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Financial Planning / Wealth Management

A secure connection

by Ada Ng

Hugo Wong
team manager
Prudential Hong Kong
Photo: Dickie Tam
Investors rely heavily on their financial planners for objective analysis and expert advice, but in order for the client-planner relationship to flourish, effective communication is paramount.

"Wealth managers must be dedicated to delivering service excellence, starting with understanding their customers' financial status, needs and appetite for risk, as well as addressing their concerns," notes Hugo Wong, team manager, Prudential Hong Kong.

Mr Wong, a group A finalist in this year's Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards, says truly competent planners make sure that they are aware of changes in clients' circumstances and requirements to ensure the best investment solutions on an ongoing basis.

"People's financial needs change over time because of major life events and shifts in lifestyle," he notes. For this reason, regular portfolio reviews must be conducted in a timely manner.

In-depth analysis

Getting to know customers' financial backgrounds, including their income and expenses levels and investment status, is part of the fact-finding exercise at the very beginning of the financial planning process, but planners need to dig deeper, going into detail to establish their clients' less obvious needs, Mr Wong stresses.

"By analysing clients' short- and long-term goals, values, attitudes, family commitments and preferred lifestyle, planners can get a good idea of their investment priorities and consequently design a best-fit portfolio."

This is no easy task, though. Obtaining "hidden" personal information and views requires excellent probing skills and attention to detail, he says. "You have to demonstrate a sincere and long-term commitment if you want your clients to open up to you and trust your expertise."

Prudential Hong Kong requires that its planners review customers' portfolios at least once a year, but Mr Wong believes a financial planner should develop a communication format based on customers' preferred communication styles, preferences and information requirements.

Some customers prefer regular market updates, others want detailed analysis of the market situation and new products while another group may prefer minimal contact because of their busy schedules, he explains.

A holistic approach, including providing industry updates, conducting face-to-face meetings, sending birthday greetings and initiating brief telephone discussions, all help to build up trusting relationships.

The recent global financial turmoil has made many investors cautious, fine-tuning their needs, and financial planners must therefore prove the value of their professional services, says Mr Wong. "It's our role to show clients the rationale behind a particular solution and to support it with good analysis and data," he emphasises.

In order to improve customer communication and relations, Mr Wong demonstrates his professionalism, market and product knowledge, ethical attitude and analytical skills, as well as a long-term commitment to customers' investment portfolios.

"Trust is a key factor when it comes to selecting a financial planner, and the KASH formula governs this trusting relationship with customers," says Mr Wong, who credits his mentors and trainers at Prudential Hong Kong with providing him with excellent support and guidance in preparing for the HKIB competition.

"Improving my presentation skills was one of the most valuable aspects of participating in the awards. I also appreciated the opportunity to consider ways of improving both the quality of my financial planning skills and communication with customers," he concludes.

Taken from Career Times 22 October 2010, A20

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