Formulating a comprehensive financial management plan can be seen as a clear manifestation of professionalism. The ability to do so, however, only satisfies the very basic requirements for a rewarding career in the fast-paced wealth management industry.
"There is always more than meets the eye in this challenging field," says Ronald Lam, investment consultant, Citibank Global Consumer Group Hong Kong. "First thing first, you've got to have a passion."
Mr Lam, fresh winner (group B) in this year's Hong Kong Institute of Bankers' Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards, notes that the changing landscape of wealth management requires the kind of professional quality that is unique to the industry. "It is an amalgamation of personal strengths and technical competence."
Meeting of minds
The competition is a melting pot of expertise and professional experience. "The opportunity to share insights with my fellow contestants prompted me to reassess my repertoire of knowledge and skills," Mr Lam says.
The Grand Award is to him a recognition. "It also acknowledges Citibank's commitment to investing in talent; the high standards upheld by the wealth management industry; and the exceptional professional attributes proudly developed by financial management planners alike," he emphasises.
An excellent communicator boosting a wealth of professional attributes, Mr Lam has built a personal brand among colleagues and customers. "The Grand Award confirms my aspirations and belief in what I do," he says. "Thanks to the bank's training, I receive ample opportunity to harness my presentation and interpersonal communication skills. I am able to interpret comprehensive financial management solutions that serve the best interests of my customers."
His participation in the HKIB competition sparked a great deal of interest from colleagues and friends. "Most of them have asked me details of the competition," he says. "I would definitely encourage them to enrol for next year. The competition has done me a world of good and I hope that more people can benefit from this experience."
Last year's financial volatility offered the global banking and finance industry a respite but people in the field did have their crosses to bear. "Investor confidence plummeted," Mr Lam observes. "It's high time we rebuilt the overall image of the industry."
One way of doing so, Mr Lam believes, is via continuous improvement. He is currently looking for the best platform to further his academic skills. "I'm considering a master's degree in finance or perhaps the CFMPTM qualification," he says.
Amy Choi, director of sales & distribution, Citibank Global Consumer Group notes that Mr Lam was able to exhibit integrity and excellent communication skills in a consistent manner throughout the competition. "During the final presentation, he also expressed a strong desire for knowledge and a keen focus on putting the clients first," she says. "However, it was his passion that really shone through."
Ms Choi believes that the competition provides an excellent platform for all contestants to assess their professional acumen. "Every one of them had to work on and later review a hypothetical case. This gave them an opportunity to put theories into practice, and interestingly, find out how they could have handled the case differently," she explains. "They also had a chance to learn from each other and from seasoned professionals and experienced academics."
An international bank experienced in the wealth management industry, Citibank has a worldwide network of research materials. "Strong research capabilities of our global and local research teams offer first-hand market information to our staff, helping them to keep their customers up-to-date with current market situations and subsequently make informed and sound investment decisions," Ms Choi says.
The first in the market to transform priority banking into wealth management in 2001, Citibank complements its wide range of innovative services and products with a comprehensive set of tools, including the one-of-its-kind "Citigold Wealth Planner", which is a proprietary analytical tool that helps customers assess their financial needs, and provides recommendations on investment in order to achieve specific financial goals.
Ms Choi notes particularly that Citibank's "3R strategy" has been instrumental: "It provides clear guidelines with three specific directions — "rebuild" trust through proactive contact with customers; "refocus" on investment objectives and goals, and rebalance investment portfolios according to market development so as to help customers stay on course; and "rebound" when the market bounds back."
She advises young jobseekers to pay attention to certain key aspects when choosing a career launch pad. "Firstly, you need to understand the company's culture and find out about the available training opportunities," she cautions. "Professionals in this fast-growing industry must keep abreast of the latest knowledge so as to cope with all the changes in products, customer needs, and market dynamics."
In view of this, aspirants ought to choose a company that is capable of offering sufficient staff support. Citibank's commitment to sophisticated training is highly visible. "Our training programmes incorporate product knowledge, operations, compliance and regulations, alongside soft skills such as communications and client relationships management," Ms Choi explains. "Without a comprehensive training infrastructure, it would be very difficult for anyone to drive and enjoy sustainable growth in this industry."