CNY hongbao meant to impress: Here’s how Singapore’s finance firms design red packets for influential clients

Hongbao design is no walk in the park for these influential financial institutions with bigwig clients. From left: Fullerton Fund Management, Schroders and UOB.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Chinese red packets, or hongbao, are the most significant part of Chinese New Year celebrations.

Traditionally, red packets are given out at Chinese New Year as a way of bestowing happiness and blessings on receivers.

Today, red packets are still an integral part of Chinese New Year celebrations, and corporations often fork out substantial amounts designing and producing unique hongbao for clients and customers to distribute over the holidays.

Business Insider spoke to three prominent financial institutions – UOB, Schroders and Fullerton Fund Management – to find out how much emphasis is placed on the design of their corporate hongbao every year.

These are the lengths that institutions with influential clients go to to make sure their corporate hongbao leave a lasting impression every year.

UOB: Planning starts 8 months in advance, with every detail scrutinised

UOB hongbao for the 2018 year of the dog comes in various themes chosen for different customers.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

UOB is known for producing some of the most well-thought-out and artistic hongbao designs every year.

The bank, which is also heavily committed to the local arts scene, kicks off the hongbao conceptualisation process about six to eight months before each Chinese New Year.

According to Ms Lilian Chong, senior vice president of corporate profiling, group strategic communication and customer advocacy at UOB, hongbao designs are the result of work done by the group strategic communications and customer advocacy department.

“Once the concept is finalised, a painstaking process follows where we consider and examine every single detail in the design and execution of our red packets,” Ms Chong says.

UOB also works closely with internal stakeholders, as well as engages the help of a design agency to ensure its designs are “contemporary, elegant and art-inspired while also conveying UOB’s heritage and values”.

Since 2016, the bank has also made it a point to feature the year’s zodiac symbol on its packets, which are made of environmentally-friendly paper.

The team also composes its own greetings to feature on the hongbao, Ms Chong tells Business Insider.

UOB’s 2018 packets for private banking customers come in a soft pink shade and textured dog design.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Some of the unique greetings composed for UOB’s packets this year include “Ji Xiang Xi Le” (吉祥喜乐), which means “best wishes for good fortune, joy and happiness in life”; “Qi Ying Feng Nian” ( 齐迎丰年), which is to “usher the year of abundance together”; and “Cheng Xiang Xian Rui” (呈祥献瑞), which means “bringing prosperity and success to you”.

For the year of the dog, UOB featured a contemporary illustration of dogs with the Chinese character representing the animal (狗) both as a design centrepiece in the foreground, as well as a monogram detail in the background.

UOB chose to use the Chinese character for the word “dog” as a monogram detail in all its hongbao for 2018.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Aside from prosperity and abundance, Ms Chong says the designs for different customer tiers this year also represent the positive qualities dogs are known to possess – joy, partnership and loyalty.

Even the size of each packet is designed to fit auspicious dimensions of exactly 168mm by 88mm.

Schroders: Turning ridiculous ideas into innovative designs

Schroders’ hongbao for 2018 incorporates digital elements in the form of a mobile app game.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Companies that design hongbao with their branding in mind can use the opportunity to engage both their clients and hongbao receivers in unique ways.

For the year of the rooster in 2017, Schroders produced a limited edition luxury hongbao with holographic gold details accompanied by a bottle of marjoram essential oil.

But the British multinational asset management company is taking its hongbao in a completely different direction this year, by incorporating a digital game that comes with a chance to win robot dogs.

“Each year, our clients receive tons of red packets from their business partners. Therefore, we always challenge ourselves to come up with unique concepts that blend tradition with innovation not only in line with our corporate philosophy, but also to appeal across generations,” Mr Jerry Low, head of marketing at Schroders Singapore, says.

The digital game element, which is activated by scanning a QR code on the hongbao, is meant to signify fun and playfulness – attributes that are associated with dogs.

According to Mr Low, digital elements have proved to be a hit in the past.

“(W)e incorporated augmented reality technology into one of our concepts a few years back, and our clients had a blast,” he says.

Schroders’ hongbao conceptualisation begins as early as Q2 the previous year, and since 2009, it has worked with local agency antics@play to come up with the designs.

Shawn Mak, creative director of antics@play, says: “Starting this dialogue and process early allows us to approach the design from a place of blue sky thinking, where we’re not held ransom by time.”

Ideation sessions are purposely kept “experiential” and “light”, so that the teams can turn what seems like ridiculous ideas into actual designs that are well-received, he adds.

A close-up shot shows the “earthy” gold and brown details in Shroders’ hongbao for 2018.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Schroders’ 2018 hongbao was inspired by the firm’s digital-first rebranding, as well as the new year zodiac element – earth.

The paper used for Schroders packets were also grained to give a more earthy, tactile feel, while portions of the puppy illustration were embossed to resemble ancient toy dogs.

Fullerton Fund Management: Hongbao budget has increased every year

Fullerton Fund Management’s hongbao for 2018 come in two colours – red and light pink.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Discerning clients often look for high-quality and sophisticated hongbao that they can’t get elsewhere. But coming up with an elegant hongbao design is easier said than done.

For Fullerton Fund Management, the process of designing classy and high-quality red packets can begin as early as July the year before.

The creative process usually takes around three months to complete, with the help of a creative and production company.

According to a spokesperson from Fullerton, internal discussions are first held to produce a mood board of pictures which is shared with the creative agency.

The Temasek Holdings subsidiary will then review draft designs provided by the agency before building on the ideas and refining them along the way.

Uniqueness is a quality Fullerton Fund Management tries to achieve in its hongbao designs each year. “Some considerations we have during the creative process include, for example, colours or imagery we may want to use. We naturally tend towards elements that are auspicious and convey well wishes for the new year,” a spokesperson for the firm says.

The company, whose clients are mainly institutions and private wealth management distributors, has even increased its budget and production quantity over the past few years due to high demand for its hongbao.

For 2018, Fullerton decided to go with a simple but modern design which features dainty blossoming flowers and birds as a sign of spring.

The hongbao features dainty spring blossoms to represent the new year.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

At the centre of the fabric-based design is the character “fu” (富) which represents wealth and abundance in Chinese. Coincidentally, it is also the first character in the company’s Chinese name (富敦资金管理公司).

A close-up of the “fu” character shaped like an ingot on Fullerton’s hongbao.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Not only that, Fullerton also incorporated a Chinese ingot shape into the character to signify prosperity for its clients.