13 December 2021 |

Digital makeover at HSBC GPB will be scaled for the wider wealth continuum

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HSBC Global Private Banking (GPB) said it has made digital headway in APAC thanks to a suite of digital banking tools launched in the past 12 months.

Its Wealth and Personal Banking (WPB) set-up has allowed the bank to marry the digital capabilities of the private banking and retail banking business — in a major scale-up.

At the end of August, HSBC GPB rolled out its messaging platform — powered by Symphony — to facilitate RM-client communication via instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and WeChat. The bank told Asian Private Banker it has so far seen a “strong rate of adoption, with more than 6,000 messages exchanged and over 1,000 documents shared” through the application.

Capitalising on scale
The chat function was among a series of digital upgrades at the British lender this year. Since June, HNW clients in Asia have been offered access to the online trading platform to trade cash equities, ETFs, and FX. They can give trade instructions to their RMs through the chat application as well.

Sharon Oh, the private bank’s COO since April 2020, was instrumental in leading the latest digitalisation effort. She believes the revamp was made possible by the scale of the bank’s wealth continuum business — from retail, mass affluent to private banking.

“Many private banks are limited in their ability to invest in technology because of their scale. The minimum required investment to lay the foundation for a private bank’s technology platform is around US$100 million,” Oh said.

She added that the WPB model has been a major benefit to the private bank as it can capitalise on the scale of the retail business — to be precise: a total of US$810 billion in AUM in HSBC’s Asian Wealth balances as at end 2Q21. That total includes Premier and Jade deposits and AUM, GPB client assets, and Asset Management AUM.

On the other hand, the retail business can rely on the private bank “which typically deals with account set-ups and products that are more complex in nature”.

“When we build the digital platform, we started with the private bank and then scaled it for the wider [wealth] continuum — from high net worth to mass affluent,” Oh explained. “In a sense, what the retail bank offers is a small subset of what the private bank offers. Now we try to marry the two parts.”

Single touchpoint
Client expectations for what private banking services stand for have shifted dramatically over the past two years, Oh pointed out.

“Clients want the best of both worlds — personal advice and convenience. This applies even to the UHNW clients, who before the pandemic showed little interest in digital services.”

More importantly, Oh argued that the modus operandi of converting private banking clients to an application developed by the bank is no longer working. “We designed a single touch-point client journey, capitalising on the three digital solutions that went live this year.”

In addition to online trading and messaging functions, the bank added e-signature capabilities to facilitate the client onboarding process. These functions are linked through HSBC GPB Chat.

The digital revamp at the private bank could be a harbinger of more consolidation in the business segments. Oh told Asian Private Banker that HSBC last December enabled a feature that provides private banking clients with an overview of their Premier, Jade, and Private Banking accounts while allowing them to make transfers across these accounts.

Since the launch of the new feature, HSBC GPB has recorded inflows of over US$200 million across Hong Kong and Singapore.