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Customers get new protection

Published on Thursday, 29 Sep 2011
Alice Lee

Since Lehman's collapse in 2008, attention has focused on banks' sales practices. Alice Lee, division head of the banking conduct department at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), identifies three regulatory challenges: increasing awareness of investors' rights, more protection for ordinary customers, and regular monitoring of banking sales staff.

New regulatory responses are underway to meet these challenges, says Lee, including enhancement of products and risk disclosures. Since May, Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission must authorise the issue of documentation and ads for all structured products for public offering, including shares and debentures, unless exempted.

Documentation for collective investment schemes or investment-linked assurance schemes has been revised using simple language. The nature, risks, lock-in periods, fees, charges and cooling-off mechanism must also be clearly disclosed. Furthermore, banks must give their customers standard templates to help them understand the key features of currency-linked and interest rate-linked instruments.

Bank staff must disclose sales-related information in writing prior to or at the point of sales. Staff may not give gifts when promoting a product, in order not to distract customers' attention from the product itself. Since September 4, staff must assess customers' knowledge of derivatives, and if their knowledge is deemed insufficient, staff must explain the risks and offer appropriate advice.

Lee says the HKMA will continue using 'mystery shoppers' to assess the industry's compliance. 

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