In the risky world of gifts in Asia’s financial axes, Montblanc pens and leather wallets are outdated: toilet paper and surgical masks are, without a doubt, are most definitely in.
As the fear of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) spreads throughout the region, pharmacies and supermarkets in Hong Kong and Singapore are running out of basic supplies such as toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer and, especially, facial masks.
This has presented an opportunity for financial service providers who want to impress customers and strengthen relationships. The Singapore arm of online trading provider IG Group handed out care packages with N95 face masks from 3M, digital thermometers and Dettol antiseptic bottles.
IG began distributing the gifts after Singapore raised the viral alert to orange, a critical level. What started out as a fun idea from the company’s local management team quickly gained momentum and now its staff and customers have been receiving care packages in the office and by mail. The gift has arrived at the right time, as some banks throughout the central business district evacuate their offices and requiring employees to work from home.
“It all started as a precaution for friends and family and then others started asking how to get the masks and other things,“ Terence Tan, head of business development at IG Asia Pte told Bloomberg. “So we thought: Why not get these things for our staff and clients?”
Tan said the first packages for clients have been shipped and will send more packages as they receive additional supplies.
American Joel Werner runs a hedge fund, Solitude Capital Management in Hong Kong. On February 10, he bought the equivalent of 216 rolls of toilet paper on Amazon.com after his family tried in vain for days to find any in Hong Kong. The shipping alone cost $200 but he thinks it was worth it. He kept half of the bounty and plans to give the other half to friends and colleagues.
“It’s a better gift than wine now,” he said.
Household items are also gaining prominence in the social life of those in financial centers. Friends who met at a restaurant in Hong Kong this week were asked to bring face masks or toilet paper for a raffle.
And in a sign of love at the time of the coronavirus, photos of bouquets made of instant noodles and vegetables, instead of roses, circulated through the WhatsApp financial groups in Singapore on Valentine’s Day after the shopping fever forced to supermarkets to set limits.
Everything shows that in a moment of crisis, what counts it’s the thought – and thickness of the toilet tissue.