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Vietnam’s Financial Sector: An Overview 2024

Vietnam’s financial sector accounted for about 4.76 percent of Vietnam’s GDP in 2022. From banking to insurance to bonds to stocks financial services and financial products have expanded rapidly in the last decade. There is, however, lots of room for the sector to grow and tangents still to develop.

In this article, we provide an overview of the financial service sector in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s financial sector rankings

Depending on the measures used, Vietnam tends to fall around the middle of most financial sector indexes.

Index of Economic Freedom (IEF)

On the Heritage Foundations 2023 Index of Economic Freedom Vietnam was ranked 72 in the world with a score of 61.8. This was an improvement of 1.2 points over 2022. Out of 100 points, on investment freedom and financial freedom, Vietnam received scores of 40 and 50 respectively.

IMF Financial Development Index

In 2020, Vietnam scored 38 out of a possible 100 on the IMF’s Financial Development Index. This put Vietnam in fourth place tied with the Philippines also on 38, and behind its ASEAN peers Singapore (71), Thailand (74), and Malaysia (73). The country scored best on ‘financial institutions efficiency’ and worst on ‘financial institutions access’.

Global Financial Centers Index

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is Vietnam’s financial center. Most of Vietnam’s major trading firms are based in the city which is also home to the HCMC Stock Exchange. A relatively nascent financial centre, HCMC came in second to last at number 120 in the Global Financial Centers Index 34 published in September of 2023. Though down 8 places on 2022, the city improved its rating by ten points.  

Financial products in Vietnam

Stocks in Vietnam

The Vietnam stock exchange that is most well-known and attracts the most capital is the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange (HoSE). This has just over 400 listed companies with the entire stock exchange having a market capitalisation of US$172 billion as of October of 2023.

See also: The Vietnam Stock Exchange: Quick Guide 2023

Bonds in Vietnam

Bonds in Vietnam are traded on the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX). Corporate bonds in recent years have been a popular means of raising capital in Vietnam, however, over the past year or so it has been revealed that corporate bonds in several instances have been misused. This has created some challenges selling bonds and has led to bond market reforms  (details below). 

Banks in Vietnam

Though a large portion of Vietnam’s population remains unbanked–roughly 44 percent in 2022 according to the World Bank–this number is in the decline. Direct transfers have become increasingly common, particularly through individual QR codes. Wages are generally paid via direct deposit as well.

Savings accounts and term deposits are also popular investment vehicles. Deposits are partially guaranteed in Vietnam and this can make keeping money in the bank a safer option than stocks or bonds.

See also: Banking in Vietnam: Industry Overview 2023

Insurance in Vietnam

Vietnam’s insurance sector has grown rapidly in recent years. In 2022, it reported gross written premiums in excess of US$10.2 billion up from US$9 billion in 2021. Insurance in a number of sectors is mandatory including for motor vehicle owners and businesses in the construction sector. This is also a popular sector for foreign investment with at least 15 branches of foreign insurance firms in Vietnam as of the end of 2022, according to The Annual Report of Vietnam Insurance Market 2022

See also: Insurance in Vietnam: Industry Overview 2023

Gold in Vietnam

Gold is also worth a mention in that it is a popular investment vehicle in Vietnam. This has come about after decades of economic uncertainty, a cultural affinity with gold, as well as prices that have been known to fluctuate widely. There are gold shops all over Vietnam here gold bars can be bought and sold easily–this has also given rise to speculation.

For more information See: Gold Prices in Vietnam: Explained 2024

Key financial service providers

Banks

Vietnam’s banking sector is dominated by four state-owned banks dubbed the ‘Big Four’, however, these banks are the four most well-known but necessarily the biggest in terms of dollar value.

BIDV 

BIDV is currently the largest commercial bank in Vietnam by asset value. BIDV’s total assets in 2022 reached VND 2.12 quadrillion (US$87.4 billion), This was a 20.4 percent increase over 2021. 

Furthermore, BIDV revenues reached VND 146,049 billion (US$6 billion) in 2022 representing, a 16.2 percent increase over 2021. 

