KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 (Xinhua) -- CIMB, Malaysia's second largest banking group and the fifth largest in Southeast Asia, is anticipating more opportunities brought to the region by the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and is looking forward to playing a positive role, said the bank's chairman Nazir Razak.
CIMB, having been the leader among its peers to embrace changes and tap into regional opportunities, is excited about the Belt and Road Initiative and the surge in economic activity that it promises.
As a veteran banker, Nazir believes that the world needs a voice from Asia.
"From a strategic standpoint, I think Asia has been too passive throughout the era of American-led free-market capitalism. There have been many instances, not least in the debates about global banking reforms, where the Asian voice has been sorely missing, resulting in prescriptions that do not suit our problems," he told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
He questioned the reason why there had been no strong Asian credit rating agency or investment bank to give an Asian perspective to the direction of capital flows.
To Nazir, the Belt and Road Initiative comes at a time when the U.S. leadership is saying "America First."
He described the initiative as a "very well thought-out plan," noting that it was launched alongside a set of complementary initiatives, such as Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Silk Road Fund and the surge in Chinese foreign direct investment across the world.
"It has already been backed by significant commitments of capital," he said.
Noting financial support and potential trade and investment figures, Nazir said: "These are powerful headline numbers, and as a regional banking group, we are very excited."
After his recent visit to China to attend the Belt and Road forum, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said his country will benefit tremendously under the Belt and Road Initiative as it enhances the connectivity between China and other regions, such as Central Asia, Europe, Southeast Asia and East Africa.
Malaysia has seen increasing Chinese investment and participation in its major projects, including the East Coast Rail Link, Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Malacca Gateway, Gemas-Johor Bharu double track rail.
Nazir said Malaysia welcomes Chinese investments, adding that the projects under the initiative should live up to the expectations, generate growth as well as benefit the local economy and business.
Proposed by China in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, aiming at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of Silk Road.
OPEN FOR MORE CHINESE PARTNERSHIPS
As an ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) franchise, CIMB will be looking for projects and transactions with an ASEAN dimension, including ASEAN companies that undertake infrastructure projects, Chinese companies that invest in ASEAN, partnerships between ASEAN and Chinese companies, Nazir said.
"We have positioned ourselves to reach potential clients with our huge presence across ASEAN, strategic presence in Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well as partnerships, most notably our ASEAN stock broking partnership with China Galaxy Securities," Nazir added.
CIMB is open to more partnerships with Chinese companies after its recent tie-up with China Galaxy Securities and Ant Financial Services Group on the world's largest online and mobile payment platform Alipay.
"CIMB intends to be very engaged with China, not to compete with banks onshore, but to be able to intermediate flows between China and ASEAN. Our partnership experiences (with Chinese companies) have been good," Nazir said.
According to Nazir, the partnership with Alipay offers synergies for both parties because Alipay brings the technology, experience and Chinese customer base, while CIMB has the network and brand in Malaysia.
He also welcomed the expansion of Chinese banks into Malaysia and ASEAN as he believes they will bring more capital for businesses in the region and make it easier for Chinese investors and travelers to come to these regions. "CIMB will compete, but also collaborate with Chinese banks," said Nazir.