In today's world of banking, service quality is of paramount importance and that customer care requires constant attention. Otherwise, no matter how sophisticated the range of products on offer or the extent of the network supporting them, clients will consider the option of taking their business elsewhere. Even with over 16 years of professional banking experience, that is something about which Denver Ngan, who is assistant vice president and manager of the US customer care team for correspondent banking operations for Wachovia Bank, National Association, Hong Kong branch regularly reminds himself.
After initially working for a local bank, Mr Ngan joined Wachovia 12 years ago as a customer care specialist. He was attracted by the career prospects and, in particular, the feeling that he would be able to develop his potential to the full. It has proved to be a good decision, since Wachovia is now the fourth largest bank in the US and has given him the chance to move through the ranks, acquire all-round professional skills and accomplish far more than he had thought possible.
"What has impressed me most is the bank's open culture, which encourages communication," Mr Ngan explains. "Everyone exchanges views and ideas in order to achieve results that work best for the bank and our customers." He adds that opinions are valued and, where appropriate, will be adopted by management, which gives employees a real sense of involvement and job satisfaction.
Mr Ngan's own moves up the corporate ladder have also been various personal attributes. Foremost among these are his obvious dedication, a knack for seeing the "big picture" and the ability to be proactive.
Personality is the most important factor for success
Now, as a senior member of the management team, he reflects that success as a banker depends on a commitment to lifelong learning. With this, a person is always ready to embrace change and will be equipped to generate new business opportunities and make the most of any that arise. This philosophy greatly helped Mr Ngan in managing and developing the in-house customer care unit for correspondent banking operations for which he has responsibility. He also believes that the key to delivering optimal business results is for the leader of any department to be a genuine role model for other members of the team. This soon creates stronger team spirit and greater effectiveness at all levels.
Mr Ngan has made it his mission to look out for ways to develop the bank's business as well as his own talents. Recently, he has been closely involved with the relocation of the US customer care unit to Hong Kong, requiring the recruitment of a large number of new specialists to join the existing strong team. This major expansion has gone hand in hand with ongoing efforts to upgrade customer care and prepare for further growth in the next five years. Progressively, more "cyber-banking" services will be made available online in order to speed up various transactions.
Wachovia generally recruits diploma and degree holders and looks for good language skills in English and Putonghua. The ability to communicate easily with clients is seen as essential in an international finance centre like Hong Kong. Nevertheless, comprehensive training in specialist areas, as well as intensive coaching in advanced IT skills are provided.
Mr Ngan has developed for his team a mentorship scheme which allows more experienced staff to help newcomers settle into the customer care unit or other departments and provide practical advice about banking practices and internal procedures. The idea is to create a "family atmosphere" as a way of making work more enjoyable and, logically, then maintaining a higher than average rate of staff retention.
Mr Ngan firmly believes that, by focusing on the needs of individuals, a strong and successful team can be built. Through collective efforts, targets can be achieved.
"Personality is the most important factor for success," he says. "Young people who aspire to become tomorrow's leaders should optimise their potential. They can do this by getting broad exposure in different areas of their chosen profession and should not mind beginning at the bottom. This will give them a solid foundation for future career advancement." He adds that it takes time, energy, and dedication to achieve visible results and that people, especially recent graduates, should not expect anything different.