Hong Kong is a leading international center for trade and finance – not only in Asia, but in the whole world. According to the Global Financial Centers Index 2013, it’s the third most important financial city worldwide.
Consequently, the banking industry plays a significant role in the urban economy. Despite the mid-1990s handover to China, the city retains its authority over the currency and all monetary issues.
Banks in Hong Kong include of three types of private institutions: licensed banks, restricted licensed banks, and deposit-taking companies. For day-to-day services, such as current accounts, wealth management, currency exchange, investment advice, and credit cards, a licensed bank is the place to go.
All banks in the city offer a wide variety of services. Once you have a telephone or an Internet connection, you can make use of phone and online access as well. Some basic assistance is also offered at the numerous ATMs which are widely available throughout the city.
However, your personal account is a prerequisite for banking in Hong Kong. We’ll therefore provide basic information on opening an account and getting a credit card below.
In spite of the handover to China in 1997, the Hong Kong government retains full autonomy over its currency, as well as all financial institutions. As of autumn 2010, the Hong Kong dollar (HKD) is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of 7.8.
There are three institutions which have the right to issue local dollars: the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, the Standard Chartered Bank, and the Bank of China (Hong Kong). They work under the supervision of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. The latter serves as a de facto central bank, ensuring, among other things, a stable currency.
The Hong Kong Banking Ordinance provides the legal framework for supervising private banks. As mentioned above, the financial system includes three such types: licensed and restricted licensed banks, as well as deposit-taking companies.
Only a licensed bank can operate savings and current accounts. The other kinds of institutions rather specialize in commercial services, such as securities business.
Altogether, there are circa 200 authorized institutions working in the large finance sector. Moreover, the financial industry includes a large representation of global banks. Around 80 establishments are actually branch offices of overseas companies.
You can choose from a large number of local and international banks. Most expat customers tend to use the latter because they are familiar with them from their home country. Additionally, you will be able to handle all communication in English. You can find various branches with ATMs and a service counter in most big malls and main streets.
Banks are generally open from Monday to Friday between 9:00 am and 4:30 pm, and from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm on Saturday. Some branch offices may open a bit earlier and/or close slightly later. All of them are closed on Sunday and public holidays, though. If possible, try to avoid all local branches around lunchtime – or be prepared to spend quite some time waiting in a queue.
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