Bocom Taps ‘Turtles’ To Keep Customers


As China grows wealthier, the nation’s banks are looking to lock in more of the expanding pool of high-end customers. One of the targeted groups is families with enough cash on hand to consider a college education abroad for their kids. Bank of Communications, China’s fifth largest bank by assets, is one of those banks and it is hoping it has found a way to get to the front of the class.

It has teamed up with the Economist Intelligence Unit to create a guide for anxious parents looking for the right university for their son or daughter, rating key cities around the world not only for their educational standards but also on a range of other factors – like future employment prospects — to assess educational “bang for the buck.”

The bank and the EIU have put together a rating system which they call the “Sea Turtle Index” – a play on the mandarin Chinese word haigui, which means “returning from overseas” but also sounds like the word for “sea turtle.”

“We’ve got a lot of high-end customers who need this kind of service,” said Tao Wen, the head of private banking at Bank of Communications. “We hope this will be a big service and provide a greater return on the education of their children.”

Mr. Tao declined to estimate how many customers might like to use the higher education rating service, but tallying up the potential market is… well, elementary. Almost 200,000 Chinese students studied in the U.S. on visas in the 2011-12 academic year, marking the fifth straight year of more than 20% growth, according to the Institute of International Education.

The bank hopes this kind of tailored service will attract more high-value customers and keep those already doing business with the bank from looking elsewhere.

The Sea Turtle Index doesn’t say which universities are best. But it tries to assess which cities provide the best overall environment for university-level studies.

It rates how welcoming a country is – Canada and Australia make it easier for students stay on after graduation, for example. It also takes into consideration job placement services and overall social experience – which includes cultural vibrancy as well as local crime levels.

The study has produced some surprising results. Montreal tops the list, followed by London, Hong Kong and Toronto.

“Montreal offers the best overall return on an overseas undergraduate education: A mixture of top-quality universities, openness to foreign students and investors, and cultural vibrancy” account for the city’s world-beating score, according to the index’s creators.

“Hong Kong has been taking a major step up in terms of its universities,” said Leo Abruzzese, the global forecasting director for the EIU.

High costs, the lack of a job-seeker visa program and higher crime rates hampered U.S. cities. Only Boston and New York scored in the top ten.

Read full article: The Wall Street Journal China, July 12, 2013

Read full report: The Bank of Communications Sea Turtle Index