BIDV is currently 80.99 percent owned by the Vietnamese state with 1.8 percent owned by domestic investors 15 percent held by Korea’s KEB Hana Bank, and the remaining 2.21 percent held by assorted foreign investors.

VietinBank

At the end of 2022, VietinBank had total assets in excess of  VND 1.8 trillion (US$74.5 billion), an increase of 18.1 percent over a year earlier. 

As of April 2023, 64.46 percent of Vietinbank was owned by the Vietnamese state with 19.73 percent held by Japan’s MUFG bank. The remaining 15.81 percent was split between domestic and foreign investors.

Vietcombank

Vietcombank’s total assets reached VND 1.8 trillion (US$74.7 billion), an increase of 28 percent over 2021. Furthermore, the company reported consolidated profit before tax of VND 37,368 billion (US$1.54 billion), 35 percent higher than in 2021.

Vietncombank frequently tops the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange as the most valuable company. Its market capitalization on the exchange as of November 2023 was about US$19.8 billion. Coming in second was BIDV at less than half Vietcombank’s value, at just US$9.1 billion.

The State Bank of Vietnam is the largest shareholder in Vietcombank owning 74.8 percent of the bank. Japan’s Mizuho Corporate Bank is the second biggest stakeholder with 15 percent of the company, and the remaining 10.2 percent is owned by a mix of domestic and foreign, organisations and individuals.

Agribank

As of December 31, 2022, Agribank had total assets to the value of VND 1.87 trillion (US$77.2 billion), an increase of 10.6 percent over the year before. Furthermore, total income reached VND 159,945 billion (US$6.6 billion) an increase of 21.7 percent.

Agribank began operations in 1988 as Vietnam’s economy was in the heady days of its economic reform. Agribank is wholly owned by the Vietnamese state.

Securities firms

The ten leading securities firms announced by the HoSE at the end of 2022 were:

VPS Securities

VPS Securities boasted a 14.81 percent market share at the end of 2022. In 2022, the firm had net revenue of US$348 million with a $33.2 million. VPS has been trading the HoSE since 2006. 

SSI Securities

SSI Securities had a market share at the end of 2022 of around 10 percent. In 2022, the firm clocked revenue of US$261.1 million with profit after tax of US$69.95 million. SSI was founded in 1999.

VNDirect 

VNDirects market share at the end of 2022 was estimated to be about 7.51 percent. The firm recorded net revenue in 2022 of VND 6,829,224 (US$) and a profit after tax of VND 1,220,280 (US$). The firm first started operating in 2006.

Insurance companies

Vietnam’s insurance market is generally divided into two markets: life insurance and non-life insurance. The non-life insurance market is the smaller of the two accounting for just US$2.86 billion in gross written premiums (GWM) in 2022. Conversely, the life insurance market in 2022 brought in US$7.35 billion in GWM, according to The Annual Report of Vietnam Insurance Market 2022

In this light, all three top-performing insurance firms in Vietnam were concentrated in the life insurance market. These were:

Bao Viet

The top performer in the insurance market in Vietnam in 2022, across the board, was Bao Viet. Bao Viet earned US$1.35 billion in GWP in the life insurance sector alone. In the non-life insurance sector, it also had US$402 million in GWP. Bao Viet is one of Vietnam’s longest-running insurance firms. It first started operating in 1965. 

As of the end of 2022, domestic investors owned 72.7 percent of Bao Vietnam. This was mostly split between the State Capital Investment and Trading Corporation (SCIC) and the Ministry of Finance. Foreign investors controlled the remaining 27.3 percent. There is currently a 49 percent cap on foreign ownership of Bao Viet.

Manulife

Unlike Bao Viet, Canadian multinational, Manulife is focused on the life insurance market in Vietnam. In 2022, Manulife’s GWP in Vietnam hit US1.3 billion up from US$1.22 billion in 2021. Its market share of Vietnam’s life insurance market was 17.7 percent.

Manulife has been operating in Vietnam since 1999. It is headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City.

Prudential

The United Kingdom’s insurance behemoth Prudential was the third top performer in Vietnam’s insurance sector in 2022. It recorded GWPs of US$1.28 billion up from US$1.19 billion in 2021. The firm has been operating in Vietnam since 2011.

