Money Moves

Client focus for wealth management team

By Ella Lee

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

Daniel Chan, senior manager, insurance and wealth management, Shanghai Commercial Bank
Photo: Johnny Kwok

Wealth management is now a major area of development for the banking and finance industry. In addition to being an important factor in driving corporate growth, it has also caused many financial institutions to pay much closer attention to the need to be service-oriented and customer-focused.

Shanghai Commercial Bank (SCB) launched its own financial planning services about nine months ago. Daniel Chan, the bank's senior manager for the insurance and wealth management departments, says: "This is a service based purely on meeting client needs, not to promote certain types of investment." He believes this approach will help to integrate the bank's different products and, eventually, move them towards the goal of becoming the provider of a full range of financial services.

In regarding customer focus as the key, Mr Chan says the bank is committed to providing personalised advice and tailor-made solutions for clients. The financial planning cycle begins with a face-to-face interview, which can last three to four hours. It is basically to establish facts and understand the client's financial position in order to identify their objectives and constraints. The bank then uses a computer program and other research information to do detailed analysis and gives initial advice within a week.

Mr Chan stresses that their planning and advice, unlike that of insurance or investment companies, does not lean towards any specific type of product. Therefore, they can offer "the right things" to customers more quickly and effectively.

Besides preparing financial plans, relationship officers also carry out regular reviews to reflect market changes and fulfil the varying requirements customers will have as they go through life.

SCB emphasises relationship building with customers in all aspects of their wealth management service. So far, it is free of charge but offered only to existing affluent clients with liquid assets or a net worth of not less than US$100,000.

Rather than competing by means of large-scale brand-building activities and promotional campaigns, the bank believes in word of mouth and gradual expansion into new market segments. As Mr Chan explains, if core clients are satisfied, referrals and further opportunities will follow.

To support the development of the wealth management business, university graduates with one to two years' work experience will be recruited as relationship officers. They will receive both classroom and on-the-job training for about six months as part of a comprehensive induction programme. Candidates are expected to be positive thinkers, active learners and, most importantly, team players.

"That is because most of our branches are small, with about 10 to 20 staff, but provide full services," says Mr Chan. "As a result, employees in each branch must work as a team and be able to support each other in all respects."

The rapid growth of the wealth management market has created a huge demand for good financial planners, so finding the right calibre of candidate is not easy. Nevertheless, Mr Chan says that SCB has an advantage in offering the chance to grow as professional bankers and in providing all-round training and wide exposure to different banking operations.

Taken from Career Times 08 April 2005, p. 2
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