HSBC lengthens 'cooling period'in busy market
HSBC lifted the bar in its battle for retail and wealth management business by increasing a 30-day cooling off period for some products, far more than the five-day period mandated by law.
The new terms, which take effect immediately and last until the end of the year, entitle customers to a 30-day post-purchase fee refund or waiver period, rising to a 60-day period for those aged 65 or over. The products affected include securities margin trading service accounts, stocks monthly investment plans, selected unit trust products, life insurance, HighAdvance Mortgages, and personal instalment loans.
Diana Cesar, HSBC's head of retail banking and wealth management in Hong Kong, said the new terms would offer retail customers 'extra peace of mind' and 'flexibility' in making financial decisions.
Sally Wong, chief executive of the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association, said investors were looking for more reassurance in an uncertain market, particularly in the aftermath of the Lehman minibonds fiasco in 2008.
More than 20,000 angry investors have complained to the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) over misleading information provided by banks and brokers about investment risks associated with those minibond products.
In mid-2010, the SFC responded by imposing a rule entitling Hong Kong investors to a five-day post-sale refund period when buying certain types of complex derivative products from banks or brokers. Separately, the HKMA imposed a two-day pre-sale cooling period for first-time buyers, or investors aged 65 or above, during which they could change their minds before making the purchase.
But Brian Fung, chairman of Hong Kong Securities Association, questioned the need to extend the current post-sale cooling off period to investors, who rarely use the refund or waiver mechanism.
Investors would still have to bear investment losses under a refund or waiver system, Fung said, adding that they would not make investment decisions just because they were exempt from service charges.
He also said that the brokerage market was already intensely competitive, with some brokers or banks charging very low or zero service fees to compete for investors.
Hongkongers bought high-risk Lehman Brothers minibonds worth this amount, in Hong Kong dollars, before the bank collapsed