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Hong Kong Banks Encourage On-Line Business Services

by Mary Swire, Tax-News.com, Hong Kong

17 December 2002


HSBC and its subsidiary Hang Seng Bank said last week that they were aggressively targeting customers for their on-line business banking services. HSBC says it has 7,000 customers signed up, while Hang Seng lays claim to 4,300 businesses. Next in line Standard Chartered Bank has also begun targeting business customers with its online trading platform, B2BeX.

David Tam Wai-hung, head of commercial banking at Hang Seng Bank, said the bank was particularly aimin g at SMEs because they might grow into large companies. "Although the success rate differs, many of our larger customers today were there 10 or 20 years ago. We knew them and we dealt with them," he said.

"There is a distinct opportunity for them, if they keep the right business, if they have the right product. So yes, I think you can call this nurturing the young, and we do look upon it in this manner."

Although the banks make much of the fact that on-line banking costs less than the physical transactions it replaces, they say they're not making any money from it at present. "It is cost-efficient over the long term, but you have to remember it is a very hefty investment as well up front and it is not cheap to maintain," said Mr Tam. "On balance, I think we would be able to save costs over the long term but not in one or two years."

Hang Seng says that money transfers for instance cost only HK$100 on-line as against HK$160 normally. The bank is discounting a number of on-line business services in order to encourage take-up.


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