Banks will be represented at the exhibition again this year, as one would expect. But the speakers' list for the investment seminars shows there are less banks compared with fund managers, stock brokers and other financial companies. If the banks feel they do not have to try as hard as other organisations to win the confidence of the investing public, they are probably right. In Hong Kong, there are fund and investment managers, financial planners and stock brokers - and then there are the banks, which command a level of public respect above their competitors. Despite the odd bank run over the years, the major banks are the choice for the vast bulk of public savings deposits and are becoming a favoured distribution point for unit trusts and securities. Why deal with a stock broker who might collapse, as several have done recently, when you can get a similar service from the securities department at your bank? This is the kind of flight to quality the banks would probably rather not have, given the uncertain environment which gave rise to it, but it serves to illustrate the public's high regard for the banking system and major institutions. Local banks have focused strongly on property lending in recent years, but there has been a growing trend towards personal lending and corporate finance. Last October, the Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation began operations. It is designed to add liquidity to the mortgage market by buying residential mortgages from the banking system. This will reduce banks' mortgage risks and help redress the imbalance between their short-term borrowing and long-term lending. Today, Philip Li, senior vice- president of the corporation, will speak on how the organisation is likely to deepen the local debt market by its activities. According to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the banking sector is among the most efficient and profitable in the world, with a post-tax return on assets of about 1.8 per cent. The Hongkong Bank Group reported attributable profit for last year of $19.7 billion and its sister organisation, Hang Seng Bank, reported $9.3 billion. The parent company, HSBC Holdings, reported pre-tax profit of $4.97 billion and assets of $286 billion. At the end of January, 149 of the 180 licensed banks were incorporated outside of Hong Kong. In all, more than 80 of the 100 biggest banks in the world are licensed in the SAR.