Since wealth management is an ongoing process, financial planners need to address clients' changing needs at different stages of their lives.
"Most customers dislike being pushed, and they particularly resent being inundated with financial product information," says Jonath Yeung, premier relationship manager, HSBC.
Mr Yeung, a group A finalist in this year's the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards, adds that, in order to gain an understanding of clients' needs, financial planners should seek to build trust with them.
"In the absence of a personal relationship, clients are understandably reluctant to discuss their financial backgrounds and goals in details," Mr Yeung explains. "However, this type of information is essential for financial planners to draw up appropriate financial solutions."
A helping hand
When it comes to wealth management, HSBC adopts a needs-based approach, focusing on identifying customers' needs and helping them to achieve their financial goals.
Mr Yeung believes it is very important to listen closely to his clients. "I always try to put customers at ease by initiating topics on common ground. I ask open-ended questions to help them ease potential anxiety about money matters."
The real-life case study that Mr Yeung entered for the competition demonstrates his outstanding soft skills.
The client in this case was a 28-year-old man who won HK$1 million in the lottery. Having lost 20 per cent of his winnings by investing unwisely in stocks, he approached HSBC for wealth management advice. "Before our first face-to-face meeting, we had a brief telephone conversation, but I sensed some reluctance on his part," Mr Yeung recalls.
When he met with the client the next day, their discussions were extensive, covering the client's job and his family background. He realised that the client had no understanding of wealth management, had very little savings and no insurance coverage.
"Rather than trying to sell him financial products right away, I attempted to learn more about his needs, showing that I was dedicated to providing him with the best solutions," he notes, adding that although the client did not commit to buying any financial products at that point, he welcomed further telephone calls and queries from the client.
Two months later, the client contacted Mr Yeung again, mentioning that he was starting a family, but that his fiancé was suspicious of wealth management.
However, a follow-up meeting with the couple resulted in him drawing up a financial portfolio specifically for their circumstances. "I addressed their personal needs, such as future education for their children, asset management and family protection. I also helped them draw up financial priorities," Mr Yeung says.
HSBC premier relationship managers receive full back-office support. They rely on core tailored tools such as a sophisticated Wealth Master system, which calculates customers' individual protection needs.
Relationship managers have access to investment overviews and market updates via the bank's intranet, and regularly meet with representatives from fund houses, discussing global and regional market trends. "We also attend daily morning briefings," Mr Yeung says.
Every HSBC branch has a senior relationship manager designated to monitor all dealings with clients and give professional advice. Even with all the available technical support, Mr Yeung still prioritises building long-term and trusting relationships with his customers. "Client needs change at different stages of their lives. We must be equipped with the necessary knowledge to help them review their portfolios from time to time, suggesting adjustments," he stresses. "I treat my customers like friends and initiate phone calls or personal contact with them regularly."
Mr Yeung joined HSBC two years ago. He is currently looking to embark on the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers' CFMPTM (Certified Financial Management PlannerTM) programme.
His accomplishment in the competition has only given him a clearer career vision. "I trust that I will enjoy a promising career in the wealth management industry," he concludes.