Trade finance professionals at a GTR conference have revealed that only 55% of them are currently settling deals in renminbi (Rmb).

Despite the results of the audience poll, Simon Constantinides, regional head of global trade and receivables finance, Asia Pacific at HSBC told delegates at GTR Asia’s Trade Finance Week that the take-up and pace of Rmb in trade has “taken everybody by surprise”.

He said: “In 2010, there were 900 companies in Singapore transacting in the Rmb; today that number is 10,000.”

Quoting further statistics to support the usage rate, Constantinides said that in 2010, 3% of global trade in imports and exports were in Rmb; a number that has grown to 18% today. Last year, the Rmb overtook the Euro to become the second-most used currency in transacted trade deals globally.

Joseph Lee, treasurer, Asia Pacific, Japan and Africa at Hewlett-Packard Asia Pacific, gave an insight into corporate treasurers’ use of Rmb in China: “Things have quickened over the last year, things are very exciting; it’s a big piece in Asia. We’ll see a lot more cash, sales, and facilitations in China moving forwards, so Rmb makes sense.”

The importance of the Rmb in Hong Kong is also becoming increasingly prevalent. Constantinides stressed: “Rmb deposits in Hong Kong equate to Rmb860bn now, whereas in 2010 the figure was Rmb315bn.”

“The actual adoption of the Rmb is quite low compared to the facilitation of what we actually see. From our statistics, by 2015, we believe 30% of all trade in China will be settled in Rmb. From our house view, we believe the Rmb will become fully convertible within two to three years.”

Responding to the debate in a live survey, just 55% of delegates at the conference said that they currently settle in the currency, which the HSBC regional head said was “very surprising”, and in contradiction to the bank’s own internal data. 79% of delegates voted that they will consider using Rmb over the next year.

Montgomery Ho, deputy CEO at HSBC, China, noted: “The pace of Rmb adoption has quickened over the past 12 months, boosting Rmb internationalisation. Lack of offshore and onshore flows in Rmb adoption have been seen but this is changing and has been encouraged. Singapore subsidiaries lending directly within Chinese provinces continues to grow too.

“With the promotion of Rmb internationalisation moving forwards, we expect it to be boosted much further over the coming year. Watch this space, there will be a lot of initiatives to come out soon.”