Money Moves

Meeting of minds

by Isabella Lee

Francesca McDonagh
head of personal financial services Hong Kong
Photo: Edde Ngan
Banking giant aligns staff complement to meet the financial aspirations of Hong Kong's younger generation

With younger people born between 1980 and 1995, collectively termed Generation Y, becoming an increasingly important group in terms of earning power and social status, HSBC is focusing on developing new lines of service to help them achieve their distinct financial goals.

Generation Y will represent 24 per cent of the city's total population within a decade, says Francesca McDonagh, head of personal financial services Hong Kong, HSBC. She adds that by 2020 the sector will overtake the previous group, Generation X, as well as the "baby boomers", roughly those born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s, in terms of disposable income, as well as earning and spending power.

"We recognise that every generation has a particular lifestyle, needs and preferences for consumption, including financial products," Ms McDonagh explains. "The demographics of our client base are shifting. Like every group, the younger generation tends to have specific aspirations, and HSBC aims to help people in this age group to achieve their dreams and personal goals."

Big impact

Ms McDonagh notes that Generation Y's effect on the economy as a whole, and the banking industry in particular, is growing. By March this year, about 800,000 of HSBC's Hong Kong-based customers belonged to this emerging segment.

"We already have strong relationships with our clients in this group, which will be a major force driving our business in future," says Ms McDonagh. "But we want to learn more about their needs, desires, preferences, habits and goals so that we can start focusing on developing services for them as their needs become more sophisticated."

Clients under the age of 30 are generally technologically savvy. An HSBC research has shown that 87 per cent of members of Generation Y spend an hour a day visiting social websites, which reflects their interest in, and dependence on, connecting, socialising and accessing information online.

"Another key finding was that this dynamic group is eager for more guidance and information on financial matters. Although they have access to a massive amount of information, they're really interested in learning more about ways to manage their financial affairs and achieve their goals and dreams," Ms McDonagh points out.

Focused hiring

The first financial institution in Hong Kong to specifically employ members of a certain group to develop banking services for their own generation, HSBC kicked off its recruitment drive last month with an aim to hire up to 20 university students and fresh graduates to work as Generation Y ambassadors.

The ambassador programme promises to be "exciting, fun and innovative", while at the same time helping the bank to gain a better understanding of Hong Kong's Generation Y.

Successful candidates will be offered full-time internships of three to six months over the summer break. High performers may be rewarded with part-time placements.

Ideal candidates should possess a genuine interest in business, as well as innovative thinking, planning and organisational skills and the ability to network. Those with a solid track record in taking part in campus activities will have an advantage.

The Generation Y ambassadors will get the opportunity to explore the day-to-day operation of HSBC and gain experience within the institution's fast-paced environment. "They will work with various teams in personal financial services, mainly in the area of business development," Ms McDonagh says.

Part of the role will be to advise on the factors that drive their generation's financial planning and wealth management decisions, with responsibilities comprising the drawing up of solutions and management programmes to address their peer group's banking and financial management needs. They will be tasked with contributing innovative ideas for product, service and channel development, organising campus sponsorships, activities, competitions and other university events, and participating in promotional activities to help members of Generation Y cultivate an understanding of financial planning and wealth management.

"Our Generation Y ambassadors will play an influential role in developing a series of strategic moves," Ms McDonagh remarks. "They will be looking at new services and campaigns and potential new channels. It will be a great adventure for them to join us as the voice of their generation."

New demographic

  • Bank aspires to help people in younger segments to manage financial goals
  • Young recruits to work as Generation Y ambassadors
  • Networking, communications and leadership skills sought after

Taken from Career Times 28 May 2010, A3

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