There are exciting times ahead in China's financial markets. The issuance of Renminbi bonds in Hong Kong, the various wealth management services offered by banks in China and developments in the investment of the mainland's foreign exchanges, all offer tremendous business opportunities.
The booming market has indubitably had an influence on Hong Kong's financial industry. Not only has there been an increase in the demand for comprehensive and high quality mainland-related financial services; tailor-made, integrated account services that provide one-stop applicability to handle all of a customer's banking needs have also become a necessity.
As China's economy is advancing at such a rapid pace, Theresa Ng, deputy general manager, retail banking, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia) Limited (ICBC (Asia)) says local banks must make the most of Hong Kong's strengths and strategic location in the region, seeking out new business in China while building on existing relationships.
Though well positioned strategically, Hong Kong is not the only market vying for a share of the opportunities arising from the growth of and changes in China's economy. There are many places striving to comprehend China's culture in order to take part in the prosperity.
"Hong Kong people need to get beyond some misconceptions we possess towards the China market," Ms Ng cautions. "Many people in Hong Kong believe that the golden opportunity lying in front of us will always endure; that we will always have our pick of the mainland's riches. We cannot afford to take anything for granted."
Ms Ng believes that people are the key during this critical period. "The competitive edge of a financial centre hinges on the quality of its people and their attitudes. We consistently invest time and resources into the development of our staff to ensure that they are equipped not only with the essential skills to capture business opportunities in China, but that they also possess the ability to communicate effectively with fellow members stationed in our mainland branches to reach our common goals", she says.
In recent times, as society has become more affluent and more knowledgeable about and interested in stocks, bonds, funds and other derivative products, the demand for quality financial services both in China and Hong Kong has increased.
Supported by ICBC, the largest commercial bank in China (in terms of total assets), ICBC (Asia) is continuously expanding, and extensively recruiting new members from various backgrounds and cultures to join in. "We always welcome new talents to come aboard. They should be prepared and equipped with financial competence, sound market knowledge and professionalism. The world is flat and competition is keen and everywhere. They must also be able to embrace new developments in the world platform of finance and the affluent China market.
Ongoing training is essential for finance professionals as new commercial products are constantly being introduced to the market. ICBC (Asia) provides training for its staff in a number of areas such as finance-related products, Mandarin, and reading and writing in simplified Chinese. "Our main focus, however, is enhancing our employees' understanding of China's economy and culture", Ms Ng says.
An example of how this is achieved is ICBC (Asia)'s work-abroad programmes where employees from China are stationed in Hong Kong to assist with various project developments, and Hong Kong staff work closely with them to facilitate joint projects.
"Members from both regions can acquire practical skills and experience each other's culture," Ms Ng explains. "Our bank is also enthusiastic about organising customer seminars, conferences, exchange programmes and social service events that provide excellent networking and mutual learning opportunities between staff from Hong Kong and China. Staff can also achieve these through participation in marketing activities."
Competition in Hong Kong's finance industry is traditionally fierce, and this is especially so with the mainland economy booming. Ms Ng believes that this competition has a positive influence and has been crucial for Hong Kong's economic progression. "Competition between banks is not a recent phenomenon; it has a long history in Hong Kong. Without it Hong Kong would not have developed into an internationally recognised market leader," she says. "It is inevitable that we will face challenges in the future, including the need to continuously raising the professionalism of our practitioners and sustaining our competitiveness in the local industry. But we also have amazing opportunities to capitalise on the benefits generated from the growing China economy. We already have the privileges of support from the central government, and the sharing of a common language, culture and ambition. Now we just need to do the work."