Over the years, wealth management services have gained such popularity that the range of services and products is now accessible to not only the affluent but also people from all walks of life.
"Wealth management means understanding clients' short- and long-term goals and offering them the most appropriate financial solutions," says Fanny Lum, director, wealth management, Global Consumer Group, Citibank. "As such, the ability to leverage our vast global research resources in providing customers with tailor-made advice sets us apart from our competitors."
Before embarking on tailor-made financial portfolios for customers, Citibank's Citigold relationship managers initiate in-depth and open discussions with their customers to build up a thorough understanding of their needs and objectives. "A relationship manager is at the very core of the entire service model, with an aim of building a long-term and trusting relationship with clients," Ms Lum notes.
Furthermore, relationship managers are supported by the bank's professional teams including investment, treasury, insurance and mortgage consultants, research and SME specialists and stock dealers, all of which offer specialised knowledge to fulfil the wealth management needs of clients.
While it is relatively easy to access market information on the internet, Ms Lum points out that a professional analysis of specific information is important for customers. "Apart from local data analyses, we also have research support from our global network. As a result, we are in an excellent position to provide comprehensive investment advice to our customers," she remarks, saying that this "comprehensive advisory platform" matches the bank's extensive product offerings and can meet different clients' needs.
Financial portfolios must be reviewed from time to time, says Ms Lum. To this end, the bank equips its Citigold relationship managers with a powerful proprietary software Citigold Wealth Planner (CWP), to help them perform comprehensive financial analysis and construct an appropriate portfolio for their customers.
"Customers' individual needs are linked to their financial objectives, investment time frame and their tolerance for risk. As time passes, their situations and needs may change, which means that their portfolios must be revised and adjusted accordingly," she says. "Periodic reviews are an important part of maintaining a long-term relationship, and the longer the relationship, the deeper the mutual understanding between the two parties becomes. It's a life-long journey."
Competition remains keen in the industry and Ms Lum concedes that retaining quality staff is an ongoing challenge. Since the bank views creating long-term client relationships as a crucial part of its business, it focuses on extensive training and has an internal reward programme to help retain its relationship managers.
In addition, the bank's well-established training department has a range of specially designed programmes for relationship managers. "As a starting point, they receive two months' training on our products, service ethos and vision," she notes. "Relationship managers also have a number of different options for developing their future careers."
These include being promoted to branch manager or taking up a back-office managerial position. Relationship managers may also choose to specialise in a specific area, such as investment analysis.
To boost professional confidence and keep up to par with industry best practice, Citibank encourages its relationship managers to participate in the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards.
"This is a competition that helps raise the overall standard for professionals in the industry. Participating in competitions will also help our relationship managers become more aware of their career advancement opportunities," says Ms Lum. "There is a growing need for wealth management in affluent Hong Kong. The market is expanding fast, with increasingly sophisticated customers who have strong wealth management needs."
In conclusion, Ms Lum sums up wealth management as a maximisation of a client's overall balance sheet. "Our role is to help them build an appropriate portfolio on a short- or long-term basis that best suits their financial objectives," she says. "Our strength lies in our well-developed business processes and multi-faceted services. While customers generally trust banks more than other financial institutions, nothing is taken for granted."