HKIB Paying Attention to Pandemic Situation, Banking Transformation


Hong Kong enjoys a unique position as the gateway to the Greater China region as a top 5 global financial centre.  As an established participant supporting this important sector, The Hong Kong Institute on Bankers (HKIB) provides a distinctive perspective on a number of issues valued by APABI members on the disruptive changes taken place throughout the industry.

Ms. Carrie LEUNG,
Chief Executive Officer,
 The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB)

When we spoke with HKIB CEO Carrie LEUNG, Hong Kong was in the midst of its largest COVID wave causing a city-wide lockdown. “The banking system remains strong despite the inconveniences caused by the surge in cases”, Ms. LEUNG said.  Nevertheless, some branches were closed for mass disinfection as many sick employees were forced to quarantine at home or at designated control centres.  Banking services were deemed essential by the city’s Bank regulator, the HKMA, so front-line staff were required to be vaccinated in order to reduce the risk of infection or reduce the risk of serious illness if infection does occur.

Small retailers and sole proprietorships in sectors requiring in-person contact were greatly impacted though.  To stimulate consumption and subsidise for lost revenue and wages, the government approved a total of HKD15,000 in consumption vouchers over several tranches to each Hong Kong resident.  Overall, LEUNG estimated that about 60% of Hong Kong people were working from home at the time.

Besides the disruptions arising from the pandemic, HKIB is also focused on ongoing changes in the banking sector.  HKIB offers two professional qualification programmes, namely, the Enhanced Competency Framework (ECF) and Certified Banker (CB) for certification in banking.  The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) encourages banking participants to enrol in the ECF programmes to enhance their level of core competencies and on-going professional development. The three-stage CB programme, recognised by the regulator and quality assured by HKCAAVQ and the Qualifications Framework, provide a common qualification benchmark for producing holistic bankers.  The specialist ECF programmes are embedded into the CB providing a streamline pathway for professional development.  New topics such as ESG are expected to get their own ECF programme developed in the upcoming year.  Not surprisingly, Hong Kong is promoting itself as a green finance hub, and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange now requires green disclosures from all its listed entities.

The virtual bank sector was created two years ago, and the eight new licence holders are all starting to offer their products targeting two specific markets - young retail banking customers and SMEs – who prefer to transact completely digitally.  Nevertheless, there are still several reasons why it is important to focus on traditional banks, Leung said.  Many traditional banks also offer their products digitally, but can also cater to older customers who still prefer physical branches, and high net worth wealth management or corporate banking customers. 

Banking is the lifeblood of Hong Kong, and it is worth paying attention to trends there in order to understand the future of the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.