Birthday leave, anyone? StanChart asks its staff Everybody loves a birthday treat and the one being offered to Standard Chartered Bank employees was the talk of the town yesterday. The bank has been canvassing staff about giving them an extra day off on their birthdays starting next year. That's a bit like asking Vitasoy, Watsons Water and Nestle transport workers if they wanted a pay rise. The answer is obvious, but it did beg the question of how many more companies are prepared to give their staff a birthday present? Some even suggested the government should make it mandatory. Standard Chartered is not the first bank to come up with the idea. Last year HSBC (China) offered birthday leave to its 5,000 staff. However, it was not extended to staff in Hong Kong, some of whom already enjoy 30 days of annual leave. As far as we can gather Sincere department store is the only big local employer to give its staff a paid day off on their birthday. Citibank staff enjoy a half-day off, while other banks said their employees were usually allowed to leave early, subject to the immediate boss's discretion. Meanwhile, it appears Standard Chartered is trying hard to match rival HSBC for staff generosity. Earlier this year, Standard Chartered granted two extra days of annual leave to celebrate the bank's record profit last year. It also implemented a five-day paternity leave scheme and two days of voluntary leave on top of a five-day working week. The way things are going, pretty soon we will be back to the glorious colonial days when expatriate teachers were given a day off to go Christmas shopping at Lane Crawford. We wonder if we can get the union boys at Vitasoy, Watsons and Nestle on the case. Saving to win Here's another example of a bank being nice to its staff. Citibank (Hong Kong) has launched an in-house competition that rewards employees for saving on their home electricity bills. From this month to October, staff who manage to save 10 per cent on each of three monthly electric bills will receive 12,888 credit card bonus points, while the top three power savers will also win a HK$1,000 coupon to buy energy-efficient home appliances. The competition began after staff attended meetings to hear useful energy-saving tips from the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department. We applaud the bank's ingenuity, but can imagine the domestic disputes it could cause when a bank employee's spouse objects to the air conditioning being turned off at night. Access all areas Make your minds up, guys. China's banking regulators have called on domestic banks to co-operate with foreign media and to respond quickly to inquiries during the Beijing Olympic Games to present a positive image for the industry. The instruction comes just a week after the securities regulator put a gag order on fund managers to stop them mentioning that the stock market has fallen more than 50 per cent since last year's highs. The China Banking Regulatory Commission has told banks to set up a 24-hour 'fast track' for responding to foreign media interview requests and inquiries. 'No foreign media request for an interview should be turned down and every media inquiry should receive a reply,' the notice said. If the orders are carried out to the letter, then Bank of China chairman Xiao Gang and his ICBC counterpart Jiang Jianqing could find themselves fielding more media requests than an Olympic gold medallist. Sofitel prepares for opening Better late than never for Stanley Ho Hung-sun's new luxury hotel in Macau. After carrying a full staff of 2,000 on its payroll for the past six months, the 408-room Sofitel hotel on Ponte 16 will officially welcome guests on August 15. The HK$3.1 billion project, 51 per cent owned by Mr Ho's SJM Holdings and 44 per cent by Macau Success, actually had its grand opening on February 1, but since then its operating licence has been delayed as more stringent inspections have had to be carried out in the aftermath of the arrest and jailing of Macau's former transport and public works secretary, Ao Man-long, for corruption.