Retail Banking

Value creation

by Grace Chan

Andy Hon, head of retail distribution
personal financial services Hong Kong
Photo: Edde Ngan

Customer focus stronger than ever

Banking customers are becoming so much more discerning that key players in Hong Kong's evolving banking and finance industry are going to great lengths to satisfy customer expectations on service differentiation and customisation.

In light of this, HSBC is pulling out all the stops to re-examine its customers' expectations, rolling out personalised products and services to meet its customers' every banking need. "Giving a personal touch to our service helps to make a difference and impresses our customers," says Andy Hon, head of retail distribution, personal financial services Hong Kong, HSBC.

Thanks to the bank's sophisticated customer relationship management system (CRMS), HSBC's relationship managers are kept in the loop of significant events related to their customers. "After receiving an event alert, they may give their customers a call. Similarly, our credit card centre would send out gift coupons to cardholders for their birthdays. These actions all contribute to service excellence," he elaborates.

The competition between banking institutions has always been fierce, with market players catching up with each other by offering similar products and competitive pricing schemes. "To sustain our leading edge, we look to service personalisation," Mr Hon says.

One initiative, for instance, is the extension of the bank's community banking services for the elderly, the disabled and customers with special needs, giving these customers greater flexibility in managing their banking needs.

Unconventional approach

Since September last year, the bank has enlisted 20 community caring ambassadors to offer assistance at 20 high traffic HSBC branches. The aim is to provide banking support to customers with special needs.

The bank's Mongkok flagship branch also pioneered a six-day operation and the use of advanced banking service technologies such as electronic counters to process customer signatures during transactions.

Recent statistics reveal that customers are shifting from traditional counter services to direct banking via ATMs and on the internet. "Our data suggests that during the first six months of 2009, some 49 per cent of customers opted for self-service banking devices, 35 percent for internet banking and 13 per cent for phone banking whereas only three per cent of them relied on counter services", Mr Hon reveals. "For this reason, our network footprint may not necessarily increase in terms of numbers, but in space and options."

In view of this trend, the bank's Hopewell Centre branch, for example, has lately tripled its total floor area in a move to provide customers with better services.

In 2008, HSBC committed to delivering all public housing estates ATM service in three years. The penetration rate has reached 94 per cent since about 50 of such estates have no suitable space for ATM deployment. Mr Hon says that continuous efforts will be made to increase the variety and raise the standards of direct banking, phone banking and counter services.

Personal touch

Although a majority of banking initiatives can be delivered via the ATM network, the bank will continue to harness interaction with customers.

To better position for future challenge, the bank staged two recruitment days in August and November last year, aiming to attract new joiners to fill frontline positions including financial services officers, general banking officers, wealth management managers and relationship managers.

"In the midst of the market recovery, customers are more eager to seek professional investment advice," Mr Hon notes. "When it comes to wealth management, face-to-face meetings are preferred and in many cases indispensable."

Leveraging on its global network, HSBC keeps its staff abreast of the latest market information that will in turn help customers to make the right investment choices.

Mr Ho continues, "Our staff devote additional efforts to build customer relations and are well-equipped for serving them with increased sophistication."

Realising the importance of staff development, HSBC dedicates a wealth of resources to training, particularly on compliance issues.

Mr Hon confirms that successive training programme will be in place along with rigorous reassessment by means of mystery shoppers, internal auditing and customer opinion surveys. "As a leading bank in Hong Kong, service excellence lies at the very heart of our business. We take pleasure in stepping forward and helping to raise the bar for the industry," he emphasises.

Taken from Career Times 15 January 2010, p. A7

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