Yi Huiman. (Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg)

China Names ICBC's Yi as Head of Securities Regulator

(Bloomberg) -- Yi Huiman, a banking veteran who most recently chaired China’s largest lender, was named head of the country’s securities regulator, a role that puts him at the forefront of opening up the financial system to overseas firms.

Yi, 54, will replace Liu Shiyu, who ran the China Securities Regulatory Commission for three years, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday, citing a decision by the State Council. People’s Bank of China’s Deputy Governor Zhu Hexin is set to replace Yi as chairman at Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., according to people close to matter, asking not to be identified due to sensitivity.

Liu will move to the All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives as its deputy communist party secretary, according to a statement on the agency’s website.

A Beijing-based press officer at ICBC said he isn’t aware of the situation, while a CSRC spokesman said he had no relevant information to provide. They both commented before the Xinhua report. The PBOC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment outside of normal working hours.

China Names ICBC's Yi as Head of Securities Regulator

The CSRC is a central part of the government’s effort to give foreign companies access to its more than $40 trillion financial industry. Under rules introduced last year, the agency handles applications for overseas majority stakes in the securities and asset management sectors. It’s also responsible for the country’s capital markets, another area where authorities are keen to see increased offshore participation.

China’s financial opening-up made some headway under Liu’s supervision. A former banker, he took over the CSRC in February 2016. With one exception, previous heads have stayed in the role for two to three years.

UBS Group AG recently became the first foreign company to gain CSRC approval for a majority stake in a local securities venture under the new rules. Nomura Holdings Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have also filed applications. The regulator has in recent months also eased foreign participation rules in its derivatives and bond markets.

CSRC’s vice chairman Fang Xinghai said Thursday in a Bloomberg Television interview that more approvals will be given in the next six months to global banks seeking majority ownership in their local securities ventures.

Using language unusual for China’s political elite, Liu said early in his tenure that he would take on the “crocodiles” and “barbarians” of the markets, meaning wrongdoers and market manipulators. The CSRC has stepped up its enforcement actions, issuing record billion-yuan fines.

Under Liu’s watch, Chinese shares were added to MSCI Inc.’s global indexes, and the agency reduced a backlog of initial public offering applications. During his tenure, the stock market slowly recovered from a rout that rattled the global market, before becoming the world’s worst-performing major stock market in 2018.

China Names ICBC's Yi as Head of Securities Regulator

Two high-profile projects that were announced last year have so far failed to start, though. Responsibility was with the CSRC for China depositary receipts, which would allow global technology titans to issue shares in the country, and the London-Shanghai stock connect, a cross-listing program between the two countries. The regulator hasn’t said when the projects will begin.

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