Hong Kong's 20 largest licensed banks 2015

HK banks must juggle tradition and technology

When the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect was launched in late 2014, it marked a substantial development which Citi Hong Kong quickly adopted, making them one of the first banks to offer updated services for both consumer and institutional clients. Being aware of the changes this would bring about to the traditional banking scheme, they took action to take the new development in their stride.

“As an industry, we should embrace this kind of technology and improve our products and services to better suit the needs of our clients,” says Weber Lo, Citi country officer & CEO for Hong Kong & Macau.

Hong Kong’s banking sector is prepared to adjust their programs in order to suit their market’s changing needs, and to resist other emerging forms of technology that could become direct competitors of traditional banking, such as bitcoin and peer-to-peer lending sites. Though Hong Kong, like Singapore, has the advantage of geographic location and population density as well as increasing generational wealth, ensuring that their services remain as relevant as ever to their clients is a must.

“The more convenient the traditional banks can make the experience, the less likely they are to lose customers to alternatives. They need to keep investing to ensure they are not made obsolete. Mobile payments and services will become critical in the short to medium term for the retail bank operations,” says Keith Pogson, senior partner at EY Financial Services.

The difficulty lies in maintaining the brick-and-mortar assurance of traditional banking services during a time when customers are looking not only for convenience but also a sense of trust in a bank’s financial strength and overall security. However, the current generational trend is starting to shift towards a greater emphasis on multiple channels that can provide the same services at maximum accessibility – a need that also tends to risk undermining the importance of security.

“Whether it is ignorance or increasing risk tolerance is generally not well understood, but the one advantage that should and could be maintained by the banks is their position of security,” says Tim Pagett, national global financial services industry leader of Deloitte China. “The one certainty for traditional banks in Hong Kong is that they must change and evolve.”

Who made it to the list?

Generally speaking, the financial and banking sector of Hong Kong is shaking up. But it all seems that HSBC is not easy to tame as it once again topped the list of Hong Kong’s largest licensed banks of Hong Kong Business based on the total number of staff. With the bank’s recent undertaking of leaving London and returning to Hong Kong as its headquarters, the number of Hong Kong staff is expected to increase in the coming months. The rest of the banks included in the top 5 maintained their positions last year. Bank of China, HSBC’s closest competitor, had a slight decrease with its total number of staff dropping to 14,000 this year from 14,467 last year. Hang Seng Bank on the third spot increased its number from 7,932 to 8,206 this year. Meanwhile, Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of East Asia have 6,000 and 5,803 staff, respectively.

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