Thu, Aug 05, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Targeting the ultra-rich

PREMIUM MARKET With the corporate loan business anemic, banks are putting their hopes in new top-line credit cards and frills to win over wealthy customers

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

With the nation's consumer financing business taking off, credit card issuers are offering tailor-made privileges and wealth management planning services to attract customers on the top of the wealth spectrum.

"Over the past two years, banks have been vigorously expanding their market share in consumer financing while the growth rate of corporate financing, ie granting loans to companies, has been slowing down," said Chu Yu-chun (朱玉君), a researcher with SinoPac Securities Corp (建華證券).

Citing the latest figures, she said consumer financing registered a marked growth of 15.9 percent in May from the same period last year, compared with a 4.94 percent growth rate in corporate banking.

In addition to launching cash-advance cards targeting the general public, local banks are designing exclusive privilege packages to lure affluent credit card users.

"With more and more people holding platinum credit cards, the sense of privilege and uniqueness which the cards used to stand for has disappeared. This is why some banks are rolling out high-end credit cards under different names," Chu said.

Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託), for example, has released a Premium Card (鼎級卡), and Taishin International Bank (台新銀行) has rolled out its Infinite Card (無限卡) -- requiring annual fees of NT$25,000 and NT$20,000, respectively.

Citibank Taiwan (花旗銀行), which already has 85,000 diamond cardholders and holds the largest market share for the nation's premium credit card segment, re-launched its Diamond Preferred Cards yesterday with new benefits to attract millionaires.

At yesterday's product launch, Victor Kuan (管國霖), head of Citibank's consumer banking, said that because the purchasing power of Taiwanese consumers is increasing, many credit card issuers have introduced a variety of premium credit cards, resulting in a proliferation of nearly identical products.

"Our new cards are re-designed based on what customers told us was important to them," he said.

For instance, diamond card users have access to Porsche Boxster discount test drive services and free wealth management planning services.

Kuan said that the market potential for wealthy customers is huge, and that Citibank aims to double its affluent cardholders to 150,000 in two years.

These cardholders are loyal to the cards, and their average spending is 12 times that of normal credit card users, according to Shariq Mukhtar, Citibank's credit card director.

Despite diverse privileges dished out by different issuers, Chu said what these cardholders care about the most might be the availability of wealth management services.

"Cathay United Bank (國泰世華銀行) and Taishin International Bank have reported better results because they focus on offering these consultant services," she added.

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