Money Moves

Credit card innovations to capture premium market

By Siu Heng

This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

Rebecca Chan, head of consumer finance, consumer and commercial clients, ABN AMRO Bank
Photo: Johnny Kwok

Hong Kong's banking and finance industry has now regained momentum and is showing a new sense of optimism. As a sign of that, ABN AMRO Bank is issuing credit cards in Hong Kong for the first time in a move that will follow the pattern of their successful operations in Taiwan and India, but include a number of innovations.

Rebecca Chan, head of consumer finance, consumer and commercial clients for ABM AMRO, explains the reason behind this launch. "The reviving economy is showing steady growth and we can see an opportunity to give our customers something different for their personal financial needs," she says. Rather than seeing the bank's first Hong Kong credit card as a new product, she regards it as a natural extension of their long established wealth management services.

All the same, there are still elements that are new. "The innovative and personalised aspects will take things to a different level," says Ms Chan. That goes beyond the use of famous paintings by Van Gogh in the design and the adoption of art as a promotional theme. In fact, the creativity extends to several reward schemes designed to attract customers.

The "Signature" scheme allows various card users to pool the bonus points they have earned through spending with ABN AMRO cards. They can then choose gifts which will not be limited to those available in a catalogue. It will be possible to order gifts, make restaurant reservations and book tickets in different parts of the world. Customers will even be able to arrange, for example, "a romantic dinner in a castle in the south of France", through the special concierge service.

A "Transaction without Boundaries" scheme will enable payment by credit card for goods or services, such as home renovations or car repairs, which usually have to be paid for some other way.

Ms Chan explains that high-spending customers are the target market. To obtain a platinum card, an annual income of HK$500,000 is required and the black card will be available by invitation only. The bank sees great potential in this market sector and hopes the new cards will account for 15 to 20 per cent of the net growth in credit card business in Hong Kong. They expect to break even on the project within 18 months.

Jerry Letendre, CEO Asia Pacific, consumer and commercial bank for ABN AMRO, is confident of achieving these goals and optimistic about overall local economic trends. "The problems of the economic downturn are now behind us," he says, adding that Hong Kong will continue to be "a critical hub" for financial and banking services.

Credit card business is also forecast to grow in line with global trends. "It is a very mature business, so we must add innovations to the products," says Mr Letendre. He views the local launch as a milestone for the bank's development following the introduction of Van Gogh Preferred Banking. Current plans call for the credit cards to be extended next to Singapore and Indonesia.

Taken from Career Times 04 March 2005, p. 2
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