Foreign investment in Vietnam’s financial services sector

Regulations

Vietnam’s financial services sector is among the most heavily regulated sectors of Vietnam’s economy. It is, however, also the most lucrative. As a result, it is also one of the most heavily foreign-invested sectors in Vietnam, in terms of dollar value. Firms considering an investment in the financial services sector in Vietnam should, therefore, should be aware of the limits and 

Broadly speaking, foreign ownership limits in the banking sector are between 5 to 20 percent, bonds are open to foreign investors, and there is no cap on ownership of securities firms, however, in general, foreign investors cannot own more than 49 percent of a company listed on the local bourse. That said, there are often additional regulatory requirements for foreign firms operating in the financial services sector in Vietnam.

See also: Vietnam’s Foreign Ownership Limits: Quick Guide 2023: Banking and Finance.

Recent foreign investments in Vietnam’s finance sector

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC)

In March 2023, it was announced that Japan’s Sumitomo (SMBC) would be buying a 15 percent stake in Vietnam’s VP Bank. The deal was valued at VND35.9 trillion almost US$1.5 billion.

DB Insurance 

Back in February, it was announced that Korea’s DB Insurance had taken a 75 percent stake in Vietnam National Aviation Insurance (VNI). This was DB Insurance’s second big move in the Vietnam insurance market. The first was the purchase of a 37.32 percent stake in Post and Telecommunications Joint Stock Insurance Corporation back in 2015.

Challenges in Vietnam’s financial services sector

Controversies

Bonds

Vietnam’s bond market has come under intense scrutiny in the past year or two after it was revealed that bonds had been used for purposes other than for what investors had believed they would be. These revelations were followed by a number of high-profile arrests. Subsequent, investigations revealed billions of dollars of embezzlement. Of note, Truong My Lan, chairwoman of property developer Van Thinh Phat, reportedly misappropriated US$44 billion.

Insurance

Vietnam’s insurance sector has struggled over the last year or so after allegations surfaced that borrowers at banks had been coaxed into purchasing insurance through allegedly nefarious means. Bank customers were reported told they were making deposits but they were actually buying insurance policies.

Stocks

Vietnam’s stock market has also faced controversies this year around market manipulation. Of note, the former head of the real estate firm FLC, Trinh Van Quyet, is alleged to have used family and friends to jack up the price of FLC stock, netting the high-profile executive US$176.2 million.

Vietnam’s financial sector moving forward

A strategy for the development of Vietnam’s finance sector was approved by Decision 368/QD-TTg in 2022. The strategy outlines a number of key targets and objectives. These are quite broad and the strategy lacks detail, however, it does point toward a country clearly aspiring to develop a world-class financial sector.

But whereas the overall direction of the sector is vague there are a number of key reforms actively being pursued. These include:

Basel Accords

Most banks in Vietnam have been expected to meet Basel II standards since January 1, 2020, per Circular No. 41/2016/TT-NHNN with a vision to all banks complying with Basel II standards by 2025. Though there are currently no codified requirements to meet Basel II standards, many banks are already pursuing these standards of their own volition. This is being driven by the demands of foreign lenders and investors.

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)

Vietnam currently operates on its own accounting system known as the Vietnam Accounting Standards (VAS) as opposed to International Accounting Standards (IAS). Businesses, however, are in the process of switching over to IAS. This is in large part driven by the increased access to capital firms using IAS have, with many already meeting IFRS 9 standards.

Emerging market status

The HoSE is considered a frontier market by FTSE Russell standards. This is due to two key factors. The first is that foreign traders need to prove they have the funds to pay for a share purchase before a trade can be completed; and, the second is foreign ownership limits. There is currently no clear plan as to how these two criteria might be tackled, however, the HoSE aims to meet FTSE Russel’s emerging market criteria in 2025. It’s estimated this could generate in the vicinity of US$10 billion in additional investment for Vietnam’s main stock exchange.

What’s next?

Vietnam’s financial sector is changing rapidly and policy and regulations can turn on a dime. With this in mind, firms and individuals with an interest in Vietnam’s financial sector should ensure they subscribe to updates from the-shiv.

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