Bank staff must make sure customers understand risks

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 January, 2009, 12:00am

An initial report has already been issued by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority about the improvement to be made and new guidance given to banks when advising on and dealing with customers on investment in future ('Minibond saga sparks rethink of bank rules', January 9).

I think the new measures should offer better protection to members of the public regarding investments made through a bank in Hong Kong.

However, I do still have concerns about this.

In future, I hope that the type of risk of any investment recommended by bank staff to customers will clearly be specified on the relevant documents, such as a summary of terms, the prospectus and subscription form, so there is no misunderstanding that could lead to conflict between the customer and the bank.

If the document clearly states that the investment is the kind where the principal is protected, the bank should be held responsible for any risk that might arise.

In other words, if any so-called credit-link companies collapse and declare bankruptcy, the bank still has to keep its promise and repay the total sum to customers. However, if the investment is classified as high-risk and the customer agrees with the terms written on the subscription form, the customer should not blame the bank nor shift the responsibility for incurring the loss.

In order to ensure that they fully understand all the terms under the investment plan they are going to take, customers should be invited to sign as confirmation that they have read the prospectus and also that its contents have been explained by bank staff before the transaction.

Also a risk evaluation questionnaire, signed by the customer and bank staff, must be completed by the staff to help assess the customer's needs and ability to bear the risk before the transaction is completed and a copy must be issued to customers.

Finally, to ensure all customers, regardless of their nationality, fully understand the contents of the relevant documents, the bank should provide the prospectus and subscription form in both English and the first language of the customers.

Barry Kwok, Wong Tai Sin