Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 July, 2013, 4:30am

Our HSBC - too big to fail, and too big to work


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've received a missive from economist Jim Walker, the founder and managing director of Asianomics, who is currently sojourning in Europe. He was recently in Paris, and attempted to use his HSBC ATM card at an HSBC ATM machine on the Champs-Élysées. The only payment network used by HSBC outside Hong Kong is China UnionPay. A Hong Kong-issued ATM card did not work at the illustrious location, Walker writes.

He was told his card was not recognised and could not be used. However, he passes on cheery news:, "Not to worry, the card works perfectly well at Societe Generale, which, in France, does recognise UnionPay. And your Royal Bank of Scotland card will work at HSBC." His final thoughts on this: "Too big to fail? These banks are just too big to work."

HSBC has assured us it will offer an alternative ATM card in October that will use the Plus payment network.


SmarTone says never again

One of the sidelines to our evidently futile campaign on illegal parking has been to highlight the activities of listed companies that compound the problem.

The usual offenders are telecommunications companies, or financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies. Typically, what they do is hire a promotional vehicle and park it illegally at a busy roadside location with a view to signing up new customers. These effectively serve as cheap mobile showrooms, since there is only a very slight risk of receiving a parking ticket. The authorities are so slack that one company has made a business out of providing promotional vehicles.

HSBC has now stopped using them, as has BEA. Last week we came across a SmarTone vehicle parked on Hennessy Road outside the Wan Chai MTR station. We asked SmarTone how a company that claimed to be socially responsible could brazenly behave like this. The company thanked us for bringing the subject to its attention, adding: "We have already reminded our staff that they should not park at that location and they will not park there again." We will be watching


Idling police

Our man on the spot at Monday's protest march reports that our ferocious engine idling laws were breached by no less than the police. We are told there were several vanloads of uniform police parked in Lockhart Road near the demonstration. The windows and doors were closed and the engines were running. As our man says: "If the police will not obey the law then how can they be expected to enforce it? I suppose you could say they are being consistent!"


Superwoman comes to town

The online travel agent Expedia Asia yesterday launched its Hong Kong internet site at a press conference. The occasion was enhanced by the presence of superwoman Kathleen Tan, the chief executive of Expedia Asia. She was formerly a senior executive with AirAsia and is credited with much of its success. Indeed, most of yesterday's press statement was taken up with extolling Tan's virtues. She was named "Industry's Most Influential Person" at the annual China Finance Summit 2013. Last year she was acclaimed as "Marketeer of the Year" at the Web In Travel conference. Aside from Tan's presence, the other attraction, so far as the press was concerned, was the intriguingly generous lucky draw, with prizes of up to HK$19,000.


Buiter bit

We hear of tittle tattle at Citigroup. Global chief economist Willem Buiter, 63, has allegedly been harassed to such an extent by 41-year-old Dutch economist Heleen Mees, a former lover, that he complained to the police. She was then arrested in New York and charged with stalking and harassment. Buiter told police she had sent e-mails that ranged from the obscene to the threatening, Reuters reports.

According to court documents, Mees sent Buiter more than 1,000 emails over a two-year period. The Daily News reports that Vaneshka Hyacinthe, Mees's lawyer, said her client and Buiter had a "long-standing relationship" and "emails go in both directions". Those that know Buiter were surprised. While he may be a good economist, people considered him prickly rather than cuddly.


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