HSBC Offers Vaccinated Staff in Hong Kong Two Days of Extra Leave
(Bloomberg) -- HSBC Holdings Plc and other major banks and brokers operating in Hong Kong are doling out cash credits, free stocks and days off to get more people vaccinated after authorities in the financial hub leaned on companies to revive a faltering inoculation drive.
HSBC, which employs more than 20,000 in the city and counts Hong Kong as its biggest market, is giving all vaccinated staff two days off, according to a spokeswoman. Other lenders including BOC Hong Kong Holdings Ltd., Standard Chartered Plc and Hang Seng Bank Ltd. are also providing two days off to vaccinated employees.
With strict quarantine and social distancing rules, Hong Kong has been one of the best places in the world in containing the virus but its low vaccination rate compared with competitors such as New York and London is now emerging as a major risk. Asia on the whole is a laggard, even though China has lately ramped up its inoculations at a record pace.
Getting more people protected against the virus is crucial for the region, said Filippo Gori, JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Asia-Pacific chief executive officer. Otherwise Asia risks becoming “segregated and separated,” he said on Wednesday in a Bloomberg Television interview in Hong Kong.
The moves come after Hong Kong’s de-facto central bank urged financial institutions, which employ about 203,000 people in the city, to follow the government in giving extra days off to vaccinated staff. The authorities are increasingly looking to enlist local businesses and entities to drive inoculations. The Beijing-backed government has struggled to convince residents in an atmosphere of mistrust following widespread anti-China protests in 2019. A low rate of infections has also left many in the city skeptical on the need to get inoculated.
“In supporting the government’s vaccination leave measure, we will introduce the same for HSBC Hong Kong,” the bank said in an internal memo.
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Local businesses are now responding to the call with goodies. Vision Finance Group is giving out free stocks worth as much as HK$1.5 million ($193,340) to vaccinated clients, while uSmart Securities is handing Sino Pharmaceutical Ltd. and Pfizer Inc. shares to new clients that have gotten the shots. China Construction Bank (Asia) is offering as much as HK$128,000 in free spending credits as a lucky draw for customers.
Other companies, restaurants, and even colleges have started offering cash payouts, money for shopping and even the chance to win a $1.4 million apartment.
Other big European and Wall Street banks have so far offered limited enticements. JPMorgan has provided staff with one day off after getting vaccinated. Citigroup Inc. has given time off to take the shot and reimbursed any costs, while UBS Group AG has given a half day off to get inoculated as well as the following day if needed.
JPMorgan’s Gori said that while Hong Kong is one of the places where the bank can have more people in the office, he also wished that more of his staff would get inoculated.
“The region feels a little bit behind,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m trying to address internally.”
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority on Tuesday urged all banks to “strongly encourage” staff in client-facing roles or support functions to get vaccinated. It also told banks to hand over a list of staff they expect to be vaccinated.
Many are now preparing to open back up after the city contained a fourth wave of the virus. Bank of America, which employs 1,600 people in Hong Kong, this week unveiled plans to get all of its staff back at their desks and encouraged its employees to get inoculated. The bank will also provide return-to-office training.
While bookings have surged since incentives were rolled out, the city’s vaccination rate is still meager. About 13.8% of Hong Kong residents have been fully inoculated, even though it’s one of the few places that offers shots for free to all adults, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. That’s well below the 29.1% in London, 42.8% in New York City and 28.3% in Singapore.
Japan and South Korea have rates of 2.7% and 4.2%, respectively.
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