Advancing towards new investment horizonsby Nicolette Wong
As mainland China's affluent sector expands, the Hong Kong financial industry is gearing up to meet the growing demand for corresponding services and products. Independent financial advisors (IFAs) are among the companies investing in business and talent development, as well as in educating the public on the diverse wealth management tools available on the market.
Convoy Financial Services Limited last week held a recruitment talk that featured veteran acteur Lai Yiu-cheung who shared his life experience and career aspirations. As Quincy Wong, chairman of Convoy says, Mr Lai represents a fine example of resilience: "Mr Lai has seen a fair share of ups and downs over his 20-year career in the entertainment industry. His accomplishment can effectively inspire people who are seeking a change of pace in their career or even a new direction in life."
The finance sector is undergoing significant change as a result of the influx of mainland investors.
Hong Kong's biggest IFAs and Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) schemes brokerage firms have been absorbing a growing number of mainland candidates graduating from Hong Kong universities, says Mr Wong, adding that these new recruits naturally have a cultural advantage in communicating with customers from across the border.
"It's important for us to build long-term relations with the growing mainland client population, since this specific client segment will ultimately contribute not only to our future growth but also to the long-term sustainability of the industry in Hong Kong," Mr Wong notes, stating optimistically that relations between investors from mainland China and Hong Kong's IFA sector are bound to grow closer.
Hong Kong finance houses offer a diverse and reliable range of products and their credibility is ensured by strict industry regulations. Another strong point in favour of the sector is the professionalism of the city's financial consultants, since mainland investors are keenly aware of the importance of professional qualifications and ethical conduct by wealth managers.
Renminbi-linked products, which are still relatively new and limited in variety, represent an important growth area, Mr Wong points out. Many investors are inclined towards the currency for its preferential exchange rate, and one issue that needs to be tackled is the ease of trading in renminbi.
"At the moment, customers still have to trade through renminbi accounts, which isn't always efficient. It would take regulatory reform and effort from local bodies for this to change," Mr Wong comments.
Convoy is well aware of the need to capitalise on these opportunities and to improve its market position. Whereas its traditional focus has been financial management for clients with diverse investment portfolios, the company is expanding its business scope to cover MPF services, asset management and stocks.
The firm's strategy will centre on introducing these supplementary services to current customers as possible additions to their wealth management plans, while also promoting these to potential new clients through a number of different channels.
"There's plenty of scope for wealth management education, since people in Hong Kong by and large aren't familiar with the differences between banks and the IFA sector," Mr Wong remarks. "Apart from expanding our business, we also plan to launch a series of marketing campaigns to create awareness of our corporate profile. This will also give potential customers a clearer picture of our industry position, business and services."
As the financial markets gain new momentums, there is stiff competition within the IFA sector for top talent, but, while some companies have a more stable staff turnover rate than other institutions, they also tend to be dedicated to enhancing their consultants' professional qualifications.
Mr Wong reveals that banking institutions in Hong Kong are offering attractive starting salaries to draw new talent, but Convoy's focus is not only on remuneration, but also on continuous training and long-term staff development. This ties in with the organisation's business diversity agenda, says Mr Wong. "Young people wanting to join the industry should consider carefully the career goals they wish to set for themselves," he advises.
Convoy's consultants receive daily training across different positions addressing a range of products and services. "Our priorities are to enhance our staff's skills and to keep up with market trends," Mr Wong adds.
Bringing the right people on board is vital as Convoy expands its presence in Hong Kong and across the border. While the mainland IFA sector is still at an infant stage, Convoy has made substantial strategic advances in a number of major cities.
He cautions however that Hong Kong-based finance firms must be responsive to the change and challenge in the mainland's regulatory environment and business atmosphere.
"With the industry currently in transition, success depends on keeping a keen eye on developments and adjusting our products and services accordingly," Mr Wong concludes.
Taken from Career Times 12 November 2010, A6