Most of Hong Kong's banking and finance companies say they will give their staff lai see as a token of appreciation for their dedication and hard work even after business took a hit last year because of the economic slowdown and social unrest.
HSBC and Bank of China Hong Kong, the two of three note-issuing banks in the city, along with dozens of other financial firms will be handing out red paper packets or digitally transferring "lucky money" to their employees, which can range anywhere between HK$50 (US$6.4) and HK$500.
It is a tradition in Hong Kong for companies to give their staff lai see on their first day back at work after the extended Lunar New Year holiday. The upcoming Year of the Rat begins on January 25, but most employees will return on January 29 when they will be handed the festive red packets.
HSBC will be paying its nearly 20,000 staff HK$500 each, the highest among 10 banks and insurance companies, the South China Morning Post has found. The tradition will cost the city's biggest bank some HK$10 million.
"We believe lai see is an appropriate channel to express our gratitude to staff for their hard work throughout the year," Diana Cesar, head of HSBC's Hong Kong office, said in an email to the bank's employees.
HSBC, however, has done away with the traditional red packets and instead an electronic red packet of HK$500 will be deposited to the payroll account of each of the bank's employees.
Its subsidiary Hang Seng Bank, which employs about 11,000 people, will also give lai see. While the bank did not disclose the amount, it said it would be the same as last year.
BOCHK plans to give its staff HK$200 each, which will be transferred electronically to their accounts, a spokesman said. The bank has not changed the amount for two years now.
Bank of East Asia said it would give HK$50 lai see to staff this year.
FWD Group, the insurance arm of Richard Li Tzar-kai, the younger son of Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing, is sticking to the traditional red packets to give to its 4,800 staff and agents.
The company said that to celebrate the Year of the Rat, all employees and agents will receive their "official company lai see" to kick start the new year. They will also get a "bonus lai see" from Hong Kong chief executive Ken Lau, who will randomly draw from a bunch of lai sees containing different amounts.
Even overseas firms such as US investment Franklin Templeton are taking part in the Hong Kong tradition.
"Recent social unrest and economic downturn in Hong Kong has not impacted the way Franklin Templeton celebrates Chinese New Year with our local staff. The company will provide the same amount of return to work lai see as last year and there will be an annual celebratory gathering for all employees," a spokesman said, without disclosing the lucky money sum.
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