Chinese Savers Flock to High-Yield Bank Offerings

Fast-selling wealth-management products pose a risk to banks
Value of wealth-management products at the end of March: 8.2 trillion yuan Photograph by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Zhang Defa hurried into an Industrial & Commercial Bank of China branch in Shanghai on a sizzling July afternoon breathlessly looking for the manager. The day before, Zhang had received a text message saying the bank was selling a 37-day wealth-management product with a 5 percent expected annualized return, principal guaranteed. He was too late. The offer, requiring a minimum investment of 500,000 yuan ($81,500), had sold out in less than three hours. Zhang would have netted 2,534 yuan in only five weeks. “This is crazy, but where else can I put my money without losing sleep these days?” says Zhang, a retired engineer who has been moving cash out of his savings accounts into such investments for more than a year. “The return is fairly decent, and more importantly, I know my money is safe at a government-owned bank. Even if the bank runs out of the money, the government won’t.”

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