Trump’s policies paint a ‘negative picture,’ yet his willingness to ‘cut deals’ may help with China, says the CEO of Southeast Asia’s largest bank



As of now, U.S. voters face a choice between President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump in presidential elections this November. And business leaders around the world—including in Southeast Asia, which tries to balance its U.S. and Chinese relationships—are plotting out what either result will mean.

DBS CEO Piyush Gupta, speaking to a Reuters conference audience on Tuesday, said the general view of Trump’s policy suggestions is that they paint a “pretty negative picture.” The banking CEO pointed to the former president’s call to have tariffs as high as 60%, suggesting they will lead to inflation and could push the U.S. Federal Reserve to keep interest rates high. That, in turn, will put pressure on currencies around the world, with some already running at record lows against the U.S. dollar.

Yet Gupta, who was responding to question on U.S.-China relations, saw a possible silver lining to a Trump presidency. Trump is a “dealmaker…not ideologically driven to anything,” he said. The former president could be happy to “cut deals,” the DBS CEO suggested, helping him with Chinese officials who “also like to cut deals.”

DBS is Southeast Asia’s largest bank by assets. With $25 billion in revenue for 2023, DBS Group Holding is ranked No. 10 on Fortune‘s inaugural Southeast Asia 500, which ranks the region’s largest companies by revenue.

Going ‘long Asia’

Geopolitics aside, Gupta was optimistic about Asia’s economic development. He noted that, with growth rates of between 4-5%, Asia is growing at double the rate of the rest of the world.

Under Gupta, DBS is focusing on major economies like Greater China, India, and Indonesia and has been investing in those markets. Last August, the Singaporean bank became Taiwan’s largest foreign bank by assets after acquiring Citigroup’s consumer banking business on the island.

On Tuesday, Gupta revealed DBS now has close to a 19% stake in China’s Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank, making it the largest shareholder in the Chinese bank. (DBS bought a 13% stake in 2021).

In its annual report, DBS said its stake in Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank gives it a foothold in the “Greater Bay Area,” an economic area in southern China that includes the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau. On Tuesday, Gupta said he was “so bullish on that region.”

Still, the DBS CEO downplayed the possibility of any “earth-shattering, game-changing M&A,” instead saying the Singaporean bank will look for “bolt-on deals” that will build out its wealth management, SME retail, and transaction services businesses.

“Any large scale acquisition will take too long, be too messy, and distract from the future,” he said.

When asked whether DBS’s regional moves were risky, the DBS CEO replied that one had to “make a call whether you wanted to be long Asia.” You can’t be “long Asia without having a view of North Asia,” Gupta said.



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