Standard Chartered is reportedly planning to hire 400 new employees for its retail banking and wealth management businesses in Hong Kong this year.

The bank is also looking to transform its branch network in the region, according to a report by South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The move, according to the report, is part of the bank’s plan to capitalise on the growing demand from HNW customers for wealth management services.

Standard Chartered head of consumer, private and business banking in Hong Kong Lay Ong told the publication that the bank is planning to invest $26m (HK$200m) over the next three years to reshape its 70 branches in the city.

Standard Chartered, which is one of three currency-issuing lenders in the city, has already invested HK$1bn in the region to enhance its digital capabilities.

Ong has been quoted as saying by SCMP: “We believe that the future is not about digital-only, is not about branch-only, but really about digital with a human touch.

“We certainly do not think it’s about reducing the number of branches. It is much more about what you do with the space in the future.”

The bank had earlier revealed plans to relocate some branches, add new locations and close others as part of its revamp while keeping the total number of branches in the region the same at about 70.

Earlier in January, Standard Chartered launched Priority Private Centre in Hong Kong to cater to clients with HK$8m or more in assets.

The centre features facilities including private meeting rooms, conference rooms and individual teller booths to service the wealth management needs of its affluent clients.

According to Ong, the redesign of the bank’s branches comes as clients are using less cash and seeking more wealth management solutions.

“There is demand for meeting with people to discuss more complex financial needs,” Ong said.

Standard Chartered is set to launch another Priority Private Centre in the city later this year.

In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, the bank’s AUM in Hong Kong jumped double digits on a year-on-year basis in the first quarter.

The fund flows in its wealth management grew in that period at a rate of twice its 2020 average, Ong told SCMP.

Besides Standard Chartered, a slew of other lenders are also strengthening their presence in Hong Kong.

Last September, Danish online trading platform Saxo Bank revealed plans to expand its business in Hong Kong.