If you, like Money Week, have been having chronic problems picking Valentine's Day or anniversary gifts for your other half, or even birthday presents for your kids, here's an unconventional choice. Dah Sing Bank this week again cemented its place as one of the city's pioneers in unique credit card design with a Hello Kitty card that - pause for effect - changes colour in the heat. The bank held a press conference at its North Point office, where Money Week sat uncomfortably for 30 minutes surrounded by a huge collection of Hello Kitty toys and stationery. Most female journalists from other media, on the other hand, were thrilled. To our surprise, the bank's head of products and marketing, Vivian Chan, revealed that nearly 30 per cent of the applicants for the previous series of Hello Kitty cards were male. 'From what we know, most of the time they are applying for it so that their wives or daughters, who are not working, can obtain affiliated cards,' said Ms Chan. While Money Week in no way suggests that unbridled shopping sprees are the exclusive domain of women, perhaps Dah Sing's credit card does have another appeal - a transaction alert service. To avoid any misunderstanding - 'Oh honey I'm sorry. I didn't realise the card was the gift. I thought you meant the $100,000 spending limit' - the $8 a month for a heads-up could be a good investment. brokers limber up for q4 If broker action is an accurate gauge, chances are the stock market is in for a robust fourth quarter. In the past few weeks we have reported how big banks had been sweetening their offers on stock trading services for retail customers in a bid to capture market share. HSBC led the pack with its $1 transaction fee offer. The moves threatened to force small brokers - in other words, the vast majority of Hong Kong's brokers - out of business. Enraged by the big banks' tactics, smaller players warned that a decline in broker numbers would hurt consumers' interests. But sympathy for competitors is in short supply in the financial world, and this week the banking giant upped the ante with the announcement that it would waive brokerage fees on local securities trades for its new customers until the end of the year. Unlike most of the bank's previous special promotions, the offer will be extended to all customers, regardless of the amount of money they have or will bring to the bank. But there are restrictions. First off, the waiver will apply only to the first $500,000 worth of securities transactions, or an accumulated brokerage fee of $1,250, whichever is lower. The trades must also be made through automated channels, such as the internet or phones. bad timing for hsbc While fee-free transactions look attractive, with the stock market staying relatively bullish recently, not all of HSBC's special offers this week are as timely. Yesterday, the South China Morning Post reported that the Securities and Futures Commission is set to launch an investigation into alleged market rigging through trading in warrants, amid 'puzzling falls in shares prices last month'. The derivative has become one of the hottest items among Hong Kong retail investors, due to the relatively small outlay required compared with similar derivative products. Some observers blamed the fad on the incessant marketing push by issuers. The revelation of the SFC probe came after HSBC announced it was also waiving all transaction fees - with no limit on numbers of trades - on warrants issued by the bank via all channels until the end of next month. The offer is part of the promotion to capture brokerage clients. The bank normally charges its clients 0.25 per cent in transaction fee for warrant trades placed through automated channels. tai fook scores 3g first But while small brokers are shaken by the big banks' encroachment, those in the middle of the pack simply carry on as usual. Tai Fook Securities this week launched a 3G wireless trading platform, a project undertaken in conjunction with the Li Ka-shing-owned 3, which took nearly two years to complete. While no comparison can be made at the moment - Tai Fook's system is the first of its kind in Hong Kong - Money Week was nevertheless impressed by the graphic layout, which is similar to Tai Fook's online platform. It is likely to be some time, however, before we can make a judgment call regarding its security function.