Banking & Finance

Hang Seng Bank to relax loans rules, using big data and fintech to replace old-fashioned banking

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 7:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 11:09pm

Hang Seng Bank, the 85-year-old Hong Kong lender owned by HSBC, said it will allow existing customers with good credit histories to apply for personal loans, as it uses big data analysis and financial technology to replace old-fashioned banking practises.

The bank will accept online applications for personal loans without requiring borrowers to provide any proof of income or address beginning from the fourth quarter, in keeping with new guidelines issued last month by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA).

“Without income proof, we will need to use big data to analyse the behaviour and credit worthiness of the customers to decide if we should approve their personal loans,” said the bank’s executive director and retail banking head Margaret Kwan. “As such, we will only give this service to existing Hang Seng customers, not to the new clients.”

Hang Seng’s customers are increasingly adapting to digital banking, with its population of active mobile banking customers, defined as those who use mobile banking at least once a month, increasing by 50 per cent over the past 18 months, Hang Seng said.

At present, 40 per cent of online securities trading, 50 per cent online personal loan applications and 30 per cent of online forex exchange transactions are conducted through mobile phones, with the rest through desktop computers, Hang Seng said.

Like other lenders, Hang Seng is adapting to fintech to keep up with smartphone-enabled payment platforms that now enable customers to conduct virtually every aspect of their financial needs - from loans to investments, payments to remittances - without ever setting foot in a bricks-and-mortar bank. HKMA, the city’s de facto central bank and the banking regulator, has introduced a number of measures to nudge banks to develop fintech, in the hope of turning Hong Kong into a regional hub for financial and technological excellence.

Among the measures is a virtual banking license, which allows banks to operate entirely online, without the need to own or rent any physical branches. The first such license will be issued by the end of the year, after a three-month application period ending on August 31.

Hang Seng, with almost 10,000 employees, is reviewing whether it should apply for a virtual banking license from the HKMA, Kwan said.

“Our customers are increasingly adapting to mobile banking,” she said. “We will add services and products on our mobile banking platform to develop our digital banking.”

Online lender WeLab, payment operator Yedpay! and Standard Chartered Bank have declared that they would apply for a virtual bank license while Bank of East Asia said the application is under consideration.