Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2012, 12:00am

Why do bankers think they know better than 13-year-olds?

We discussed yesterday the predicament for those under 18 years old presented by the Hong Kong government's invitation for all those holding a valid Hong Kong identity card to apply for its latest issue of iBonds. To subscribe to the inflation-linked bonds one requires an investment account with one of the placing banks. As one reader, Paul Stables, discovered when he tried to open a joint investment account with his 13-year-old daughter, HSBC requires that investment account holders be 18 years old. There is no legal requirement for those opening an investment account to be 18 years old. However, Stables was told by the man at HSBC that 'those under 18 don't understand the risks involved'.

Looking back over the events of the global financial crisis, it is evidently true that there are many people in the banking industry well over the age of 18 who have considerable difficulty dealing with the risks of investment. Indeed it is highly unlikely that a 13-year-old will ever lose anything like the billions that HSBC's 18-plus-year-old professionals managed to do in recent years. But that's another story.

Having been rebuffed by HSBC, Stables then took his case to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, which confirmed that applicants for an investment account were bound by the conditions stipulated by the placing intermediaries, which could involve an age restriction. It was up to Stables to find a placing agent that did not have an age restriction. Not so, Stables argued. 'How come the government says anyone with a valid ID card can subscribe to the bonds, while the banks then say, in effect, this not true,' he said. 'Only those over 18 can subscribe. Who is calling the shots here?'

Donald Tsang has a paralytic moment

Good to see that Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's recent trials and tribulations have not left him entirely without a sense of humour. Speaking as the guest of honour at the British-consulate-organised royal birthday and diamond jubilee party on Monday evening, he ruefully compared Queen Elizabeth's popularity to his own. 'Remarkably, Queen Elizabeth still enjoys the respect of the British people and the affection of people in the Commonwealth and beyond' - and that despite reigning for 60 years. By comparison, his own approval rating had slipped from 70 per cent when he became Hong Kong's chief executive and 'at the last count was 40 per cent and falling - and that's after only 71/2 years,' which earned him a big laugh.

Tsang ended his speech with a George W. Bush moment. He sent his warm congratulations to the queen and then wished London every success in hosting the Olympics and the 'paralytics'.

Chinese economist quits World Bank

Justin Lin Yifu, the first Chinese person to assume the post of chief economist at the World Bank, has left his position and will resume teaching at Peking University. It is unusual for people to give up such positions so quickly, such is the gravy-train allure of such posts.

We gather that colleagues at the bank found him somewhat over-bullish on China and that his views did not always resonate well with Western officials. Lin will be returning to the National School of Development at PKU, where he will resume teaching in September. Lin is expected to receive a warm welcome in Beijing, and in addition to getting his old job back he may also be invited to lead a financial committee at the National People's Congress.

One place where he won't be going in a hurry is Taiwan, the place of his birth, which still feels sore over his defection in 1979 when he swam to the mainland, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Taiwan says he is welcome to return but will have to stand trial for his defection.

Finance, romance and Starbucks

We hear there's some consternation among present and former University of Hong Kong students over the imminent closure of the Starbucks outlet in Sun Yat-sen Plaza. The coffee shop is to be demolished to make way for a new 'University Street', which will link the upper and lower parts of the campus. It's a redevelopment that has been brought on by the university's centenary year.

The imminent demise of the coffee shop has caused a wave of nostalgia among alumni, particularly those in the financial community. We understand that alumni who are fund managers and stockbrokers are arranging to have lunch at this spot to relive former carefree days. We're told that for many this desire is not unconnected with instances of youthful romance where first loves were encountered and nurtured. Who would have thought it: finance - romance - feelings?