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All banks are going digital, but not all bankers

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By Taipan
28 Jun 2018

Banks are obsessed with going digital. Once-staid institutions fall over each other trying to show how disruptive and revolutionary they can be. Local lenders, keen to get in on the act, pitch journalists elaborate stories about their online lending ‘revolution’, which usually amounts to little more than a handful of deals.

It is digital payments where the real changes have been wrought. E-payment is so popular these days that even an old fart like me has had to adapt to some degree, although the Captain’s Bar does not yet accept my Octopus card. But some chaps I know, who are still working in the banking industry, have completely failed to embrace the digital revolution.

Take one, a head of Greater China DCM at an international bank. He travels frequently to the mainland, where the scale of digitalization is impressive. Nobody uses cash, or even credit cards in China. Everywhere you go, you pay with your phone. Even beggars accept Alipay.

But this chap insists on doing things the old-fashioned way. He spends at least half a year in China, but has still not managed to figure out why his international credit cards always get rejected on the mainland.

Fed up, and refusing to succumb to the pressure of having an e-wallet, he has decided to rely on good old-fashioned cash. That occasionally raises a few eyebrows.

After a client dinner one night, he was presented with a hefty bill for a large dinner, with the waiter naturally assuming it would all be settled with a QR code. But my friend instead took out a bundle of notes from his pocket and started counting them out one-by-one.

The wide-eyed server took them with shaking hands. The problem? The largest renminbi note denomination is 100. The waiter had never seen so much cash in his life. 

By Taipan
28 Jun 2018