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The first bank to roll new dice

Article - September 14, 2012
Being behind the development of casinos from the beginning adds to Banco Nacional Ultramarino’s legacy as Macau’s issuing bank, comprehensive commercial and retail operations, longevity, and increasing support for small and medium-sized enterprises
Macau has one of the healthiest financial systems around. According to Pedro Cardoso, CEO of Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU), part of the credit for the sector’s strength lies on the regulatory framework, which places great emphasis on preventative actions, prudential monitoring and tighter supervisory practices in the sector. The regulatory framework underpinning the industry has been proving its worth recently as Macau’s banking sector received minimal impact from the recent global financial crisis. It has also helped instill confidence in foreign investors who have entered the Special Administrative Region over the past decade as part of the gaming and entertainment boom that has fuelled Macau’s massive economic growth.

In 2010, Macau’s gaming sector’s contribution to the local economy rose to 40.9%. The Economic Intelligence Unit believes the territory’s economy will increase by 15% in 2012 – making Macau the world’s fastest growing economy this year – and casinos are expected to be the main source of the predicted growth.

Since the gaming market was liberalized in 2002, Macau’s economy has expanded exponentially as foreign investors poured vast sums of capital into the industry. The government insisted on investors providing bank guarantees to back up their commitment to inject a minimum of $500 million into Macau over the following five years. Therefore, the investors sought out local entities to get behind their projects.

“Since the last quarter of 2011 we have made significant progress in areas where BNU was not traditionally
so strong.”

Pedro Cardoso,
CEO of Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU)

Foreseeing a great future in transforming Cotai’s entertainment scene, BNU presented itself from the outset as the supporting bank of choice for the international casino and resort operators, beginning with Sands Macau. Early involvement and the development of new and more sophisticated services for the operators created an advantage for BNU, placing it ahead of other institutions that initially held back, as the investors increasingly put their trust in its abilities and chose BNU for their financing needs.

This then led to BNU handling their corporate accounts, payrolls, and ultimately current accounts opened by employees at the new resorts. 

Resort operators have benefitted from the bank’s years of experience and presence in Macau, as well as its flexibility. Established in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1864 to issue bank notes for Portuguese overseas territories and to contribute to their economic development, BNU began operations in Macau in 1902 and has since built up an in-depth knowledge of the market. In 1974 BNU was nationalized and in 2001 it became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Caixa Geral de Depositos (CGD) group, which is based in Portugal. It continues to issue banknotes in Macau and this year has released commemorative Year of the Dragon MOR 10 notes.

Management at BNU strongly believes that the future of Macau, and of BNU, is bright and that it has the assets to become the gateway between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. The bank’s Shanghai representative office opened in 2006 and its main activity is to provide information, market surveys and liaison services for the head office.

BNU’s focus is set to be increasingly concentrated on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), believing SMEs need a solid and comprehensive support.

In the retail banking sector, its main goal is to increase the number of products sold per customer. It has numerous awards to its credit for its business developments.

On the commercial banking side, it has intensified relationships with local corporate customers by providing banking services that help in handling their daily operations and cash management (payroll, POS and other services) and by issuing guarantees for companies involved in public tenders.

BNU now has 14 branches in Macau and 450 employees. As a retail, commercial and issuing bank, BNU has strongly contributed over the past century to the economic and social development of Macau.

Today, it continues to support the activities of several non-profit organizations dedicated to assisting people in need or to the promotion of arts and culture, including Tung Sin Tong, the Macau Child Development Association, the Macau Drug Rehabilitation Association, the Grupo de Escuteiros Lusofonos de Macau and the Casa de Portugal em Macau.

Recognizing the importance of higher education and also the need to cultivate local experts, BNU awards scholarships to students with the highest marks who need financial support to complete their studies.