow to raise funds for charity.

Finally in 2019, UOB expanded its branch in Northern Vietnam, Hanoi. It reflected the bank’s commitment to provide its financial services and solutions for customers across the country.

 UOB’s relationship with Vietnam began in 1993, it started with a representative office comprising just 3 people and 2 years later, it became the first Singaporean bank to set up a branch in Ho Chi Minh City.

Back to 6 August 2018, when UOB announced that it has incorporated United Overseas Bank (Vietnam) Limited, its fully-owned subsidiary in the country. It made UOB the first Singaporean bank to open a foreign-owned subsidiary bank in Vietnam.

UOB aims to deepen the bank’s presence in Vietnam and to ensure that they are well-equipped to support the regional clients as well as Vietnamese consumers and companies to meet their financial needs in the long term.


The Opportunities and Challenges for UOB in Vietnam

Vietnam is clearly a favourite destination for international companies, like Singaporean companies to expand their businesses. In October 2017, Singapore invested more than US$41 billion into Vietnam, it took the third largest investor in Vietnam.

The presence of UOB will enable it to connect and to support both Vietnamese customers and companies in seizing finance opportunities. UOB has supported many companies in their expansion into Vietnam. They also provide connectivity and facilitate investment flows into the country.

In addition, UOB’s expansion in Vietnam also represents our evolving bilateral ties, as Singapore partners with Vietnam in its next phase of growth.

The competition in the Vietnamese finance and banking market has become intense as existing foreign institutions are rushing to increase capital, even as new entrants join the market. The foreign banks are also promoting their in-depth development in the Vietnamese market.

There are some obstacles to face when venturing into the country, including uncertain economic and political conditions in ASEAN. The lack of knowledge on market opportunities and customer requirements in getting permits and licenses could be the potential barriers to expanding into the country.

However, the challenges might not be as big as the opportunities that they will have. As the expansion will have a very bright future for the finance sector in Vietnam.


The Business Activities of UOB in Vietnam

On 20 May 2019, Prudential Vietnam Assurance and UOB Vietnam signed a strategic bancassurance agreement to distribute Prudential Vietnam’s life insurance products to customers of UOB Vietnam.

Prudential Vietnam and UOB Vietnam have a common objective of helping local consumers achieve their financial goals and aspirations. Under their alliance, both companies will offer a comprehensive suite of financial products to customers, fulfilling their evolving savings and protection needs, while helping develop the potential of Vietnam’s insurance market.

Furthermore, Singapore’s UOB Asset Management Ltd. is acquiring VAM Vietnam Fund Management Joint Stock Company as it moves to expand in Southeast Asia. It will first buy 24.53% of VAM Vietnam from a co-founder, Nguyen Xuan Minh, a deal that is pending approvals from Singapore and Vietnam regulators. The acquisition will strengthen UOB Asset Management’s Asian Franchise and presence.

On 14 May 2020, Vietnam Technological and Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Techcombank) received fully drawn down its inaugural USD500 million syndicated loan facility (The Facility). The Facility was signed on 17 April 2020 and approved by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV).

The Facility was coordinated by UOB, which also acted as the Facility Agent for the transaction. UOB together with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited, CTBC Bank Co., Ltd, First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC and Taishin International Bank Co., Ltd jointly underwrote and arranged the Facility for Techcombank.

UOB is entrusted with coordinating Techcombank’s inaugural syndicated offshore loan facility. This fundraising deal is the single largest syndicated loan transaction secured by a financial institution in Vietnam.

With the presence of UOB in Vietnam, hoping that the Vietnamese customers and companies can eventually fulfill their financial needs in the future. Also, it is a proof that UOB successfully set up in Vietnam as the finance partner for us Vietnamese.

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