Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Defining sound advice

by Ada Ng

Gable Ma
senior relationship manager
wealth management services, retail banking division
Shanghai Commercial Bank Ltd
Photo: Lewis Wong
In the wealth management business, keeping the right attitude is the first step for professionals in the field to gaining client trust and producing holistic financial plans that work to the best interest of their clients.

Gable Ma, senior relationship manager, wealth management services, retail banking division, Shanghai Commercial Bank Ltd, believes that this is the mantra that "makes a good financial advisor great".

Illustrating with the Chinese character for "attitude", which comprises two components— competence and heart, Mr Ma says having the specific investment product knowledge and analytical skills is only a prerequisite.

He points out that a truly competent financial planner takes the trouble to attend to all the details, from clients' cash flow needs, to their current financial resources, risk appetite, personal lifestyle, family background and long-term financial goals.

"Clients respond to those who really take time to learn about their situations and who aren't just going through the motions," he adds.

All things considered

A professional attitude can enhance the quality of interaction with clients as well as that of the advisory work. Rather than do what everyone does and simply push a product for a quick sale, Mr Ma says a financial planner that cares enough to ask questions beyond the obvious and listens to what clients really want, will become their lifetime partner in financial advisory service.

"We should always put customers first and consider every recommendation from the client's point of view, with their risk appetite in mind," Mr Ma advises.

With this practice, he says a holistic financial plan that meets clients' financial objectives and deals effectively with all aspects including investment, life protection, retirement and risk diversification can be made possible.

"Clients always want to ensure that their money will do what they want it to do during their lifetime," he adds. "For this reason, we should have a good understanding of not only investment products, but also of insurance, retirement and asset management, in order to create a strategic financial portfolio that meets a required rate of return to achieve our client's goals and objectives at stages of their life."

He cautions however that a financial plan is merely a blueprint. Periodically, it will need to be reviewed and updated to reflect the client's changing financial position and needs. To do this, it requires concerted efforts from a multi-disciplined team of professionals. "This is the strength of our bank," he emphasises. "Our comprehensive advisory service is built largely on the expertise of our experienced team of colleagues who work together to give advice on different aspects of financial products."

Aside from basic product training and market updates, Shanghai Commercial Bank rides on a mentoring system with senior planners showing their junior counterparts the proper planning procedures and client servicing skills. "This is the most direct and practical way of acquiring the soft skills necessary to developing a trusting advisor-client relationship," says Mr Ma, one of the group B finalists in this year's HKIB Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards.

In preparing for the competition, Mr Ma leveraged off the support from his senior colleagues who hailed from diverse banking backgrounds including investment and insurance. "They have many years of experience in their practice areas and I believe that just the experience of taking part has already brought invaluable benefits to mine," he concludes.

Taken from Career Times 22 October 2010, A8
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