HSBC first to offer dementia-friendly banking service in Hong Kong

Simone McCarthy
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HSBC first to offer dementia-friendly banking service in Hong Kong

HSBC Hong Kong has introduced a new type of bank account specifically aimed at customers with dementia, a growing public health concern among the city’s rapidly ageing population.

The bank account, which HSBC says is the first of its kind in Hong Kong and second for the lender globally after the UK, enables customers living with dementia to retain access to a bank account, but one with limited features and additional control by a legal designee, such as a son or daughter.

Dementia is an increasing health concern as the city’s population grows older, with nearly a third of Hong Kong residents expected to be aged 65 or older or in 20 years’ time, according to a January 2019 analysis by Hong Kong’s Office of the Government Economist.

“We want customers with diminished mental capacity to continue to be able to manage their finances safely and with an appropriate degree of independence,” said Greg Hingston, head of retail banking and wealth management in Hong Kong, at the launch of the service on Thursday.

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The “HSBC basic banking account with independence” is meant to guard against financial mismanagement by customers with impaired mental capacity, who face challenges understanding bank documents, remembering pins, and communicating with bank staff, according to an HSBC-commissioned survey conducted last year by the Hong Kong Alzheimer’s Disease Association.

“There is definitely a need there, and when you look at demographics that’s just going to become more material going forward,” Hingston said.

In 2017, between 20 to 30 per cent of Hong Kong residents over 80 suffered from dementia disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Hospital Authority.

As such, services for the elderly, like the dementia-friendly bank account, are crucial in Hong Kong, according to Dr David Dai, chairman of the Hong Kong Alzheimer’s Disease Association, which partnered with HSBC on the initiative.

“Financial management taps into more high-level cognitive functions,” Dai said. “[I have] patients who have gone to the bank several times in the morning and their bank card is exhausted, and then they think that the bank has exploited them.”

HSBC’s new account relies on existing Hong Kong laws enabling third party control of accounts for those with impaired mental capacity, either through enduring power of attorney if the individual is deemed capable of giving this permission themselves, or via a guardianship order or High Court committee appointment.

Third parties would take control of accounts and top-up the basic banking account. Normal fraud monitoring services offered by HSBC would be applied to the principal account, according to bank representatives.

HSBC will be looking to expand the service to other global locations, Hingston said.

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