Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Borderless banking

by Jacky Wong

Vicky Kong, director of International Personal Banking Citibank Global Consumer Group, Hong Kong
Photo: Johnson Poon

International banking services meet diverse economic, cultural and social backgrounds

As a dynamic international metropolis and financial hub, Hong Kong is home for many multinationals who need a "borderless" banking services.

Citibank therefore launched its international personal banking service to serve not only overseas customers and clients based in Hong Kong, but also those on the move and others who may stay abroad for perhaps 20 years or more.

Vicky Kong, director of International Personal Banking, Citibank Global Consumer Group, Hong Kong, says that by leveraging the company's well-developed and extensive global banking network along with its expertise in wealth management, Citibank has maintained a brilliant presence in the market. This long-established but progressive institution enjoys a comfortable competitive edge in providing clients with simple, convenient and customised international banking services.

Currently, Citibank's international banking products and services are sufficiently diverse to include multicurrency deposit accounts, foreign currency leveraged investments, mutual funds, forex options and margin trades as well as a bonds brokerage service.

To help customers enjoy greater simplicity and convenience when managing their personal finances, all of the foregoing can be managed by the bank's online and toll-free phone banking systems. Clients can also open a bank account without the need to visit any branches in Hong Kong in person. This enables them to access banking services worldwide through the bank's sophisticated and secure ATM system.

International perspective

As target segments of Citibank's international personal banking services are, naturally, diverse in their economic, cultural and social backgrounds, Ms Kong says that good language skills are a prerequisite for new recruits. However, entrance requirements in this area are generally similar to other openings that the bank offers.

"Relationship managers in the international personal banking department generally serve customers from different cultural backgrounds. For instance, while speaking in Mandarin to a Taiwanese client, they may immediately have to switch to English to accommodate a customer from another country. In this regard, having a good grasp of several foreign languages is essential," she notes.

In addition to higher language proficiency, an outgoing personality is helpful in maintaining good client relationships. "We ask staff to be proactive when proposing tailored or new products to clients. Also, they must always be open-minded and ready for challenges amid sophisticated demands," Ms Kong says. "This way they will help achieve their clients' financial goals by providing simple and convenient banking services, no matter where they may be located."

Ms Kong also reminds those interested in working in an international personal banking team that they must commit to an ever-changing and dynamic working environment that may entail irregular working hours. Such dedication reflects the global nature of today's banking business and the need to meet a client's needs whenever and wherever requested. Ms Kong says that if something urgent crops up, staff may even have to meet a client at the airport, at their hotel, or even visit their residence.

She further stresses that Citibank's international banking staff must be good team players who are prepared to work hard and respond to the latest market trends. Such dedication demands extra effort on their part to upgrade their technical skills and product knowledge. In this way, careers are built and expanded exponentially.

In light of the current shake-up in global stock markets, Ms Kong says relationship managers have to proactively assimilate and consolidate the bank's expert analytical reports. Only in this way can they provide the latest investment outlook for clients, evaluate existing portfolios and determine whether or not they need adjusting.

Riding high

In general, international personal banking department employees can enjoy a progressive career path with Citibank that allows for individual development.

Their entry-level job title is classified as that of "associate". Newcomers will thereafter be promoted to "personal banker", "relationship manager" and then "senior relationship manager".

Such progress is almost automatic if entry-level candidates later exhibit an outstanding performance regime allied to several years' relevant work experience. The bank also provides intensive training that helps strengthen an employee's competence and personal development.

Given that Hong Kong plays a leading, if not dominant role in the world's financial markets, public awareness of wealth management keeps increasing. As such, local and international demand for international personal banking services is substantial. That means banking practitioners must provide clients with an ever-increasing number of customised products.

Thus convenient and quality international personal banking services are indispensable in sustaining Citibank's dominant presence in this segment of the market. Experts in this field do not only counter the ever-hovering competition, but win business from other players in the market, says Ms Kong.

International personal bankers

  • Possess a good grasp of several foreign languages such as English and Mandarin
  • Exhibit an outgoing personality to help build good client relationships
  • Be open-minded and proactive when helping to meet a client's needs
  • Be prepared to work in a dynamic environment and to meet tight schedules
  • Be sensitive to trends while maintaining investment market knowledge

Taken from Career Times 09 March 2007
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