British banking giant HSBC will be the first foreign institution to launch a bank in central China, the Wall Street Journal reported. HSBC will invest US$1.3 million to set up HSBC Rural Bank Co under its Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corp subsidiary in Suizhou, central Hubei province by the end of the year. "We think the rural market is underbanked and offers opportunities," said a spokeswoman for the bank. Suizhou county has 2 million people, and the bank said it was chosen for its high economic growth rates and mix of agricultural and industrial activities. The central government has encouraged banks to offer more services to rural residents. This year, for example, the post office spun off its banking division to form China Postal Savings Bank , with the country's largest branch network.