The majority of large companies exposed to renminbi expect a huge increase in its usage, according to a new report.

Quizzing executives of multi-billion dollar corporations based around the world (but not in Greater China), the survey found that 62% of those using Rmb for cross-border payments expect this use to more than double by 2020. Over the next year, 57% expect Rmb payments to grow by up to 20%.

Meanwhile, more than half of those companies questioned use Rmb for payments outside of the Greater China region (which along with China, includes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan).

The survey from law firm Allen & Overy along with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) highlights the huge expectation many have for the growth of China’s currency. The remainder of 2015 will be vital in determining how quickly it will expand. Later in 2015, the IMF is to decide whether to include Rmb in its “virtual currency” basket, which essentially means it is recognised as an international reserve currency.

If this comes to pass, it will provide some justification for policymakers in Beijing, who have stepped up efforts for currency liberalisation over the past two years.

This week, three more free trade zones (FTZs) were officially inaugurated. As GTR reported in March, Tianjin, Guangdong and Fujian are to follow Shanghai in being granted special economic conditions. Among other terms, companies will now be able to clear Rmb cross-border from the three new FTZs.

Standard Chartered has been one of the first movers on this front, announcing a cross-border Rmb payment for Youda with its parent company Grobest in Taiwan. Companies operating out of the zones have yet to report significant benefits yielded, but it’s anticipated that one of the main long-term boons will be the ability to better manage Rmb liquidity across multiple international sites.

This, the Allen & Overy survey found, would help satisfy one of the primary challenges faced by users of the currency in what remains its early stages.

“Lack of overall Rmb liquidity is the number one operational impediment to greater use of Rmb according to 65% of respondents,” the authors wrote. “This is also a major concern when assessing the risks associated with issuing both dim sum (offshore) and panda (on-shore) bonds according to 70% and 51% of respondents respectively, citing insufficient liquidity in the secondary market as the risk that concerns them most.”

Other key findings of the study include:

  • Respondents use Rmb because of the lower transaction cost achieved by doing so
  • Only 10% said their company had decided to use Rmb to improve relations with Chinese government entities
  • 85% said that Rmb internationalisation had led them to expand their Mainland China investments
  • Further liberalisation could possibly see companies relocating regional treasury operations to China and devolve more power to decision makers in the mainland.