At the HKIB Outstanding Financial Planner Awards presentation ceremony, Carmen Mak, CITICfirst relationship manager of CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited was presented the ultimate Grand Award, a testimony of her dedication and achievement.
Feeling both excited and honoured to be the Grand Award winner, Ms Mak believes that it confirms that the bank's belief - Customer Focus has gained recognition within the industry as well as from my customers.
"The different stages of the competition took more than two months," she says. "It was a lot of hard work and effort, but it was worth it and the award will serve as great motivation to do even better for my customers in future. This success will make me more committed to looking after their interests, but I know it will also raise expectations of myself and my work performance."
Ms Mak believes that a financial planner is someone who helps customers to design individual plans to reach their financial goals at different points in their life.
In order to be well equipped, she keeps upgrading her skills and knowledge, and subsequently feels more confident in her knowledge an ability to handle her professional financial planning responsibilities.
"This was crucial because customers are more sophisticated nowadays and they expect the financial planners they deal with to be well qualified in terms of product knowledge," she says.
The competition gave Ms Mak a chance to apply her knowledge obtained from the day-to-day operations in the bank about serving customers to finding the right products for each of them.
She says the key is to identify needs as clearly as possible. By demonstrating this special quality in the final round of the competition during the question and answer session, she was able to impress the judging panel about her skills in offering a complete financial plan.
"To differentiate myself from other entrants, I tried to respond promptly to the questions posed by the judges and to support my answers with examples based on my experience and knowledge," she says.
According to Felix Lau, senior vice president and head of sales and distribution, there are some important qualities which helped Ms Mak succeed.
"She is enthusiastic about serving the wealth management needs of customers," he says. "What's more, she is diligent and committed to her profession. She also possesses good communication skills and is sensitive to customer needs. In addition, she understands the importance of continuous learning and keeps herself abreast of the changes in the financial markets. This adds value in the meeting with her customers."
Mr Lau agrees that a keen customer focus serves as a competitive edge in the financial planning industry. "We offer comprehensive training to upgrade the skills and knowledge of all our frontline staff. This win-win approach can definitely benefit both our staff and customers," he says.
Ms Mak is grateful to have had the chance to take part in such a meaningful competition. She adds that the most rewarding part of being a financial planner is being able to build a strong tie with customers while helping them to achieve their goals.
"They care about me and some called to congratulate me on winning this award when they read about it in the newspapers," she says. "I would definitely encourage my colleagues to enter the competition next year and I have to say that it gave me new insights on how to serve my customers better. I believe the competition will boost the industry as a whole and raise the general public's awareness of financial planning and let them recognise our efforts."