British banks could benefit from US-China trade war: Barclays chairman

  • If Beijing reduces market access for U.S. banks in light of current trade tensions, that could benefit British lenders, according to Gerry Grimstone, chairman of Barclays Bank PLC.
  • That could mean British banks may get ahead of their American rivals in China, Grimstone told CNBC at the annual Barclays Asia Forum in Singapore.

British lenders may stand to gain as Washington and Beijing go head to head over trade tariffs, according to one of the world's largest banks.

When asked if American banks would face reduced market access to China in light of escalating trade tensions, Gerry Grimstone, chairman of Barclays Bank PLC, said: "I hate to say so but I think it's right."

If Beijing targets U.S. banks in that manner, British institutions may get ahead of their American rivals in the world's second-largest economy, Grimstone told CNBC's Nancy Hungerford at the annual Barclays Asia Forum in Singapore.

"I was speaking at a forum earlier this year and they [the Chinese] put the Goldman Sachs chairman in a hotel as far as possible away from the conference location ... So in little ways like that, China makes their displeasure known."

Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Grimstone's statement.

Grimstone, who is also chairman of Standard Life Aberdeen — one of the U.K.'s largest savings and investments businesses, described the U.S.- China trade spat as a long-term issue that may not be resolved anytime soon.

"China's focused on 2049. That seems a long way away but they're the one country in the world which plans for those sort of horizons and by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese state, they're hoping to regain their position as the world's top nation," Grimstone said.

He identified changes in the global balance of power as one of his top worries: "We are going back to a time where we are going to see more conflict between nation states, less multilateralism, these are very big changes, not the world in which I grew up in."