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Hong Kong digital banks launch faces delay due to protests - sources

Tue 17th September, 2019 4:09am
* Digital banking services were to be launched by end of
this year
    * Hong Kong has awarded 8 digital bank licenses to banks,
fintechs

    By Sumeet Chatterjee and Alun John
    HONG KONG, Sept 17 (Reuters) - The launch of new online-only
banks in Hong Kong is expected to be delayed in part due to
ongoing anti-government protests in the former British colony,
people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
    Most of the eight newly licensed digital banks in Hong Kong,
including joint ventures involving Standard Chartered  STAN.L 
and Bank of China Hong Kong  2388.HK , had aimed to begin
operating before the end of 2019.
    But as protests continue into their fourth month, the new
banks, which are expected to trigger the biggest shake-up to
Hong Kong's lucrative retail banking sector in years, will now
launch early in 2020, the people said.  
    A delay would be the latest sign of the damage being wrought
on the Asian financial hub's economy due to the political
turmoil that erupted in June.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL4N25G0ZK
    Some virtual banks, as the new entrants are called, had
aimed to launch brand promotion campaigns as early as this month
ahead of a formal launch, but these plans have now been put off,
the people said.
    "This form of banking service is mainly aimed at the youth,
millennials, and many of them are out on the street these days
joining the protests," said a senior executive at one of the
licence winners. 
    "It will be difficult to launch a brand campaign around them
and attract their interest when their priority is clearly not
having another bank account," said the executive, who declined
to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media.
    More than 100 days of sometimes violent protests in Hong
Kong were sparked by a bill that would have drawn the semi-
autonomous Chinese territory closer to the mainland Chinese
legal system. The bill was withdrawn earlier this month, but the
protests have continued.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N26606Y
    Hong Kong awarded virtual banking licences to three groups
in March - joint ventures led by StanChart and BOC Hong Kong,
and a subsidiary of the international arm of Chinese online
insurer ZhongAn Online P&C Insurance  6060.HK .  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N21E28U 
    The banks intended to launch services in six to nine months,
the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) said at that time. Five
more licences were issued later. 
    HKMA said starting six to nine months after authorisation
was "not a rigid requirement", though it said the services were
expected to be rolled out to the public in the fourth quarter at
the earliest based on the virtual banks' latest indications.
    StanChart said its virtual bank joint venture was working
towards a launch in early 2020. Livi VB Ltd, the virtual banking
joint venture led by BOC Hong Kong, said it was working towards
the launch in the near future. ZhongAn declined to comment.

 (Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee and Alun John; Editing by
Stephen Coates)
 ((sumeet.chatterjee@thomsonreuters.com; +852-2847 2094;))
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