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Hong Kong Business Services, Banking System

Hong Kong Banking & Insurance

The HKMA (Hong Kong Monetary Authority) over the past ten years or so have been easing the requirements for overseas banks to establish in Hong Kong. Also the HKMA has been stream-lining and developing existing systems within the banking infrastructure. Subsequently there is greater choice for new businesses and expatriates with a competitive range of services available. In addition to conventional current (“checking”) and savings accounts, they also provide foreign currency accounts, overdrafts, loans, letter of credit and other facilities. In common with banks abroad there are designated “teams” to help specific customers with their needs. As part of the deregulation, banks are now able to set their own interest rates.

The RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) system ensures interbank payments for Hong Kong dollars, US dollars, Euros and more recently Renminbi in the Asian time zone are settled in real-time.

Banks notes in Hong Kong are issued by HSBC (Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation) Bank of China (Hong Kong) Ltd and Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) Ltd. The introduction of new banks notes that don’t “feel” like traditional paper notes have a more plastic feel about them, no need to be alarmed. Although I must confess I was very keen to test my new $10HKD bill at a seven eleven to make sure. I would avoid $1000HKD even those issued by the bank. You will see signs in some shops saying they won’t accept $1000HKD notes.

The main banks would be HSBC, Hang Seng (part of HSBC) and Standard Chartered. What I would say is make sure your request is understood. The level of English can be deceptive and lead you into a false sense of understanding. At some point I would summarise your conversation and ask the same questions in a different way to reassure yourself. Some of the processes can be frustrating and require more than one visit to complete despite the best preparation in advance. You could use phone banking, but nothing too complicated. The counter services are good and very thorough, but the queues can be very very long indeed. Internet banking is good and is well worth setting up for both business and personal use.

It is common place when writing cheques to put two parallel lines on the face to ensure the cheque is deposited into the named account. Local and interbank cheques clear overnight, those that go through a clearing bank, three to four days. Cheques drawn on a foreign bank can take three to four weeks to clear and attract a small fee.

Hong Kong Insurance

As for insurance the banks also provide cover for a range of situations. There are some large insurance companies who may offer a cost advantage. My experience of the “agent” is that they are under huge pressure to sell and you could end up with something you didn't really want, so be cautious in your selection.

The insurance section is under further development.....

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