Four Foreign Banks in China Start Yuan Retail Services

Citigroup, HSBCand two other foreign banks on Monday officially began offering local currency retail banking services to customers in mainland China, aiming to woo potential clients with better services than local lenders usually provide.

The banks had earlier launched the locally incorporated branches required to handle retail banking in Chinese yuan; Monday's opening for business followed audits by the China Banking Regulatory Commission.

All the foreign banks -- Citigroup , Britain's HSBC Holdings ,Standard Chartered Bank and Hong Kong's Bank of East Asia -- are expected to focus mainly on China's growing ranks of newly wealthy, customers eager to find better investment options and nicer treatment than they can get at a big state-owned bank.

The incursion of foreign banks into the local market has been a gradual process, accelerated by the terms of China's 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization. Local banks have been rushing to restructure and forming alliances with foreign partners as they work on upgrading services, technology and management.