Meeting SME requirements with the right solutions

SME Banker of the Year John Wong

The SME business was a strong driver of Hang Seng Bank’s performance in 2017, underpinned by tailor-made cash management solutions that meet clients’ requirements


11 May 2018


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 JOHN Wong loves music, but his passion, as it turns out, is banking. Becoming a musician had crossed his mind, but banking was his calling.

At Hang Seng Bank, growing the SME business has become all too important for Wong. His dedication has led to increased business for the bank. As at end-June 2017, the bank’s enhanced SME service proposition and deepened relationships with clients helped it achieve a 9% increase in net interest income and a 36% surge in non-interest income. This demonstrated a strong intake of new SME customers in 2017 with an average of about 1,600 new corporate clients each month.

Wong, who heads global liquidity and cash management at Hang Seng, joined the bank in May 2015 after working in Standard Chartered in Hong Kong for 25 years. Under his leadership, a dedicated sales team was set up to look after SME customers. Tailor-made cash management solutions were introduced to meet their requirements. This reflected Wong’s management style: open to new ideas, ready to listen and willing to take risk.

Under his leadership, Hang Seng organized seminars targeting different SME segments in schools, trading firms, non-governmental organizations and non-bank financial institutions to enhance Hang Seng’s understanding of SMEs’ needs. The objective was to identify the different requirements of various SME segments with the aim of designing the appropriate solutions.

This exercise had been instrumental for Hang Seng to intelligently shape its services for various SME clients. As a result, the bank experienced enhanced cash management sales productivity, with new clients being onboarded every month. 

In a sign that its clients are at the heart of the bank’s operation, about 90% of the deposits from Hang Seng’s SME customers are in the form of CASA (current account and savings account) balance (i.e. operational deposits). This appears to be the highest percentage for deposits compared to the ones being offered by its peers in the market. The bank’s Hong Kong and China cash management business achieved record revenue in 2017 as a result.

Wong considers this his biggest achievement, so far.

In addition to deposit balances, Hang Seng says its remittance business has also outgrown the competition with a year-on-year double-digit growth and a market share of about 10%, citing data from international payment system Swift.

Wong was also instrumental in shaping the bank’s online services. Mobile apps that support fund transfers and transaction authorization were introduced during his watch. In September 2017, application for business travel insurance plans, for example, was also made available on the bank’s mobile app.

In February this year, Hang Seng launched a mobile security key that replaced the need for a physical security device, making mobile and online banking services faster and more convenient for personal e-banking customers. It also extended the fingerprint authentication coverage of its personal banking mobile app to include designated Android mobile devices as part of its commitment to enhance clients’ digital banking experience. 

Wong led Hang Seng’s commercial banking digital strategy. Digitization is a focus for Hang Seng. “We want to serve our customers better, which is why we’ve invested heavily in our digital channels,” says Wong. “We believe in the importance of digitization in our business to enhance efficiency.”

Also under Wong’s leadership, Hang Seng has developed its cash management business and launched a comprehensive range of cash management products and services in Hong Kong and China. As a result, the bank is now able to offer a full range of cash management services, including liquidity management, account services, payments, collections and digital channel.

On the risk control side, Wong also established the business risk control management unit to oversee all operational risks associated with cash and payment businesses. This ensures risk and control will not be compromised while growing the bank’s platforms.

Going forward, Wong targets to maintain the quality of Hang Seng’s service by differentiating solutions offered various SME client segments.

 Last year, Hang Seng set up a client service team to manage all services for existing customers. The objective was to differentiate client solutions according to the needs of various customer segments. This will allow the bank to offer world-class customer service, which is a priority for Hang Seng, Wong says.

 His passion for the business has driven Wong to accomplish so much for his SME clients. Passion is a trait he looks for in people in general. For Wong, more than knowledge or experience, it is passion that will define one’s accomplishments.


11 May 2018


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