The characteristics of financial services
The strategic challenges of internationalization vary greatly between different financial services sectors. A retail bank such as the Italian UniCredit, as opposed to an investment bank such as Merrill Lynch or an online bank like ING Direct, will pursue distinct strategies. Different countries and regions do pose very different internationalization issues: for a European firm it is more hazardous and challenging to expand into China than to neighbouring countries within the same trade bloc. Similarly, serving different customer groups in foreign countries will pose distinct opportunities: large corporate customers tend to have less naturally differentiated needs than small corporate customers or retail clients. Hence, internationalization strategies need to be carefully tailored to specific circumstances. This chapter describes how the financial services industry emerged and how the first financial institutions started to engage in international transactions. The main objective is to increase our understanding of the factors that have led to the rise (and fall) of the first internationally active financial services firms.
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