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HSBC deploys staff to help customers with dementia

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HSBC has become the first bank in Hong Kong to roll out a new type of bank account specifically catering to sufferers of dementia – an increasing public health issue in light of the city’s ageing population.

The bank account, which HSBC first introduced in the UK, allows customers living with dementia to keep a bank account – but with a more limited set of features – and one where there is control also ceded to a close family member such as a son or daughter.

The initiative follows on from the bank deploying 45 front line staff late last year trained in dealing with customers with dementia, which the bank has dubbed “dementia ambassadors”, to help those who are struggling to manage their finances. The bank has pledged to increase the number of such staff to 160 by the end of this year.

“We want customers with diminished mental capacity to continue to be able to manage their finances safely and with an appropriate degree of independence,” said Greg Hingston, head of retail banking and wealth management in Hong Kong, at the launch of the new banking service.

According to an HSBC-commissioned survey conducted last year by the Hong Kong Alzheimer’s Disease Association, the special banking account is intended to protect against financial mismanagement for customers with impaired mental capacity, those who have difficulty understanding bank documents, remembering pin numbers and/or communicating with front line bank employees.

“There is definitely a need there, and when you look at demographics that’s just going to become more significant going forward,” Hingston said.

Dr David Dai, chairman of the Hong Kong Alzheimer’s Disease Association, which worked with HSBC on the initiative, added that services for the elderly, such as dementia-friendly bank accounts, are essential in the city.

“Financial management taps into more high-level cognitive functions. I’ve had patients who have gone to the bank several times in the morning and their bank card is exhausted, and then they think that the bank has exploited them,” Dai was quoted as saying in the SCMP.

In 2017, up to 30% of Hong Kong residents over the age of 80 were living with dementia, the most common form of which is Alzheimer’s, according to Hospital Authority figures.

Dementia is characterised by a gradual decline in mental capacity, including memory, cognitive function and the ability to communicate.

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