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When the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) approved eight virtual banking licences in 2019, the city’s de facto central bank stated the motivation was “to promote Fintech and innovation in Hong Kong to offer a new kind of customer experience” and “to promote financial inclusion to target retail segments and SMEs”. This approach brings into focus the issue of financial inclusion for the un-banked and under-banked. For those without access to banking and payment facilities, e-commerce opportunities for the un-banked and under-banked are impossible to access. Also, the reliance on new technologies could also create new pockets of un-banked or under-banked groups due to the issue of technological literacy. After conducting
a small focus group with retail clients and bankers coupled with extensive literature reviews, as virtual banks develop, we have identified five focus areas where we believe the regulators should place particular focus on. They are:
1. Exclusion arising from requirements on hardware, software and technology literacy;
2. Emergence of cybersecurity risks;
3. Reconciliation of customers who prefer or require face-
to-face services;
4. Customer perceptions of bank’s commitment; and
5. Potential issues around the business model.
While digital technology can promote wider financial inclusion in the community, this article will examine the inclusive potential of virtual banks and highlight potential exclusionary factors which deserve regulatory attention.
The inclusive potential of virtual banks in
Hong Kong
The HKMA defines a “virtual bank” as a bank which delivers retail banking services through the internet or other forms of electronic channels instead of physical branches. Since 2019, the HKMA has issued eight virtual banking licenses
to institutions backed by telecom companies, technology companies and traditional banks, although not all have commenced operations.
In allowing virtual banks to join Hong Kong’s already highly competitive banking marketplace, one of the HKMA’s stated primary objectives was to promote financial inclusion to serve the Hong Kong community, including market segments that may be less profitable. This goes back to the HKMA’s “Smart Banking” initiative introduced in 2017 to promote Fintech in banking and the launch of virtual banks offers a new way to tackle an old problem. For example, by allowing a
的是「推動香港的金融科技和創新,為銀行 客戶提供新體驗」,並表示「虛擬銀行一般 以零售客戶為服務對象,當中包括中小型企 業,因此有助促進普及金融」。這正正突顯了 普及金融的議題,要惠及得不到銀行服務及 銀行服務不足的人士。沒有銀行戶口及支付 工具,便無法為得不到銀行服務及銀行服務 不足的人士提供電子商貿安排。此外,由於 客戶對科技的認知程度不一,使用新科技可 能導致另一批人士得不到銀行服務。我們以 零售客戶及銀行客戶經理為對象,進行了小 型焦點小組研究,並參閱了大量文獻,結論 是隨着虛擬銀行發展,監管機構應特別注重 以下五個範疇的工作:
2 0 1 9 年 ,香 港 金 融 管 理 局( 金 管 局 )批 核八個虛擬銀行牌照。作為香港實質 上的中央銀行,金管局表示發牌的目
1. 因軟硬件的要求以及對科技的認識不足 而導致客戶被拒的情況;
2. 網絡保安風險;
3. 照顧較喜歡或要求面對面服務的客戶;
4. 客戶對銀行投入程度的觀感;及
5. 與商業模式相關的議題。
數碼科技固然可促進普及金融,本文則探討 虛擬銀行普及金融的潛能,並提出有可能排 拒客戶的因素,這些因素值得監管機構注 意。
根據金管局的定義,「虛擬銀行」是指主要透 過互聯網或其他形式的電子傳送渠道而非 實體分行提供零售銀行服務的銀行。自2019 年以來,金管局發出了八個虛擬銀行牌照, 獲發牌照的機構,分別有電訊公司、科技公 司及傳統銀行背景,目前並非所有牌照持有 人均已開業。
香港銀行業的競爭已相當激烈,金管局仍容 許虛擬銀行加入,其中一個主要目的,是推 動普及金融,服務香港社會,包括涉足利潤 或 許 較 低 的 市 場 環 節 。回 看 2 0 1 7 年 ,金 管 局 推出「智慧銀行」的舉措,目的是促進銀行 業採用金融科技;虛擬銀行的誕生,是以新 方法處理舊問題。例如容許小量虛擬銀行加 入已達飽和的市場,借助這些銀行的科技專 長,以較低的邊際成本,吸納新客戶,希望能 在傳統上利潤較低的環節增加客戶覆蓋率。

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