Hang Seng fine-tunes branch strategy
Lender plans to open more outlets in the New Territories and extend Saturday business hours at some others to cater for mainland tourists
Enoch Yiu and Kanis Li
Hang Seng Bank is set to open more branches in the New Territories and extend banking hours on Saturdays at some outlets to cater for mainland tourists.
"Many mainland tourists now do not only want to buy luxury goods when they come to Hong Kong, they also seek banking services here," said chief executive Rose Lee Wai-mun yesterday.
Lee said half of the bank's new commercial customers in Hong Kong were from the mainland. The number of personal accounts from the mainland increased about 40 per cent in the first half from last year.
"For new branches, we are eyeing locations frequented by mainland tourists. We have also started to upgrade our branches to provide a more comfortable environment and more services," Lee said.
Among Hang Seng's 220 outlets in the city, 90 are in the New Territories. Its Wan Chai branch, another hot spot among mainland tourists, underwent a major renovation and expansion last month.
The lender recently extended opening hours on Saturdays at its outlets in five popular shopping centres in the New Territories to offer account-opening and investment services.
Hang Seng, a subsidiary of HSBC, on Monday reported better-than-expected results for the first half, with net profit doubling to HK$18.47 billion on the back of one-off accounting gains, higher fee income and lower bad-debt charges.
But it saw a 35 per cent drop in operating profit on the mainland and had to pay more to get deposits in Hong Kong and the mainland.
"Instead of opening branches across the country, we will focus more selectively on expanding the branch network in the Pearl Delta area, the Yangtze Delta area and the special economic zone in Qianhai," Lee said.
"We will also expand our online banking platform. This is important in both Hong Kong and the mainland to capture the opportunities from growing cross-border economic integration and yuan internationalisation."
High funding costs in Hong Kong in the first half hurt Hang Seng's net interest margin. Lee believed these costs would remain high in the second half and it would be hard for the bank to cut mortgage interest rates.
In a separate post-results briefing yesterday, HSBC's Hong Kong chief executive Anita Fung Yuen-mei said it would be difficult to project the bank's income from mortgage businesses in the second half, adding that the overall industry was unlikely to see any improvement.
Benjamin Hung Pi-cheng, Standard Chartered's Hong Kong chief executive, said he expected mortgage loans to grow more slowly in the second half. The bank's mortgage loan book expanded 6 per cent year on year in the first half.