Online-Only Banking Kicks Off in Hong Kong

2020/03/25 Innoverview Read

ZA Bank – one of the eight recipients of Hong Kong’s virtual banking licenses – kicked off operations yesterday, marking the dawn of digital lending in the city.

The virtual banking arm of China’s ZhongAn Online P&C Insurance began operations, according to a statement, with a focus on offering competitive rates. Hong Kong dollar savings deposits at the digital lender will pay an annual intros rate of 1 percent – well above other traditional competitors which are paying as low as just 0.001 percent. 

ZA Bank continues to lure new customers by paying significantly higher rates for deposits than traditional lenders which shoulder the burden of heavy overhead costs. In January this year, it reportedly offered as high as 6 percent interest rate for 3-month Hong Kong dollar deposits (capped at HK$200,000 or $25,800) in an initial trial to attract customers – more than double the rate offered by traditional lenders locally. 

More Coming Soon

Local regulators completed the virtual banking license issuances in April last year and more players are expected to launch in the near-term. This includes «Mox» which is jointly owned by Standard Chartered, telecom firms PCCW and Hong Kong Telecom, and online travel agency The virtual bank was reportedly undergoing beta testing by staff earlier this month.

According to one estimate by Goldman Sachs in 2018, 30 percent of Hong Kong’s total banking revenue – or $15 billion – were at risk of being overtaken by digital banks.