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The race for HK$71 billion cash handout is heating up as more banks bait customers with gold bar, iPhone, and food vouchers

Enoch Yiuenoch.yiu@scmp.com
·3 min read

More lenders are dangling appetising incentives to steer as much cash as possible to their own platform as the Hong Kong government prepares to hand out HK$71 billion (US$9.2 billion) to residents from next month.

HSBC listed HK$10,000 cash among the top prizes in its lucky draw programme, rivalling the offers at China Construction Bank Asia and Standard Chartered. A tael of gold bullion, with a market value of HK$16,146 on Tuesday, is the ultimate prize in a Shanghai Commercial Bank promotion.

The race for customers is heating up with more lenders joining the fray as Hong Kong kicks off the online registration exercise for the HK$10,000 cash payout per person from June 21. The government expects the first electronic disbursement to verified applicants from as early as July 8.

The handout is a key part of Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po's budget plan for the current financial year to jump-start the economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest. Hong Kong's gross domestic product shrank 8.9 per cent last quarter from a year earlier, the worst on record, reflecting the full brunt of the viral outbreak.

While the idea is to lighten Hongkongers' financial burden, Chan expects the handout to help galvanise spending, equating the portion to about three months' worth of retail sales in the city. Many, however, could end up preserving the cash as deposits in their accounts.

"While the payout is aimed at encouraging people to spend to stimulate the retail and restaurant sector, many will like to save the money for rainy days," said Gordon Tsui, chairman of Hong Kong Securities Association. "Banks have to capture the pie as they can compete for new clients and cross-sell them new products."

Deposits are typically among the cheapest sources of funding for banks, paying next to nothing in the era of near-zero or negative interest rate policy. For example, customers' deposits equalled to about 63 per cent of the total assets of HSBC's Asian operations, according to its reports.

About 7 million Hong Kong permanent residents can start registering for the payouts through any of the 21 participating banks from June 21 to the end of 2021. Since the government disclosed the timeline on June 8, Standard Chartered, Citigroup and virtual banks have wasted no time in canvassing for customers.

HSBC on Tuesday said it will select 110 winners for prizes including cash, iPhone SE 128GB worth about HK$4,000 each, or iPad Air 256GB worth about HK$6,000 each.

The biggest lender in the city earlier offered to pay new customers a 10 per cent interest for short-term deposits, subject to caps, an incentive it has since extended to all existing clients if they register with it for the handout programme.

Besides the gold bullion, Shanghai Commercial Bank also listed Canadian Maple Leaf gold coin and Australian gold nugget among the top prizes in its lucky draw. There are also hundreds of restaurant vouchers to be won, redeemable at Taste of Asia Group's outlets.

China Construction Bank Asia has set aside three prizes of HK$10,000 each, and 100 winners for HK$800 worth of dining vouchers at the Shangri-La chain of hotels. ICBC Asia will offer HK$50 cash, while DBS Bank of Singapore will hand out "e-stamps" to customers valued at up to HK$150 each.

Bank of China Hong Kong on Tuesday also unveiled its lucky draw with shopping vouchers worth between HK$10,000 and HK$100,000. It will also offer HK$1,500 of credit card benefits to encourage its customers to spend.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.