BOCHK centenary note issue: Third time's not the charm

December 07, 2017 14:57
The release of the BOCHK centenary banknotes is at a specific hour in the afternoon when many Hongkongers would be at work. Photo: Bloomberg

Something went wrong with Bank of China (Hong Kong) in selling its centenary notes.

I can’t describe this mixed feeling when I am informed that I am one of the lucky winners that gets the commemorative notes on Dec. 20 when the these are released.

The release is at a specific hour in the afternoon when many Hongkongers would be at work.

To make things worse, many people could not get through the customer hotline. And for those who did, they were asked to send an email to explain why they could not make the appointment.

The simple question is: why can’t the good people in BOCHK get it?

How likely do they think that hundreds of thousands of people who subscribed to the centenary notes would make the appointment in December when many of them are in holiday mode and may actually be on holiday?

How come the state-owned but aggressive local bank adopted this "dentist appointment" model but did not think of any alternatives?

Even worse, the only Chinese note-issuing bank has done it two previous times in the past decade -- Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the BOC 100th anniversary in 2012 -- but apparently did not learn its lesson.

It is such a waste that the bank fell short of the flexible business model that Hong Kong is so uniquely proud of.

To its credit, this is such a big exercise that even the two other note-issuing banks will find it challenging to do a better job.

This time, BOC is offering a record number of banknotes for its customers, collectors/speculators that is substantially higher than the two million HK$150 notes previously offered by HSBC (which has four million local customers) in 2009.

They could have easily given out notes through their branches but unfortunately they could not because the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, I heard, instructed them not create the appearance of a bank run.

That explains why almost all note issues had to be done in places like the Hong Kong Convention Centre.

But how many people can spare an afternoon lining up for a few bank notes? Luckily, the bank has created an email ([email protected]) for those who want an alternative arrangement.

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EJ Insight writer