Financial Planning / Wealth Management

A new flame for hire

by Grace Chan

Venus Chiu
Head of Wealth Management
Wing Lung Bank Ltd
Photo: Dickie Tam

Home-grown banking institution set to grab wealth management talent

Affluent mainlanders' increasing quest to diversify their offshore investments is opening up a wealth of new business opportunities for financial institutions in Hong Kong. At the same time, well-heeled local customers are also looking to protect and grow their assets, resulting in stiff competition for the best talent in the burgeoning wealth management sector.

"We plan to double our team of relationship managers this year to take advantage of market growth and extend our services to clients with investable assets of more than HK$8 million," reveals Venus Chiu, Head of Wealth Management, Wing Lung Bank Ltd.

This high-net-worth target group expects a comprehensive range of financial products, such as investment funds, bonds, structured products, insurance, securities and trust, as well as professional services to assist them with the formulation of investment portfolios towards achieving their financial objectives.

To meet their demand for high standard customer service and professionalism, Wing Lung Bank relies on a team of seasoned relationship managers who understand their clients' needs and can efficiently draw up customised investment solutions, Ms Chiu adds. For this very reason, Wing Lung prefers job candidates with professional qualifications such as Certified Financial PlannerCM or Certified Financial Management PlannerTM qualifications.

Strong foundation

Finding high-calibre staff is a challenge, though. "The pool of experienced professionals in Hong Kong is relatively small," observes Ms Chiu. Since every bank is planning to expand their wealth management business, the competition for seasoned professionals is getting tough.

She believes the only way to win the contest for top candidates is to offer many and varied career development opportunities. In addition to this, a major drawcard that attracts competent staff to Wing Lung is the strong affiliation with its mainland-based parent company China Merchants Bank (CMB).

Wing Lung has been able to take advantage of CMB's strong customer base in mainland China to offer cross-border wealth management services to affluent mainland individuals who are looking to diversify their investment portfolios in Hong Kong and further afield.

Founded in 1933, Wing Lung Bank is deeply rooted in Hong Kong as one of the city's oldest local Chinese banks. Over the decades, the institution has developed strong connections with vast numbers of corporate customers and high-net-worth clients.

Riding on the extensive network of CMB, the bank is now in an advantageous position to provide a full range of financial products to address its customers' objectives at different stages of their lives, as well as a one-stop cross-border financial service to existing Hong Kong clients with banking needs in mainland China.

New blood

With a view to developing high quality wealth management professionals such as relationship managers, product development and marketing experts, Wing Lung plans to launch a trainee programme to develop university graduates with potential into future leadership roles.

Trainees will learn the fundamentals of the banking industry, as well as specific product knowledge and customer service techniques. They will also be acquainted with the institution's policies and procedures, as well as compliance issues, through a structured combination of classroom training and on-the-job practice in the first six months.

The newcomers will be assigned senior managers as mentors for professional guidance and start off as relationship managers as their first assignments since the bank believes that a frontline role will help them to develop a thorough understanding of customer needs. Continuous training in turn keeps them abreast of new product knowledge and banking regulations. Subsequent assignments in the role of sales associates help to lay a solid foundation for working progressively towards the position of sales manager. Alternatively, they may explore horizontal opportunities in the bank's investment and product development divisions.

In view of the growing importance of professional credentials, the bank has also incorporated the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers' Certified Financial Management PlannerTM programme into its training schedule as part of its efforts to groom all-round wealth management professionals. "The right qualifications increase the trust level with customers," stresses Ms Chiu.

Wing Lung is targeting candidates who are keen on developing long-term careers in the banking industry, rather than those simply looking for job-hopping opportunities to maximise their salaries in the short term.

"Prospective recruits should enjoy interacting with people and be good at establishing connections and building trusting client relationships," Ms Chiu points out. "They must have a thorough understanding of their clients' needs and goals, their investment priorities and genuinely want to act in their best interests."

Ms Chiu is optimistic about the future of the industry since she believes that there will always be a demand for wealth management services. "People have different needs at different times and are becoming increasingly knowledgeable and keen to seek professional services," she says. "Rising numbers of affluent mainlanders are entrusting their financial planning needs to Hong Kong bankers. This is a major factor sustaining market growth."

Meeting the needs

  • Intense competition for seasoned wealth managers
  • Strong mainland customer base helps to attract top talent
  • Structured trainee programme grooms future leaders

Taken from Career Times 18 February 2011, A9

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