VIETNAM ECONOMIC TIMES INTERVIEWING DR. OLIVER MASSMANN ON DEVELOPMENT IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICE SECTOR

1. It can be said that FDI inflows has become the growth momentum for Vietnam’s banking and finance industry over the past few years. How do you comment on the changes in the local financial services sector recently?

There has been increasing foreign investment in Vietnam’s banking and finance industry, especially via M&A at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018. Currently, foreign investors are very optimistic about Vietnam’s steady economic growth and plan to expand their coverage in the market. They believe economic development will drive more demand for banking and finance activities, thus more opportunities for growth in the sector. Moreover, M&A activities have helped local banks improve their financial capacity and competitiveness in the market. Local credit institutions have diversified their products and services, applied more modern technology in their operation. Under competition pressure from foreign credit institutions, local ones have no way but to also enhance banking governance capacity as well as human resources quality. These in turn help local credit institutions grow in a more stable and safe manner.

2. How have foreign financial organizations been contributing to improve Vietnam’s financial services sector so far?

Foreign financial organizations which have track recorded experience in other countries, with wide network and customer resources, when coming to Vietnam have brought in high technology, wide variety of finance and banking products/ services, as well as management/ governance capacity. Vietnam’s financial organizations have learnt a lot from these new players, thus modernizing their own system, creating more products/ services for Vietnamese customers who have not become a major part of customer portfolio of foreign financial organizations. These local organizations and Vietnam’s financial services have somehow developed to a modern, internationally standardized level, thus making them more attractive to foreign investors.

3. A number of free trade agreements (FTAs) that Vietnam will ratify shortly are expected to drive FDI flows into the country’ financial services sector in the coming time. How do you see about this prospect?

Both the CPTPP and the EVFTA have higher level of market access commitments than the WTO. In addition, investors are better protected under the CPTPP and the EVFTA in Vietnam. The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will ensure highest standards of legal certainty and enforceability for investors. Under that provision, for investment related disputes, the investors have the right to bring claims to the host country by means of international arbitration. The arbitration proceedings shall be made public as a matter of transparency in conflict cases. Such legal certainties along with the Government’s attempts to improve investment environment drive more FDIs flows into the country.

4. How do you forecast about some investment trends of international financial organizations into Vietnam this year?

Given the Government’s recent encouragement of investing in current banks rather than establishing new ones, M&A in the sector will be very vibrant. It is the fact that in recent years many investors have expressed their interest in becoming shareholders in certain commercial banks, especially weak/ VND 0 banks that need assistance in recovery, handling bad debts and restructuring. Moreover, Basel II standards will begin to apply from 2020, so there will be huge demand for capital to meet such strict requirements. However, as local banks are still looking for appropriate partners, we expect more major successful deals in the upcoming time.

5. What should Vietnamese government do to make the local financial services sector more accessible to foreign investors?

The Government should open more room for foreign ownership in local financial institutions, as most of them have nearly reached the allowed limit. This will lure more foreign participation in the market, thus creating opportunities to local financial sectors to absorb experience, management capacity, technology, etc. to become a stable and promising market in the region. The Government should also continue to complete the legal framework on financial services sector to comply with its commitments under signed FTAs, thus raising investors’ confidence in the system and willingness to invest further.

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Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.