Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
HSBC's "mobile banking" in 1962 in Kam Tin. Photo: SCMP

Hong Kong's HSBC bank looks back at real mobile banking on its anniversary

To accommodate Hong Kong's fast-growing needs, HSBC introduced vehicular banking in 1961. Fast-forward to today, mobile banking via smartphones has become the norm.

Jennifer Ngo

The earliest mobile banking was actually delivered in an automobile, which trundled through remote villages in the New Territories.

Fast-forward to today, and mobile banking via smartphones has become the norm. HSBC, one of the oldest banks in Hong Kong, is looking back on technological change through the decades as it celebrates its 150th anniversary.

To accommodate Hong Kong's fast-growing needs, the bank introduced vehicular banking in 1961.

Opening in 1865 with headquarters at 1 Queen's Road, Central, the bank opened in Shanghai one month after the Hong Kong inauguration, according to its website.

Today the bank has over 6,600 offices in 80 countries around the world.

In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the bank released special HK$150 banknotes last month, prompting speculators to queue up for application forms to buy sets of the banknotes.

In 1971, bank cards were introduced, while ATMs were rolled out in the 1980s. Phone banking was introduced in 1990 and internet banking in 2000. In 2010, HSBC was the first bank worldwide to launch a mobile banking platform.

"The trend today is obvious worldwide and in Hong Kong - people are using smartphones," said Diana Cesar, HSBC's head of retail banking and wealth management in Hong Kong. "Customers' lifestyles [and needs] have changed … now it's necessary the bank can be contacted at all times, all places."

New services were launched in quick succession after mobile banking began, including different payment options and functions on the platform, Cesar said. Investment in digital and online banking services had tripled in the past three years, she said.

In 2014, the bank processed 35 million transactions in Hong Kong via the internet or mobile phones, she said. Transfers were most common, followed by bill payments and stock trading, Cesar said.

She reiterated that the bank was not phasing out other forms of contact, like bank branches.

"There are still some people who prefer to go down and meet a teller face-to-face," she said. "It's about providing customers with more ways of reaching us."

Meanwhile, the bank faces a Swiss tax-dodge scandal that has embroiled HSBC Group chief executive Stuart Gulliver personally - part of what chairman Douglas Flint has described as a "terrible list" of the bank's misdemeanours.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Mobile banking is old technology for HSBC