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Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA)

Lukewarm response as Hong Kong releases new HK$1,000 banknotes

  • About 20 people seen waiting outside HSBC’s Mong Kok branch as notes become available to public
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 1:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 9:34pm

The city’s new HK$1,000 banknotes appeared to receive a lukewarm response from the public on the day of their release, failing to draw crowds with their improved security features.

Outside the HSBC branch in Mong Kok on Wednesday morning, only about 20 people, most of them elderly, queued to obtain the newly launched bills.

A 66-year-old man surnamed Hui was the first to arrive at the branch. He turned up at 8.10am, well before the bank’s 9am opening time, to avoid being stuck in a long queue.

“I came here before to exchange for banknotes of smaller values, like HK$100 banknotes, and there were many people waiting,” he said.

New HK$1,000 banknotes set to debut in Hong Kong on Wednesday

Hui, who exchanged a total of HK$20,000 (US$2,560) for 20 new bills, said he would put some of the new banknotes into red packets for his grandson for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

A man in his 40s surnamed Lee said he had been collecting banknotes for about 20 years and had gathered bills from more than 70 countries during his travels.

“This is the first time I’ve collected a new Hong Kong banknote on its debut,” Lee said. He added that he collected banknotes as an investment, as their value would keep increasing.

A total of 90 million of the new HK$1,000 bills became available to the public on Wednesday. They can be obtained at HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) and Bank of China (Hong Kong) branches.

The tepid public response was echoed at branches of the other two note issuers.

Few people turned up at Standard Chartered’s branch in Causeway Bay to get the new notes, a bank employee said, describing the debut as “just a normal day”.

It was the same story at a Causeway Bay branch of Bank of China. “Not many people came,” a staff member said. “Every hour we had some customers come to switch to the new notes.”

No details were available from the banks on the number of notes exchanged.

The lack of interest in the notes may be partly because some stores refuse to accept large-denomination bills out of concern that they may be counterfeit.

A worker at a cosmetics shop in Causeway Bay said they did not accept HK$1,000 bills.

“Some stores reject HK$1,000 bills, even authentic notes, fearing fake bills,” said Hui, adding that he thought the improved security features of the new notes would change the situation.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority unveiled the design of the new notes featuring advanced security features to prevent counterfeiting in July. The elements include an enhanced watermark and concealed denomination – a numeral visible only when the bill is tilted at an angle.

The designs on the new notes showcase Hong Kong as an international financial centre. Each of the three issuing banks has its own design based on the stipulated themes.

HSBC said its new banknote features “Stitt”, one of the lion statues that have guarded the bank’s headquarters building since 1935. Bank of China’s bills feature a bauhinia flower – the floral emblem of Hong Kong – and its bank tower, while Standard Chartered’s design displays the landmark Lion Rock, a symbol of the Hong Kong spirit.

The next set of new banknotes, in HK$500 denominations, will be available on January 23 next year, about two weeks ahead of the Lunar New Year, according to the authority.

Three other denominations – HK$100, HK$50 and HK$20 – will enter circulation between mid-2019 and early 2020, but the issuance dates have not yet been fixed.