Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Communication always gold

by Isabella Lee

Edward Lee, investment consultant
international personal bank
Citibank Global Consumer Group
Photo: Johnson Poon

Achieving financial goals begins with quality communication

Investment consultants help people meet their financial goals by ascertaining an array of key factors including their current situations and risk tolerance. Doing so requires a high level of technical competence as well as effective communication skills.

Working in tandem with the bank's other personal banking elites such as Citigold relationship managers, Citibank investment consultants provide financial insights and advice to customers and help them map out long-term personalised wealth management strategies.

"Almost all investors are seeking investment tools with the highest yield at the lowest risk level, which basically do not exist. It is our job to help them understand what is out there and to let them see the complete financial picture at every stage of the investment process," says Edward Lee, investment consultant, international personal bank, Citibank Global Consumer Group.

Building confidence

When designing such strategic plans, it is important for the Citigold team to learn about the customers and their goals. Mr Lee stresses that this can only be achieved via effective two-way communication. "When you treat the customers like your friends and it is clear you enjoy the process of assisting them to realise their goals, they can feel your passion. Once this mutual trust is established, they will really open up and talk to you about their situations and what they want," he says.

As such, Mr Lee tends to spend time chatting with his customers in a relaxed atmosphere, learning about their personal lives, their families and their work — topics that seem irrelevant to financial planning but in fact, he emphasises, can tell him a lot about the kind of investments that will be most appropriate.

"We try to encourage our customers to talk about their current situations and feelings so that we can have a full picture of what kinds of life they're leading," Mr Lee notes. "Open-ended questions will encourage them to talk more about themselves. Doing so we can get a thorough understanding on their financial needs and goals, helping them rationalise their objectives of investment."

In addition to the right skills in communication, investment consultants also require excellent knowledge of financial products. "Any professional financial planners should be capable of offering sound financial advice. Our primary role is to give a thorough analysis of customers' financial situations and explain to them which investment tools are most suitable for their needs. We need to meticulously compile a portfolio based on facts and figures and give it a human touch. After all, we are servicing people and so we must also care about their feelings," Mr Lee explains.

Rather than pushing "off the rack" products onto the customers, the Citigold wealth management team aims to help customers create success. To achieve that ultimate goal, the consultants explain to customers their detailed financial situations by giving examples of real cases and project expected scenarios.

Professionalism pays

Citigold is currently running an internal promotion called "Woo, Wow, Win", which aims to enhance the performance of the team by asking them to think of proactive strategies and customer services that would impress existing or potential customers.

For instance, Mr Lee says, the recent volatility in the stock market has sparked some panicky actions from investors so the Citigold team keeps a close eye on what is happening and calls individual customers who have relevant investments so as to keep them informed.

"For a financial service institution to stand out in what is a highly competitive sector, as well as having the best products and services, the people in it really have to be passionate," Mr Lee says. "This passion becomes the motivation for them to strive to make things better and to build up their professionalism, which is not just saying lots of figures and technical terms, instead it is expressed in the smiles you give and receive."


Taken from Career Times 30 November 2007
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