Cathay United Bank set to become leader

Michelle Hsu,The China Post

As one of the fastest-growing banks in Taiwan last year, Cathay United Bank yesterday announced a new Chinese name consistent to that of Cathay Financial Group, a move indicating a closer integration of the bank into the group’s operations.

The bank did not change its English name since it has carried the word “Cathay” since shortly after the bank was taken over by the Cathay Financial Group in 1998. “For the bank, the change in its name is an honor because Cathay has been a leading brand name in Taiwan’s financial market for over four decades,” said the bank’s chairman Roger Lee.

Since joining Cathay United Bank as its president in 2000, Lee has set a goal of making the bank one of the leaders in Taiwan’s financial market in a short period of time. While most banks were struggling with shrinking businesses last year, Cathay United Bank still maintained its in growth in revenue, even hitting a nearly 100-percent growth in the home mortgage business. The outstanding house mortgages totaled NT$45 billion at the end of last year, compared to the NT$23.2 billion one year earlier. The average interest rate for these mortgages is at 6 percent or so. With the success of last year, the bank aims for annual growth of at least NT$15 billion for this year.

After assuming the bank’s chairmanship in May 2001, Lee strove to write off the bank’s non-performing loans (NPL). The bank’s NPL ratio fell to 3.47 percent at the end of last year, a level far lower than the current average 8 percent for banks in Taiwan. Credit cards were another fast-growing business for the bank, as it issued another one million cards during last year alone. Cathay United Bank is ranked as the third largest credit card issuing bank in Taiwan, following Chinatrust Commercial Bank and Citibank. While speaking during yesterday’s press conference, Lee unveiled several of the bank’s new financial products and services for this year, such as the U-Life Card for advanced cash, LIBOR-linked offshore bonds, and Platinum Cards. The U-Life Card is claimed to offer the lowest interest rate among all the cash cards available in Taiwan, at around 13.75 percent. The LIBOR-linked bonds offer a preferential interest rate range from 5 percent to 7 percent while the Platinum Cards boast to provide the most comprehensive services ever available to credit card holders in Taiwan.