A surging equity market has sharply pushed up new customers for Hang Seng’s online fee-based investment accounts, the Hong Kong bank said.

Customers flocking to iPower have pushed up the online service’s assets under management by nearly 40% since last year.

Hang Seng Bank said the total number of new iPower accounts opened rose by 67% in April against the first quarter’s average. The online fund platform was launched in 2013 and charges a fixed monthly fee for customers to manage their portfolios.

The bank declined to reveal the total number of accounts opened in April but it said the surge coincided with the strong performance of the equities market. The AUM at iPower has grown by 39% since 2014, partly reflecting the strong equity market performance.

Rosita Lee, head of investment products and advisory business at Hang Seng Bank, said: “A positive market sentiment will naturally turn investors' focus and make them become more active in trading, which will then bring in new accounts and AUM. Nevertheless, our focus is on a longer term.

“We intend to provide an e-platform for self-directed investors to manage their investment fund portfolio. iPower is not meant to be a pure transaction platform as it also features investment P/L update and portfolio re-balancing functions for investment portfolio management."

Under iPower, investors are not charged for each transaction, as is the conventional practice.

In general, iPower account holders are well-educated, young and affluent Hong Kong investors. More than 65% of them have university-level or above qualifications, while nearly 70% of holders under 40 years old.

"This is consistent with our proposition because those are the generations who have a higher level of computer literacy and the sense of wealth management," Lee said.

"We see a growing use of digital platforms for funds distribution, and believe that it is an irreversible trend."

Hang Seng’s online transactions, whether through iPower or internet banking, have increased by 50% this year.

"We expect that the future competition will be on the digital territory,” Lee said. “The winners will be those who are able to integrate the use of mobile device, customer analytics, market information and customised service. In any event, investors will be a beneficiary because they will find wealth management much more convenient and personalised."