With no immediate upheaval in sight, the once dormant wealth management sector looks set for further growth.
Wilson Chan, assistant general manager and chief of investment & product development, Shanghai Commercial Bank Ltd, is on the optimistic track.
"Hong Kong's working population typifies a superior level of tenacity, adaptability and flexibility admired by its global counterparts. Crises will only serve as a next step forward," Mr Chan emphasises. "The recent downturn was a testament to the dexterity of our banking and finance system. As a major Chinese city, Hong Kong can also ride on the financial advantages brought about by mainland's economic upsurge."
Progress on the China front will only boost the confidence of Hong Kong's wealth management industry. The mainland government has launched a number of new policies and activities in favour of the Hong Kong industry. "For instance, Hong Kong has recently become the first city outside the mainland to trade Yuan-denominated bonds. A handful of China-based enterprises has also resumed their IPO activities recently," Mr Chan explains. "Mainland banks have moved up in international rankings in terms of capital and total assets. As China's banking sector continues to develop, Hong Kong will also reap the rewards."
Through the rain
The face of the wealth management industry has evolved dramatically over the past few years. "Change is constant in the realm of business. Any new business will experience a vigorous initial growth stage, followed by a period of adjustment before it matures," Mr Chan observes. "This is exactly what's happening."
He believes that tightened compliance regulations, new guidelines and increasing customer expectations will help the industry stretch into a better shape. "It's all positive," he states. "Wealth managers now learn to steer clear of uncertainties and develop a keener sense of ethics and responsibility. Business process may become more time-consuming but good training and people management always entail efficiency and productivity."
According to Mr Chan, this particular juncture of development will see a more distinct categorisation of investment products, into retail and non-retail levels. The former will include products like hedge funds and derivatives; and the latter the "hot and spicy" accumulators. "Tailoring a portfolio will reflect the knowledge and experience of individual wealth managers," Mr Chan says.
Despite this, he is confident that the highly charged environment will not deter young aspirants from tapping in the industry. Conversely, the challenge will appeal to them and the education they receive will help them to understand their aspirations, position themselves for future prospects and traverse even tougher terrains.
He reiterates that the job is not just about building relationships. "Wealth management practitioners must understand the manifold aspects of the profession including the needs and responsibilities for strong compliance," he emphasises.
Look to the future
Having sailed across heavy water, a majority of banking institutions in Hong Kong are now focusing on putting together a stronger supporting infrastructure. Mr Chan emphasises that having a sturdy system in place is paramount in the long team but operations in the back-office and the frontline will continue to require the competence of wealth management professionals plus a strong and reliable brand image.
A trusted local Chinese banks operating more than 40 local and overseas branches, Shanghai Commercial Bank Ltd is well in position to provide its diverse clientele an expanding range of retail and commercial banking services.
"We have become part of the community and enjoyed long-term and stable relationships with our customers," says Mr Chan. "The role we play is akin to that of a family member."
This, Mr Chan says, makes a real difference in today's growingly sophisticated retail banking environment. "Such levels of mutual trust and respect allow us to formulate personalised services and tailor wealth management solutions to our customers' individual banking and investment needs," he remarks.
Over the last few years, the bank has been a ardent backer of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers' Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards.
"This year's contestants are confident, presentable and resourceful. They have taken our last meeting as a platform for a display of skills and knowledge, as well as resilience and a thorough understanding not only about their own profession but also about Hong Kong's socioeconomic footing," notes Mr Chan, who is a panel judge of this year's competition. "The performance of this batch of young professionals convinced me that these are the young that will propel Hong Kong's long-term economic and social progress."
He highlights that the bank will continue to support the HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards as well as the organisation's other initiatives. "A healthy competition is by any measure the best evaluative tool for practitioners to benchmark industry standards and scrutinise existing practice. I am certain that the HKIB can continue to count on the steadfast support from the industry," Mr Chan concludes.