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Monday, July 17, 2017, 23:27
HK finance chief proposes 'know your customer' database
By Sophie He
Monday, July 17, 2017, 23:27 By Sophie He

This undated photo shows people walking in Central, where many of Hong Kong's finance companies are located. The Hong Kong government plans to establish a centralized database to help financial institutions to "know your customer" and improve the city's efficiency. (Photo provided to China Daily)

HONG KONG -- The Hong Kong government plans to establish a centralized database to help financial institutions to “know your customer” and improve the city’s efficiency as an international financial center.

Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Henry Lau told a media briefing in Hong Kong on Monday that Hong Kong citizens find it annoying and time-consuming that they have to go to every bank in person if they want to open an account, and they will have to sit through an hour or so each time to talk to bank employees, filling out paper forms if they want to buy financial products such as annuities.

Meanwhile, banks also find it very difficult to obtain the necessary financial data and track records of small to medium sized enterprises when they ask to open abank account.

Lau suggested the city establish a centralized database with personal information such as name, age, phone number, address, income and even risk appetite; it would also have all the information about companies in Hong Kong.

This database could be built by the government or a trustworthy private company so the information can be shared and people will no longer have to go to each bank in person for things as simple as changing the residential address, according to Lau.

The database would not be compulsory for Hong Kong citizens but once they join they will have an electronic identification, and it would significantly improve efficiency in dealing with banks and other financial institutions, he added.

Currently the database is just a plan.The Financial Services and Treasury Bureau will soon discuss details with the Innovation and Technology Bureau.

Lau said establishing the database will be one the government’s efforts to boost the financial technology sector in Hong Kong. He believes the development of fintech will be crucial for Hong Kong to cement its position as an international financial center.

He pointed out that people who live in India and Estonia already have electronic identities. Hong Kong has a well-established financial system and it is time to take a step forward in the fintech sector.

Aside from the centralized database, Lau also stressed the importance of developing green finance.

The central government attaches great importance to green finance; President Xi Jinping called for support of green finance in his speech at the G20 Hamburg Summit.

The Financial Services Development Council last year released a report entitled “Hong Kong as a regional green finance hub”, which made recommendations to help Hong Kong position itself as a leading center for green finance in the region.

Lau believes Hong Kong should actively implement green finance, not only by launching green projects but also should be a green investor, investing only in projects that are eco-friendly. 

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