HANG Seng Bank plans to be at the forefront of technological advancements in banking, with its parent Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. The bank's determination to stay in front was shown last week with the unveiling of its new facelift and logo. Since becoming Hang Seng Bank's chief executive officer in 1993, Alexander Au Siu-kee has shaken up the group's product drive and promotion and image. Mr Au joined Hang Seng Bank in 1969 as a qualified accountant and worked as an internal auditor in the bank. Market research done soon after Mr Au was appointed came up with some alarming results, he said. 'The public, including some customers, in a sense seem to think maybe that we were not moving along with the times.' The next step is to meet the future technological challenge in banking. 'What is coming will be dramatic and will totally re-shape the business,' said Mr Au. Banks need to face the proliferation of delivery channels triggered by the electronic technology revolution for goods and services. A new more sales-orientated approach with a wider range of packaged products will be needed in the competitive environment. For a start, there would be more customer visits, but the banks would be visited electronically by phone, PC or TV, said Mr Au. Only those banks with the right mass-market credentials will be able to harness the coming changes. 'Customers have already benefited tremendously from the rapid development of new technology in banking,' Mr Au indicated. It is estimated there are seven million cards with access to automated teller machines in the territory. At Hang Seng Bank transactions done through the bank branch fell from 65 per cent in 1992 to 53 per cent in 1995 and this trend is set to continue. Self-service branches are due to grow in number to increase the proportion of transactions being undertaken through automated services. 'Major new technology-based products and delivery channels are slotted for introduction this year. These will make banking easily accessible, leading the way to a cashless society,' said Mr Au. Smart card technology will introduce electronic cash in Hong Kong. This incorporates an embedded microchip in a cash card which will function as an electronic wallet covering cash, credit card, debit card and stored value ticket all in one. Home banking is closer as the telecommunications revolution becomes a reality in Hong Kong. Electronic banking at the corporate level is already being offered. But internet, video-on-demand technology and cable television will bring home banking and the creation of virtual banks closer. Voucherless transactions through the use of PIN-pad technology will also be available in the territory soon. 'With customers turning to the new delivery channels for most, if not all, of their banking transactions, bank branches will switch their focus to product sales, allowing banks to capitalise on the changing customer needs,' said Mr Au. It would help banks diversify their income sources further. Key areas of development will be in insurance, retirement scheme investment and planning. Services will be delivered to customers quicker as technology-related product development allows demographic, spending behaviour, earnings and savings capacity profiles to be analysed faster.