Money Moves

Careful recruitment the key for expansion

by Susanna Tai

This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

Dave Kwan, managing director, Centaline Wealth Management Ltd
Photo: Johnny Kwok

The demand for financial consultancy services in Hong Kong shows no signs of slowing. As a result, banks, insurance companies and independent financial advisers (IFAs) are scaling up their recruitment plans amid optimism that the market for wealth products and services will continue to register impressive growth. However, even with the competition and constant demand for talent, decisions to hire applicants for the role of financial consultant are never made in haste.

Dave Kwan, managing director of Centaline Wealth Management Ltd, confirms that his company's recruitment policy pays special attention to a candidate's integrity and ethical standards.

"Those things outweigh a person's educational background, because that does not necessarily guarantee that someone will not mis-sell," says Mr Kwan. Therefore, when applying to join Centaline, it is not a prerequisite to have accredited professional qualifications such as, for example, certified financial planner (CFP) or chartered financial analyst (CFA) status.

"These credentials mainly indicate academic achievements, but not a person's attitude and capability. We are looking for bright and cheerful applicants who are ready to work steadfastly and with determination, even if they encounter setbacks or obstacles," Mr Kwan explains. The company, though, offers all new recruits comprehensive training in product knowledge, sales techniques and related compliance issues. "We have weekly training for consultants and also encourage them to share their experiences during these sessions," he adds.

As an industry, financial planning still has a comparatively low rate of market penetration in Hong Kong. As such, Centaline has plans to further expand its capability and increase the total of consultants from the present 180 to over 500 by the end of 2006.

Having started its IFA operations in March 2004, the company is still something of a newcomer to the wealth management sector. They source products from a variety of fund houses and insurance companies, which gives them a much wider range of products and makes it possible to offer unprejudiced advice to clients, says Mr Kwan. He expects competition for business from banks and insurance companies to remain intense, and admits that it is therefore an advantage to be an affiliate of the Centaline Group.

"In Hong Kong, property comprises a significant portion of the major investment portfolios. Our parent company specialises in property consultancy and we have a strong network to pass on referrals in this specific sector," Mr Kwan says.

In dealing with clients, the focus is on achieving long-term financial targets rather than making quick money, so the advisers generally introduce products which offer the best prospects for stable growth. "We don't provide high-risk products like derivatives, as we are looking for long-term benefits for our clients," he stresses.

Assuming the investment market in China remains buoyant, the company intends to introduce wealth management services in the mainland in the second half of 2006. "Our initial plan is to set up offices in one or two cities in China," says Mr Kwan.

Taken from Career Times 25 November 2005, p. A2
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