UOB (China) became the first Foreign Bank to Open a Branch in Guangdong’s Zhongshan City on Thursday, as it continues its expansion plans in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) with a total of seven branches to date.

The New UOB Zhongshan branch will tap the group’s expertise to provide businesses in the GBA with a suite of domestic and cross-border financial services.

These include cash management, foreign exchange hedging, term loans, project and supply chain financing, and foreign direct investment advisory services.

Zhongshan is known to be a key transportation hub and an important node linking eastern and western cities in the GBA, connecting cities along the west bank of the Pearl River where the manufacturing, information technology, oil and gas and logistics sectors are said to be thriving.

The city also forms a link connecting countries along China’s Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) modern-day Maritime Silk Road, with an outbound investment to BRI countries having reached US$430 million in 2018. The city’s top trade partners are in ASEAN, namely Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Peter Foo, President and CEO of UOB (China), said that the Zhongshan branch affirms the bank’s long-term commitment to China, and reflects its confidence in China’s GBA development plan.

“It strengthens our presence in South China and enables us to expand services to the west of the GBA,” he noted. “The branch is also connected to UOB’s regional network to help our customers expand into ASEAN.”

Christine Ip, CEO of UOB Greater China, said that the branch is an “important addition” to its GBA network, as the bank continues to enhance connectivity between Greater China and South-east Asia.

“Together with our other branches and offices in the GBA, the UOB Zhongshan branch will be able to assist more companies in the area to seize business opportunities arising from the GBA and the BRI’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” she added.

UOB has made inroads to deepen its presence in the region, following the announcement of China’s GBA Blueprint in February to create an IT-led powerhouse in Southern China that could potentially rival Silicon Valley.

The GBA region includes Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province.

The UOB Shenzhen branch, UOB (China)’s Flagship Branch in the GBA moved to bigger premises in October as it plans to add more professionals to the team.

UOB also opened a Commercial Banking Centre in Hong Kong’s central business district of Causeway Bay in April to better serve the needs of its clients in the GBA.