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Hong Kong digital bank offers market beating 6% interest rate

Hong Kong digital bank offers market beating 6% interest rate

ZA Bank, the first of the eight firms with a licence to launch a digital bank in Hong Kong, is offering an introductory interest rate of 6% on deposits to select clients.

This is part of a trial run by ZA to test the appetite for digital-only banking in a city state gripped by tension as pro-democracy protests continue.

The unrest in Hong Kong has led HSBC to close eight of its branches and seven indoor ATM clusters, which has triggered concerns for the availability of cash.

There are no signs at present of a major cash outflow from the city, though banks are reporting that clients are enquiring about opening up separate accounts as a hedge.

Along with ZA, Chinese giants Ant Financial and Tencent have been granted licences to operate digital banks by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the de facto central bank.

ZA launched the city's first digital-only bank in December as a pilot, and is offering 6% for three-month deposits up to HK$200,000 ($25,000), which includes a 4% top up, Bloomberg has reported.

Incumbents such as HSBC and Standard Chartered pay 1.9-2.3%.

As long as the unrest continues, desposit rates could be a key battleground for Hong Kong's new banks, though some commentators are doubtful that rates such as ZA's will become the norm.

"“This is more of a gimmick," says Terry Siu, treasurer at CMB Wing Lung Bank. "But competition for funds is indeed getting higher as eight more banks are coming out."

CMB pays 3.8% to new savers for two-month Hong Kong dollar deposits.

ZA have not commented on the interest rate, though have stated their intention to provide a "full suite of services 24/7" through an account that can be opened in minutes with just a Hong Kong identity card. 

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