Malaysian banks continue their reach beyond domestic borders with another M&A deal this week – the latest sign of regional ambitions. The rise of SE Asian lenders is significant for competition – as it changes the regional landscape among domestic lenders and increases pressure on international peers. It’s also important from a brand positioning viewpoint.
RHB Capital is Malaysia’s fifth-largest lender and agreed to buy OSK Holdings’ investment-banking division for around US$600 million. For RHB, the purchase also provides a gateway into Indonesia, Hong Kong and Cambodia. Both already have operations in Singapore and Thailand.
The deal follows CIMB’s acquisition in April of RBS’s Asia cash equities business. Maybank’s IB unit also bought Singapore brokerage firm Kim Eng Holdings. Both buyers are Malaysian.
Clearly, Malaysian lenders have regional ambitions with domestic rivalry also playing a part in forcing banks to look outside their borders. The prize is to capture rising domestic growth in SE Asia (retail) intra-regional trade flows (wholesale) and deepening capital markets (brokerage). With each step comes new challenges for public affairs, corporate positioning and messaging, as these are brands with broader aspirations who are operating in both sensitive and fast growing markets.