Geoghegan submitted to puff about HSBC pastries Even 'the world's local bank' has times when it fails to keep shareholders happy. At HSBC's informal meeting yesterday, shareholders gave chief executive Michael Geoghegan a piece of their mind. Apparently, the bank's boss was expected not only to contain the subprime problem but to ensure that there were enough pastries to go around. One shareholder complained that the refreshment session was always chaotic. 'I'll look into it. I'll look into it myself,' Mr Geoghegan replied, prompting laughter in the audience. Another shareholder said he had written to HSBC three years ago about the poor refreshment arrangements. Although the bank replied that it would improve the following year, it did not. 'How can a minority shareholder believe in you if you fail to fulfil your promise?' Mr Geoghegan quickly replied: 'It seems I'll have to be further committed to the refreshments. I'll try out the refreshments later.' Sure enough, after the meeting, he came to sample the refreshments with his bodyguard to ensure the 500-odd shareholders present were well served. If only he understood Cantonese, he would have overheard a shareholder saying the bank should follow the lead of its subsidiary Hang Seng Bank and give out coupons. Managing the micro Mr Geoghegan was widely credited with HSBC's decisiveness in tackling the subprime problem early last year. But still some day-to-day nitty-gritty can catch him off guard, as we witnessed in yesterday's shareholders' meeting. Half of the dozen questions shareholders asked in the one-hour session were related to the bank's local service. These questions ranged from why long queues were common at all the bank's branches to why the bank could not extend working hours to 5pm to facilitate small to medium-sized enterprises. Besides, shareholders demanded to know why the balance-checking machines were removed from branches this year, and why HSBC's online securities trading could not provide margin financing while some other banks could. The first shareholder to pose a question asked why the bank sent him at least eight pages of credit card statements every month. He said he ended up buying a paper shredder, but he could not figure out why the bank wasted so much paper, which went against the firm's commitment to environmental protection. Well, isn't an AGM a good opportunity for the bank's chief to find out more about operational problems? Connected connoisseur Our congratulations to Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who was honoured last night by the French government as Commandeur d'Honneur de la Commanderie du Bontemps, a title reserved for French wine connoisseurs. Rather than media freedom, the credit was given for the weekly food-and-wine column that he pens in his Next magazine. We were told quite a few eateries in Paris drew crowds of Chinese visitors after Next started recommending French wine and cuisine. Poor pay days We figure the income of former Sun Hung Kai Properties chairman Walter Kwok Ping-sheung has fallen 95 per cent since his removal from the helm. Yesterday, the property firm said Mr Kwok had been redesignated as non-executive director and will be paid an annual fee of HK$100,000. Mr Kwok, who has been with SHKP for 33 years - the last 18 years as chairman - made HK$2.06 million last year. In the past three weeks, he has been fighting a collective board decision to remove him as chairman in favour of his mother Kwong Siu-hing. Madam Kwong, who was described in the announcement as 'well-respected by the board and senior management', will make HK$120,000 as non-executive chairwoman.