Hang Seng Bank

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 January, 2007, 12:00am

Glitz, glamour and cast of thousands as beverly hills comes to town

If there is anything that can help the sale of the Beverly Hills, Henderson Land will do it.

The Lee Shau-kee property flagship brought in Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova and some fung shui masters to help sell the high-end project in Tai Po. Henderson even flew reporters to Paris. For some reason, the advertising for a property named after an area in Los Angeles features a horse-drawn carriage parked outside the Versailles palace, close to the French capital. The campaign carries the slogan: 'A Fairy-Tale Story.'

The campaign even spilled into, if it was not inspired by, the Lee family's real life. Newspaper headlines picked up the slogan to celebrate the wedding last month of the chairman's second son, deputy chairman Martin Lee Ka-shing, with model Cathy Tsui.

The Beverley Hills campaign reflects a change over the past 21/2 years in the marketing strategy of what was once one of Hong Kong's most traditional developers.

The new approach has become evident since the company moved to flash new headquarters in the IFC2 building that dominates the Hong Kong harbour and which are a far cry from Worldwide House, where Lai See can till recall signing his first purchase contract with the company a decade ago.

Some people still mistake the IFC buildings as a Sun Hung Kai Properties project, when in fact Henderson handled the design and construction while SHKP focused on marketing.

The developer started renovating its marketing strategy when selling its Sai Wan Ho project, Grand Promenade, 21/2 years ago.

New tricks cute enough to attract the attention of the present Lai See in his first column included 12 fashion models of different nationalities - at the time when Martin first dated wife-to-be Cathy. The selling strategy attracted an expatriate market, helping to make it the company's most profitable project in a decade, according to vice-chairman Colin Lam Ko-yin.

'We are selling to those who value social status and people with good taste ... so we use beauties,' said Mr Lam, whose brother, Alex, remains a key consultant behind the new approach to selling flats. The end product also features doormen in tuxedos.

A new management team helped to drive the changes. Almost half of the present senior executives have been brought in within the past two years - most notably chief financial officer and former Hang Seng chief executive Alexander Au Siu-kee. A new company secretary, legal experts and interior designers have also come on board.

As part of the package change, Henderson's annual report, boasting 'Delivering tomorrow's landmark today' now looks like a property brochure.

The company has some way to go before catching up with Swire Properties in terms of brand awareness, judging by the mixed press reaction to the new strategy - some felt it was a bit farfetched to the point of being weird.

Lai See will hold back on a judgment until after the Lunar New Year when units of Beverly Hills come to market and sales will tell their own story.

Italian stallion

Talking about luxury marketing, Ferrari is surely a leader in the field. It certainly delivers what it promises.

A fan of the Italian cars told us that the new Ferrari 599 model, which hits 100 km/h from a standing start in 3.7 seconds, is such a hot item in town that 90 orders have been placed for the HK$4 million toy.

The car is fast enough, with a top speed of 330 km/h. Delivery is a bit slower. Customers in Hong Kong need to wait two years before they can get behind the wheel, according to one potential buyer put off by the wait after being thrilled by a test drive.

Hang Seng first to post pay rise

Hang Seng Bank broke the first good pay news of the year in the banking world.

Most of Hang Seng's 8,000 banking staff will be awarded a salary rise of between 1.5 per cent and 8.75 per cent this year.

Lai See can only applaud the decision and hope the management in other white-collar organisations will follow suit.