* Song Shuguang, chairman of Bank of Communications Co. Ltd.'s board of supervisors, will be transferred to become chairman of China Export & Credit Insurance Corp., www.yicai.com reported. Song had worked in China's insurance sector for nearly 30 years.
* The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission gave Bank of Communications a go-ahead to set up a wealth management subsidiary, Caijing reported.
* China's Ministry of Finance transferred 10% of the shares it holds in China Taiping Insurance Holdings Co. Ltd. to the National Council for Social Security Fund in response to the State Council's request to replenish the country's social security fund from state-owned capitals, Shanghai Securities News reported.
* New China Life Insurance Co. Ltd. said it is "under normal operation and management" ahead of the election of a new session of its board of directors, in a statement following media reports that its chairman had stepped down.
* Line Financial Taiwan Corp. named Morris Huang CEO for its planned online-only bank, Line Bank, the Taipei Times reported, citing a company statement. Huang is a former executive vice president of Taipei Fubon Commercial Bank Co. Ltd., which owns a 25.1% stake in Line Bank.
JAPAN AND KOREA
* Japan's Seven Bank Ltd. is looking to introduce a service later in 2019, where customers can open an account via ATM using high grade camera for facial recognition, The Asahi Shimbun reported. A regional bank source said that there would be needs for such services among people who cannot visit branches during the business hours, but expressed concerns about the risk of crimes, such as money laundering.
* Takeshi Kunibe, president of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., said that the company is on track to meet its 10% Tier 1 capital goal early and will be ready to consider M&As and investments into growth field, such as digital cashless business, Tokyo's The Nikkei reported. In addition to securities and asset management companies, Kunibe said Asia's commercial banks, aircraft and railway leasing companies are also candidates for acquisition.
* South Korea's KB Kookmin Bank said it would agree to some its union workers' demand, including a 300% incentive, as it tries to ease the situation ahead of the union's planned general strike on Jan. 8, The Korea Times reported. Talks between the two parties collapsed earlier and failed to resolve key issues such as the introduction of a wage peak system.
* Thailand-based Kasikornbank PCL is looking to expand the number of its K PLUS application users to 100 million by providing a digital wallet service for the unbanked, forming business partnerships and using digital technologies to attract more customers, Daily News reported, citing bank President Kattiya Indaravijaya.
* Thailand's Government Housing Bank is collaborating with its insurance partners to provide fast-track claim payments for customers whose residential properties were damaged by tropical storm Pabuk, Krungthep Turakij reported.
* Indonesian state lender PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) Tbk appointed Riduan Ahmad as commercial banking director to manage the growing medium-scale businesses, Bisnis Indonesia reported, citing CEO Kartika Wirjoatmodjo. Wirjoatmodjo said commercial banking represents 20% of Mandiri's total lending or around 130 trillion Indonesian rupiah.
* Separately, Bank Mandiri Finance Director Panji Irawan said the lender plans to issue 10 trillion rupiah and US$2 billion in bonds for 2019 to help manage liquidity, Infobank reported.
* The Indonesian Financial Services Authority issued regulations on equity crowdfunding for startup companies to release shares in the capital market, Kompas reported. The regulations limit the period for share offerings to up to 12 months and total funds to be offered to up to 10 billion rupiah.
* Philippine Business Bank Inc. said it received board and central bank approvals to acquire and merge with Insular Savers Bank Inc. for 575 million pesos. The move is part of efforts to boost the bank's consumer finance business.
* India-based Axis Bank Ltd. appointed Rajiv Anand, executive director retail banking, as head of corporate banking.
* Essar Group unit Essar Global Fund Ltd. settled the last tranche of its 120 billion rupees of debt with its Indian and foreign lenders, The Hindu Business Line reported.
* Bangladesh Bank is expected to discuss the approval for three new banks - Bengal Commercial Bank, People's Bank and Citizen Bank – in its next meeting, the Dhaka Tribune reported. The central bank's board is set to meet Jan. 8.
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
* Australia's biggest banks could pay an additional A$60 million to A$80 million each in annual tax if the Australian Taxation Office, or ATO, pushes with its plan to reduce the amount of goods and services tax credits that banks receive for providing credit cards, home loans and transaction accounts, The Australian Financial Review reported. Bank representatives and their tax advisers are currently negotiating the matter with ATO.
* Kate Carnell, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, warned that the royal commission's inquiry into the banking system could make it harder for small businesses to obtain loans, The Australian Financial Review reported. Banks had been tightening mortgage assessments following the inquiry, which makes it difficult for small businesses that use a property to secure business loans.
* Australia-based Pop Insurance partnered with Allianz Global Corporate Specialty to launch a managing general agent, called Fusion Specialty M&A, Verdict reported. The new unit will focus on M&As across the Asia-Pacific region.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Middle East & Africa: Iran moves to save battered currency; Ghana concludes banking sector cleanup
Europe: Rothesay mulls £3.5B buy of Swiss Re unit; UBS eyes former BofA exec as next CEO
Latin America: Brazil scraps financial tax hike; FID Peru completes La Positiva stake purchase
North America: Malaysian court denies bail for ex-Goldman banker; 2 Wisconsin banks merging
Global Insurance: Gallagher buying UK broker; insurers sue PG&E; Rothesay eyes Swiss Re's Reassure
Janna Estares, Sally Wang, Sarun Saelee, Cathy Hwang, Emi White and Aditya Suharmoko contributed to this report.
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