Hong Kong’s first digital-only ZA Bank is offering six percent interest rate for three-month deposits for select clients. Standard Chartered, HSBC and BOC Hong Kong currently offer between 1.9 percent and 2.3 percent for the same deposit maturity, the local media reported.
ZA Bank is an arm of ZhongAn Technologies International, a Chinese online-only insurance company. The bank trialled its introductory interest rate for deposits by paying select depositors over three percentage points. This is more than what other major banks pay.
“This is more of a gimmick, which shouldn’t become a norm,” Terry Siu, treasurer at CMB Wing Lung Bank, told South China Morning Post. “But competition for funds is indeed getting higher as eight more banks are coming out.”
ZA Bank started the six percent interest rate trial last month for three-month Hong Kong deposits capped at $25,000. Although the accounts interest rate is set at two percent, an additional four percent is offered to select clients.
Last year, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority licenced ZhongAn, Ant Financial and Tencent Holdings to launch virtual banks in the region.
Hong Kong’s interest rates are quite high compared to developed countries, where central banks have lowered key rates below zero on the back of global recession. This has even forced some banks to introduce negative rates for retail customers.
According to Bloomberg Intelligence (BI), new banks will find it challenging to tap into Hong Kong’s loan market, with just 1.5 percent share by 2025.