Since obtaining permission to incorporate in the country, HSBC
has lost no time planning an ambitious expansion of its Vietnamese
operations. Lyndsay Rajah, HSBC Vietnam’s head of personal
financial services, tells Douglas Blakey of the
bank’s plans to grow its branch network and expand its product

HSBC, the world’s largest retail
bank, has launched full retail banking operations in Vietnam, less
than five months after it became the first foreign bank within
Vietnam’s fast-growing banking sector to begin operations as a
fully incorporated local bank on 1 January.

Now the largest foreign bank in Vietnam in
terms of investment capital, product range, staff and customer base
is expanding its branch network, with plans to grow to 10 outlets
by the end of the year.

Lyndsay Rajah, HSBC Vietnam’s head of personal
financial services, says retail banking in the country is a key
area of investment for the bank, given the potential of the market
and the country’s fast growing middle class.

“This organic growth reflects our commitment
to the long-term development of our business in Vietnam, especially
within retail banking,” Rajah told RBI. “By the end of May, we had
opened six transaction offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City [HCMC] alongside our HCMC Transaction Centre and flagship branch in

“We will open one more transaction office in
HCMC and one more branch in Binh Duong province within the next

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Further growth, beyond the 10 branches will
depend on customer demand, supported by a rapidly growing HSBC ATM
network, which has already grown to 140 units.

The bank has also thrown itself
enthusiastically into promoting its direct banking offering, with
more than 50 percent of customer transactions already conducted by
the bank’s self service channels.

“Our alternative channels allow full
transactional capability, not just balance enquiries,” Rajah said.
“We have also enhanced our 24-hour call centre this year, including
automated phone banking capabilities, as well as complete,
self-service express banking centres at each branch and transaction

“These offer cash in via ATMs, cash out
facilities [not available at all outlets], as well as internet
access and a customer hotline phone. This significantly expands our
reach beyond our current branch and ATM network.”

HSBC - profit contribution by region, 2008

Banking firsts

Since HSBC’s December 2005 deal to
acquire a 10 percent stake in Vietnam Technological and Commercial
Joint Stock Bank (Techcombank), one of the largest joint stock
commercial banks in Vietnam, it has accumulated a number of banking
firsts in the country.

That stake rose to 15 percent in 2007 and then
to 20 percent in September last year. In the process, HSBC became
the first foreign bank in Vietnam to hold a 20 percent interest in
a domestic bank; the bank then repeated the trick by snapping up 10
percent of Bao Viet Holdings, the sole foreign strategic partner of
Vietnam’s largest insurer.

The Bao Viet tie-up, a perfect match for HSBC
as it continues its drive to earn 20 percent of its revenue from
insurance has paid instant dividends, says Rajah. The bank has
introduced a range of bancassurance products including auto and
household insurance, personal safety cover, life insurance cover
and in May extended the range by launching medical care policies
for personal customers and an employee care range for the corporate

“We will continue staff sales and product
training, as we move towards a comprehensive wealth management
capability and range of financial products,” she said.

In terms of segmentation, Rajah said the bank
will initially focus on “the mass affluent and above segments, and
we have aligned our service standards for these customers”.

The bank is also targeting the high net worth
segment, defined by HSBC Vietnam as customers depositing $50,000
and above.

HSBC has also scored an early hit in the past
year by growing its credit card customer base.

“Since our cards launch in March 2008, the
credit cards offering has attracted a great amount of interest and
gained momentum, with a fast growth of cards in circulation,” she

“HSBC was the first foreign bank to implement
chip card technology card in Vietnam, coupled with a worldwide
‘home & Away’ privilege programme that offers customers
discounts at more than 19,000 outlets across 160 countries. These
benefits have proved to be very popular with our customers, who
desire an internationally recognised brand.”

And to promote the HSBC brand, the bank has
been ramping up its local marketing activity ever since it gained
its Vietnam incorporation licence.

“To celebrate the opening of our seven new
outlets, we have launched an awareness campaign emphasising our
promise to deliver world-class service to the doorstep of our
customers, and rewarded customers for every product purchased
during the initial launch,” concluded Rajah.