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Chile’s second largest bank Banco de Chile has begun to expand into the Asian market by opening an office in Hong Kong and signing a strategic alliance with UK bank Standard Chartered.

The new office will add to Banco de Chile’s existing international network that comprises two branches in the US (New York and Miami) and three representative offices in Latin America (Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Mexico City).

The alliance with Standard Chartered will enable Banco de Chile to serve its clients in several Asian markets through the UK bank’s branch network.

The expansion into Asia is seen as very positive because it marks a trend among Chile’s largest local banks to look at the fast growing Asian market with a more serious focus.

Traditionally Chile’s local banks have greatly lacked Asian market know-how and the best service was always provided by the Chilean branches of banks such as HSBC and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi – both with a very strong presence in Asia.

Today some 25% of Chile’s foreign trade is with the Asian region and 45% of all the credit letters issued by Chilean banks are for business with Asian countries, Banco de Chile’s international area manager Patricio Nazal pointed out in the statement.

Banco de Chile is the second largest bank in the Chilean financial system in terms of overall market share. The bank is controlled by the local Luksic family.

Standard Chartered employs 30,000 people in some 500 locations in more than 50 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the UK and the Americas.