• Tue
  • Jul 29, 2014
  • Updated: 3:46am

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2011, 12:00am

HSBC hit with record fine for misguiding the elderly. Surprised?

We were saddened to see our very own HSBC - the warm, cuddly bank that professes to care so much for us, our well-being and of course, our wealth - has to pay GBP39.8 million (HK$495 million), including a record fine, in Britain for ripping off elderly people in care homes.

The Financial Services Authority fined the banking group GBP10.5million and expects it to pay GBP29.3million in compensation for consumer finance misselling.

Tracey McDermott, acting director of enforcement and financial crime at the FSA, said the HSBC offshoot, Nursing Home Fees Agency, had breached the trust of vulnerable and elderly customers by selling them unsuitable products.

According to the FSA, the agency advised 2,485 elderly clients to buy long-term investment products to fund their care from 2005 to last year. In many cases, the clients, who had an average age of 83, were advised to buy investments that normally are recommended to be held for a minimum of five years. Some of the clients had a life expectancy of less than five years.

The agency was Britain's biggest supplier of independent financial advice on long-term care with a market share of 60 per cent.

The average investment by an NHFA client over the five-year period was GBP115,000, meaning the agency collected GBP286million. McDermott said: 'This type of behaviour undermines confidence in the financial services sector.' Lai See takes the view that the regulator rather understates the extent of HSBC's culpability. How low can you go?

Brian Robertson, chief executive of HSBC Bank, was grovellingly contrite, as well he might be.

'I fully accept that NHFA failed to give suitable financial advice to some of their customers. This should not have happened, and I am profoundly sorry that it did,' he said.

The sad truth is that this is just one of the more egregious acts that have come to light. HSBC and other banks quite happily rip us off systematically with a whole battery of fees and charges that we often don't have time to attend to.

And they know that.

Those who can, do; those who can't ...

Hang Seng Management College, the so-called cradle of elite business students, expects to make a deficit of HK$20 million this year, due mainly to high salaries for teaching staff and costly small-class education.

Provost professor Gilbert Fong Chee-fun told Ming Pao that the total remuneration for the teaching staff this year equalled the amount of tuition fees received. Fong's response was to ask for an annual government subsidy of HK$40,000 for each student at private universities to prevent them from becoming commercial education entities.

We suggest the management attends some of its own classes and learns something about business management.

Lost Down Under

Austria, Australia. Potato, potarto.

It was a little alarming yesterday morning to hear a commentator on one of the financial programmes pronounce solemnly that the land Down Under was under threat of a downgrade. We thought things in Australia were bonzer: 20-odd years of uninterrupted growth, and a country so awash in mineral wealth, the word 'recession' doesn't exist in the Aussie lexicon.

The explanation was simple: Austria was under threat of a one-level downgrade, along with Belgium, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and Luxembourg, while Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain could fall as many as two notches.

It wasn't that long ago Austrian tourist authorities in Vienna had to patiently explain to tourists that they'd come to the wrong place if they wanted to see a kangaroo.

Australia merely goes from strength to strength. Throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate.

A smartphone for Muslims

An Indian company has launched an 'Islamic smartphone', featuring the Koran, a GPS application that points to Mecca and a calculator for zakat charitable donations. According to the mobile's creators, Muslims are under-represented among the growing ranks of Indian mobile-phone users, but they believe their new phone will bring them into the digital world.

The Enmac phone translates the Koran from Arabic into 29 languages, including English, Bengali, Urdu, Malayalam and Tamil, and includes the Hadith sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, and a guide for Indian Muslims on how to perform the haj rituals in Mecca and Medina.

For the rest of us, we'll just have to flounder until someone comes up with a smartphone that incorporates a moral compass.

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