Greetings. This week I had the pleasure of speaking with a group of executives from the China Construction Bank. They're here in the U.S. for a three-week educational program directed by Georgetown University. While the core of their training focuses on the risk management side of financial services, they are also interested in learning more about innovation and how to create stronger and more valuable customer relationships. And as you might imagine, these are topics near and dear to my heart and clearly vital challenges for leading businesses all across the globe. So the session was a great opportunity for me to learn about banking in their market and test some of my latest thinking about how to inspire people at all levels of organizations to figure out better ways of doing things that really matter.
By way of background, China Construction Bank is a very large enterprise. With assets of $1.3 trillion, more than 13,000 branches, and over 300,000 employees, it is–according to a recent Forbes magazine survey–the 17th largest corporation in the world. And by its own data it is the world's leading bank in terms of return on assets and equity, and No. 2 in terms of net profit. It's also a strategic partner of Bank of America which owns a significant stake. And while it's been a leader in business and infrastructure lending in China, it is also aggressively expanding internationally and on the retail side where it now has the world's largest number of ATMs.
And it was primarily on the retail or consumer side of banking that I spent most of my time challenging the group to thinking about new ways to engage and connect with customers. A challenge they undertook somewhat cautiously at first and then with growing enthusiasm as we rolled up our sleeves to think "out-of-the-box" or more appropriately, "out-of-the-branch." It turns out that less than 15% of all bank transactions today occur in a branch, so bankers need to figure out how to operate in very different ways. By having a deeper understanding of the new world of customers. By using technology to create a new set of banking options that include not only their computer but a host of ever cooler mobile devices. By giving customers the opportunity to personalize their banking experience along with their credit cards, savings plans, and investments. By becoming partners in helping customers to manage their lives more effectively. By giving customers the opportunity to reduce their energy footprint or invest in small enterprises half way around the globe. And, by making bank branches and the delivery of knowledge more interesting and fun. On this last note, I suggested the possibility of creating branches that were really coffee bars or tea houses that also happened to connect visitors to a wide range of banking services. An idea that might resonate with a new generation of consumers across a world that is getting smaller by the day.