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The E-Sylum (2/10/2019)

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An article in Myanmar's The Star interviews the art director responsible for Hong Kong banknote designs. -Editor

HSBC bank building lion Going cashless may be all the rage in mainland China and places chasing "smart nation" targets, but Tommy Tam Kar Hay is relieved that for now at least, hard cash still rules in Hong Kong.

There is plenty about the look, feel and history of banknotes to treasure, says the art director for HSBC's Global Publishing Services, which works on the design of banknotes.

Hong Kong's banknote designs tell a lot about the city, its history and what was important at different periods of its existence.

The government is pushing for Hongkongers to go cashless, but cash is still king in the city.

About 70% of Hongkongers have never paid for anything with their mobile phones, a survey by the Hong Kong Productivity Council found last July. The city still lags behind mainland China, where almost 98% of citizens use mobile payment systems.

HSBC is one of three banks which design Hong Kong banknotes, the others being the Bank of China and Standard Chartered Bank.

Tam, who has been with HSBC since 2003 and designed three iterations of banknotes, hopes different payment systems can coexist and hard currency will live on.

To him, banknotes often depict people, places and even animals that are unique or symbolic to a specific place.

The notes issued by HSBC feature a pair of lions named Stephen and Stitt that have guarded the bank's building in Central since 1935.

The pair were stolen by the Japanese during the occupation, presumably to be melted down to make ammunition, she said.

"By a quirk of history, that didn't happen," Swinnerton said.

An American naval officer noticed the lions at a dockyard in Japan and told HSBC when he arrived in Hong Kong, allowing the government to launch a mission to recover the lions.

"When they returned to Hong Kong, the prosperity was also starting to return to the city after the war. So the lions became closely associated with protecting the fortunes of the city," she said.

To read the complete article, see:
It's not a cashless society yet in Hong Kong where banknotes still rule Read more at (

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