Irene Ho quits Citibank for CMO role at Hang Seng Bank

Irene Ho, SVP and head of banding and card marketing at Citibank will leave the company after eight years to head up marketing for Hang Seng Bank as chief marketing officer.

From 2 December, Ho will succeed Esmond Mok, who moved to Standard Chartered Bank as CMO a few months ago.

In her new role, she will oversee both branding and marketing for Hong Kong-based Hang Seng Bank.

Citibank is still on the lookout to fill the position.

Commenting on the move, Ho told Marketing the decision was made for a "better prospect".

"People who are experts in both branding and marketing in Hong Kong are scarce," she said.

"The reason Hong Kong lacks in branding and marketing talent is because it requires someone who is capable of building up a brand and logo that will last for centuries."

Ho said one incentive at Hang Seng was the freedom it provides.

"In an American bank [like Citibank] I can't take charge. The decision making all comes from America. But now in Hang Seng I can take charge with the bank and get closer to customers."

Ho describes Hang Seng as a "hidden treasure" that is waiting to be uncovered. She said branding for the biggest local bank in Hong Kong with solid foundations, was a "once in a life time opportunity".

"Traditional banking is mainly about sales and product. But while product is becoming more and more commoditised, brand marketing emerges," she said.

"HSBC is a pioneer in this area. There is a trend to build up long term emotion link with customer because products are getting more commoditised. Brands now need to understand the consuming insights to help sales team to approach and to connect with the customers."

She went on to say that Citibank has already started brand marketing in USA and noticed the brand itself was worth billions of dollars.

"Brand marketing has its values because companies will die but brand won't die."

"I've been serving global bank for years. Now I can work for a strong local bank without restrictions from global bank, it is a breakthrough in my career," she added.

The appointment fills in the empty CMO spot after Esmond Mok, former CMO of Hang Seng Bank, moved to Standard Chartered to take on the same role.

Commenting on the move, Mok said because the opportunity comes at a right time, when he looks for new challenge shifting from a local bank to a global bank.

"Standard Chartered provides a future that is suitable for me," he added.