There is some sense in the fact that the largest country in the world by population is also the country that is home to the largest bank in the world by total deposits, total assets, total employees, total loans, and total number of customers. The country is China and the company is the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited (ICBC).

ICBC is one of the “Big Four” banks in China, all four of which are top banks in the world. ICBC is obviously the largest, but the other four are the China Construction Bank, the Bank of China, and the Agricultural Bank of China. These banks dominate Chinese banking and have deep ties to the Chinese government, but in the last thirty years they have branched far out of their home country to conduct business all over the world. 

State of the ’80s

The original branch of ICBC opened in Beijing in 1984. This was one of many state-run banks in China. 

Banking in China until the 1990’s worked in fundamentally different ways than Western banking. The process of banking in China goes back a thousand years to when the first money was printed in 1024. During the rise of the People’s Republic of China during the mid-twentieth century, banks were consolidated under the government. 

Chinese banking is freer now than it was previously, and the Big Four banks are no longer as tightly controlled as they once were, however, they are still intertwined with both government policy and politics in China. 

This all changed in the 1990s when the country allowed the expansion of commercial banks in China. These changes also allowed ICBC to expand its offerings and to grow exponentially. 

That being said, ICBC is seventy percent owned by the Chinese government. 

Clean Money

The biggest scandal in the history of the ICBC came in 2016 when Europool discovered a money-laundering scheme involving high-level executives at ICBC.

Six executives of ICBC were arrested in Spain for supporting and expanding a scheme that laundered money to criminal syndicates of both Spain and China. This scheme spread all over Europe. This has turned out to be a significant problem for a number of Chinese banks, who have become a haven for criminals who need to hide illicitly gotten funds. 

Leader in World Banking

ICBC has incredibly diversified banking interests all over the world. Its loans breakdown by industry like this:

  • Manufacturing, 20%
  • Transportation, postage, storage, & telecom, 11% 
  • Power, water, and gas, 9%
  • Retail, wholesale, and catering, 8%
  • Property development, 6%
  • Social services, 3%
  • Construction, 3%
  • Misc industries,10%
  • Discounts, 12%
  • Personal loans, 16%
  • Overseas, 3%

These loads amount to three and a quarter billion dollars. 

The annual revenue of ICBC is over one hundred and five billion dollars. Its total assets amount to more than twenty-seven trillion dollars. The company has over four hundred and fifty thousand employees spread across Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East. 

ICBC has adapted readily to changing market demands and to the growing economies all over the world. Thanks to its close ties to the Chinese government and a wide breadth of investments and financial products, ICBC has grown to be the top of its field.