Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 June, 2013, 4:16am

HSBC to end UnionPay chaos with a new Plus ATM card


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

We hear there is light at the end of the tunnel for HSBC customers who have suffered dismay and distress when, on arriving in foreign parts, they weren't able to use their ATM card to withdraw cash.

The problem is because HSBC's new ATM cards, with an embedded chip, no longer use the Plus payment network, but the UnionPay network, which has limited use outside Asia. UnionPay is the dominant payment network in China, and operates under the auspices of the central bank. Lai See has received numerous complaints from furious customers saying they were poised to switch to another bank because of the problems with the new cards. However, the good news for HSBC customers is that the bank is working on bringing out an alternative ATM card which will use the Plus payment system.

An HSBC spokesman told Lai See: "Our people are working very hard on this and hope to make this new card available within a few months."

This should bring what has been a horrendously embarrassing saga for HSBC to a close. But it is only doing what the other banks that issue ATM cards in Hong Kong had the foresight to do. As well as offering a card with the UnionPay network, other banks such as Standard Chartered offered an alternative card with either the Cirrus or Plus payment networks. It is astonishing that HSBC has allowed this saga to run on for so long.

As we observed in our piece last week - paraphrasing Winston Churchill: "You can always rely on HSBC to do the right thing, having tried everything else."


Too close for comfort

Journalists attending the recently concluded Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu received a degree of personal attention that most of them could have done without. The press and delegates were ferried around in transport provided by the Chengdu city government.

When journalists showed up at official banquets there was always an "interpreter" on hand to "help". But when one foreign journalist decided to leave a banquet early to wander around the city, the interpreter allocated to his table faced a dilemma. He instantly phoned his supervisor and was heard saying: "One of the foreign journalists is leaving. Please send a car or else I won't know where he is going."


Soap and Sands

Clean the World is a non-profit organisation that collects soap, shampoo and conditioner from hotels and, after recycling it, distributes it to impoverished countries around the world that have high death rates due to acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease.

An Asian offshoot of the organisation, Clean the World - Asia, is partnering with casino group Sands China to establish its first presence in Hong Kong and Macau. Sands has more than 9,000 guest rooms, almost a third of the total number of hotel rooms in Macau. Since 2009, Clean the World has distributed more than 12 million bars of soap in 67 countries, while at the same eliminating more than 750 tonnes of waste.



WF Asia Fund won the Best Asian Hedge award, along with the Best Asian Long/Short Equities Fund, at the 10th Eurekahedge Asian Hedge Fund Awards 2013. The awards were among 17 others presented at a gala event in Singapore which attracted more than 300 hedge fund players.


Many happy returns

It may come as a surprise to learn that Happy Birthday to You is the most profitable song ever, according to the website techdirty. It is the song that earns the highest royalty rates sent to Warner/Chappell Music which makes millions every year from "licensing" the song.

In recent years there has been a growing sense that the song's copyright had expired, though Warner/Chappell stoutly maintains that it has not. But it has just been a question of somebody being prepared to test the issue in court.

That moment has now arrived. Good Morning To You Productions, a US documentary film company that is planning a film about the song, has filed a lawsuit and is seeking to force Warner/Chappell to return the millions of dollars it has collected over the years.

The filmmaker initially paid a US$1,500 synchronisation licence fee to use the song in the documentary but subsequently decided to take out a class action instead in New York.


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