Financial Planning / Wealth Management

A quest for excellence

by Nicolette Wong

Alex Ip
assistant marketing manager
The Bank of East Asia Limited
Photo: Dickie Tam
Considering the fast-changing nature of the financial markets and the abundance of investment products on offer, wealth management can seem like a complicated profession. Skilled planning professionals with good people skills are therefore in high demand.

Despite this, only those equipped with excellent communications skills will excel at the job, notes Alex Ip, assistant marketing manager, the Bank of East Asia Limited.

Aside from this, planners must be able to elucidate every detail to clients by exercising a high level of professionalism in order to gain insight into customers' needs.

"It's important for us to get a good understanding of clients' backgrounds and personalities, so that we can speak to them in a way they can easily relate to," says Mr Ip, who is a group A finalist in this year's Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) Financial Management Planner Awards. "Financial solutions often involve a wealth of technical details, which may mean a great deal to clients. An essential part of what we do is to ensure that they understand how their chosen products apply practically to their lives."

Knowledge of the markets and latest regulations, as well as ethical codes of conduct, is crucial to a sound wealth management plan, he adds.

Although most finance firms provide their employees with a range of market relevant training, planners must take personal responsibility for keeping up with trends and developments through research and study. They should also have a keen awareness of current affairs, since social change and general perception can affect clients' preferences.

Mr Ip makes a point of following the news, making sure that he is aware of any major issues. "Our clients often inquire about particular events that may affect their investments and we need to be prepared to respond with sensible advice," he notes.

Fully committed

Integrity is paramount when it comes to building long-term relationships with clients, Mr Ip emphasises. It takes time, however, to gain customers' trust and it is important to demonstrate a commitment to managing their assets.

One way of doing this is by asking insightful questions. "It pays to listen carefully and to show respect for clients' needs. Even if you've prepared the most thorough wealth management plan, you still need to show that you're sincere about recommending the most suitable products for their individual lifestyles and goals," he remarks.

His participation in the HKIB awards has been an eye-opener in terms of technical skills, since he has had the chance to gather advice and knowledge from a number of the bank's departments while working on his financial plan.

As the plan involves asset management in foreign countries as well as that in mainland China where financial regulations on taxation and pension funds are notably different from those in Hong Kong, he has been studying with a number of colleagues to accumulate essential information in these areas. "I'm grateful for the opportunity as well as the support I've received from the bank and my colleagues," he concedes.

He believes that the annual event lays the platform for practitioners in the field to broaden their professional horizons."The process has given me a new perspective on how to prepare for client meetings and how to address investors' requirements," he reflects. "This experience has not only enriched my knowledge, but it has also increased my confidence in my own abilities as a professional in the highly competitive industry."

Taken from Career Times 22 October 2010, A4
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