Financial Planning / Wealth Management

A personal touch

by Grace Chan

Wing Lung Bank - group A finalist of HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards
John Ho, Vice President
Wealth Management Department
Wing Lung Bank
Photo: Edde Ngan
Engaging with clients on an individual level goes a long way in building mutual trust—a vital cornerstone of successful long-term planning in wealth management.

"A financial adviser must be meticulous about every detail, spanning etiquette, knowledge and professional conduct, in order to gain clients' confidence," says John Ho, Vice President, Wealth Management Department, Wing Lung Bank. "Take dress code, for example. Being tidy is a basic requirement, but a neat and well-ironed shirt with rolled-up sleeves might still give a negative impression."

Establishing a good customer relationship cannot be done overnight, Mr Ho points out. Choosing the right conversation starter during the first meeting with a client is important. Since most people enjoy eating out, gourmet food can be a good topic. "Or choose soccer or basketball, if the client shows an interest in sport. Ultimately, the purpose is to learn about customers through their hobbies and interests."

Having been a financial planner for two years, Mr Ho felt it was time to challenge his professional competence and he entered this year's Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards, emerging as a group A finalist.

Bonding with clients

"Affluent investors' demand from both Hong Kong and mainland China for financial planning services has been increasing over the past years, especially from the clients referred by our mother company, China Merchants Bank," he says. In view of this, Wing Lung organises various training events for staff, tailored to clients' interests, for example wine-appreciation seminars. "Recently, our bank also arranged a simulated art auction for us, where we learnt about bidding techniques and other auction procedures. These kinds of training help us talk the same language as our clients."

Personally, he keeps up with high-end consumer-product trends, so that he can offer his clients the best possible recommendations in a timely manner. However, starting the conversation well is only the first step. Professional knowledge is key to helping clients achieve their goals. "We need to be aware of their present situation, for example, whether they're married and have children. All these factors influence their wealth-management preferences."

Demonstrating sound professional knowledge effectively at the first meeting is also crucial for earning clients' trust, Mr Ho adds. "My bank holds daily morning briefings where the latest market data are distributed. From time to time, representatives from fund companies are invited to address us on global market trends. With all the facts at our disposal, we're in a position to provide our customers with the best investment analyses."

Regular contact and follow-ups are important for building lasting bonds, he stresses. "Clients' goals fall into different categories. Once their short-term needs have been met, we have to concentrate on timely reviews to keep the long-term plans on track."

Dedicated professional

Reflecting on the HKIB awards, Mr Ho believes the three rounds of the contest refreshed his ideas and skills related to the entire financial planning process, from compiling proposals and market research to oral presentations. The judges' questions were comprehensive, and the fact that he was able to stand out was the result of abundant preparations beforehand, he adds.

In-depth questioning by experienced banking colleagues at in-house rehearsals in the run-up to the competition helped him prepare, he notes. "I dedicated plenty of time and effort to my research for the whole process—from picking a case study and compiling a proposal to the final round, which comprised a simulated case analysis. I approached it in the same way that we handle our clients' affairs on a day-to-day basis."

Taken from Career Times 11 November 2011, A6
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