When choosing a financial planner, clients look for someone who understands how their financial needs will change at different stages of their life, and someone who will provide them professional service for planning and managing their personal finances on an ongoing basis.
As Hong Kong's largest banking institution and one with a strong international network and client base, HSBC considers both hardware and software support essential to help financial planners demonstrate their professional image and services to clients.
Carol Wong, head of sales and services support for personal financial services, Hong Kong, HSBC, says it is important for financial planners to exercise a high-level of professionalism so as to underscore confidence and trust in the bank's services.
At HSBC, financial planners' professionalism is built on a series of comprehensive in-house training, professional qualifications development and strict quality assurance programmes.
Further, the bank has recently released an online one-stop solution "WealthMaster", which facilitates better understanding of client needs for its financial planners. These standards and tools ensure they can accurately assess their clients' needs and also develop knowledge in wealth management strategies. "Our keen focus on need-based selling in our financial planning services helps enhance our clients' confidence and trust in our services," Mrs Wong says.
To further reinforce this specific selling concept and ensure every product that is proposed to clients is based on an in-depth and objective analysis of their needs and financial statuses, the bank puts heavy emphasis on this area in its in-house training for financial planners.
"We also promote high quality assurance of our services to clients. As such, we proactively review our services and identify areas where we can do even better, to exceed customers' expectation," Mrs Wong adds.
Financial planning is not merely helping clients to plan for a single product. It is a lifelong process and clients' needs vary with changes in their life and financial backgrounds. Hence it is also important for financial planners to build up long-term relationships with clients; and HSBC requires its financial planners to maintain frequent communications with them, Mrs Wong notes.
As financial markets change continuously, people always look for the latest information and products to enhance their financial plans. Realising this, HSBC conducts surveys to explore the latest market trends and to examine the kinds of products clients want. For example, form 2004 to 2006 the group conducted a series of worldwide retirement surveys to scrutinise clients' needs in retirement plans. This type of information provides market insights for financial planners in proposing appropriate products to clients.
According to Mrs Wong, financial planning is a vibrant and growing part of the finance industry. She says that more people are thinking about wealth management and the general public's awareness of these services is increasing. This in turn is increasing demand for high quality professionals who can provide top-notch service and advice on a wide range of products. She adds that the international branding of HSBC and its extensive client network make the bank competitive in terms of business development and staff recruitment.
HSBC currently has more than 1,000 financial planning managers and relationship managers. This number will continue to increase. However, Mrs Wong emphasises that the bank's primary focus is "quality" and not "quantity". Because of this it has strict requirements for selecting new recruits who are customer-oriented, committed to a career in financial services, have at least one year of work experience and preferably a university degree.
In addition to fulfilling the basic entry requirements requested by the industry, they are also required to obtain professional designations, further illustrating their ability and enhancing clients' confidence in the advice they give.
Mrs Wong says with its large business scope and company structure, financial planners at HSBC can enjoy flexibility and opportunities for career development. Moreover, they are not confined to vertical career development but have opportunities to develop their career across departments if they can demonstrate potential.
"We understand good quality people are always in demand in the industry. As such, we provide our new recruits attractive remuneration packages and long-term and structured career paths," she says. In addition to basic salary and other typical benefits such as medical cover and retirement benefits, financial planners at HSBC have the potential to earn unlimited income.