ANZ - the new trendsetter

Well-heeled trendsetters of Hong Kong have a new plaything to fund their lifestyle. ANZ Bank launches a new credit card into a saturated market aimed at hip new ''trendsetters''.

Hong Konger's do love a good celebrity and socialite outing. The launch of ANZ bank's new platinum Visa credit card, Pt100, was well attended by 'trendsetters' who are the target market for the Australian-based bank's first retail product in Hong Kong.

Beneath the "oh-so-stylish" campaign, is a serious new entrant into the credit card market, looking to slice up a niche in an already saturated and mature market worth over HK$204 billion ($26.1 billion). Eager to follow a model line strategy, the bank is looking to create a new brand of it's own, and aims to issue 50,000 cards in Hong Kong in its first year.

"ANZ is not a household name in Hong Kong," says Denzil Lawson, head of electronic banking, international at ANZ bank. "We don't find that it is necessary to build ANZ here as a brand name. We want to build on  Pt100 knowing that there is a solid and reputable organization behind the card."

According to Richard Chang, senior vice president of Visa International for the Greater China region, where Visa platinum card holders grew by 200% last year, Hong Kong has more Visa platinum card holders than anywhere else in Asia Pacific. How ANZ will break into this market is an ambitious one. The card looks to make platinum cards accessible to most, whilst current competitors strive to do the opposite.

"We want to drive the platinum card down," says Iwan Notowidigdo, head of cards, ANZ Hong Kong. Applicants need to earn only HK$35,000 a month, plus the annual fee is waived for the first year. But how ANZ plans to hold on to the up market image for platinum cards will be a "challenge", admits Notowidigdo. The card also boasts the lowest introductory interest rate of 8.9% and a maximum 2% cash rebate as a reward scheme.

ANZ bank, which has some three million cards on issue in Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia, plans to follow up the platinum card with co-branded cards, encouraged by the success of the Qantas Telstra credit card. "Both Qantas and Telstra were faced with the challenges of a deregulating market," says Lawson. "The Qantas Telstra credit card, of which there is over one million on issue, served to further bind in their customers." Equivalents to the classic and gold cards will also be part of ANZ's plans going forward.

According to Lawson, credit cards will be the only retail product that the bank intends to introduce to Hong Kong. "We are doing what we do best," says Lawson. He declined to comment on the aborted internet bank joint venture between ANZ and OCBC last year. As for future prospects to create an internet-only bank either via another joint venture or alone, Lawson remained tightlipped. "We will consider all opportunities."

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