Retail Banking

Escalating sophistication

by Jeanne Creighton

Felix Lau, senior vice president and head of sales and distribution
Retail Banking Group
CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

Tailored products and services add value to high net worth clients

To meet the needs of an ever-growing portfolio of discerning clients whose average individual asset exceeding HK$3 million, CITIC Ka Wah Bank differentiates itself from its counterparts by offering tailor-made wealth management solutions that are delivered in a highly personal and efficient manner.

Launched in March 2006, the bank's highly regarded CITICfirst wealth management successfully combine the finest in private banking and premium banking services. In just two years, the number of CITICfirst customers has exceeded 10,500 and is en route to meeting the bank's target of 20,000 within the next three years.

Felix Lau, senior vice president and head of sales and distribution, Retail Banking Group, CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited says: "We break the norms to secure the best positions and grasp the opportunities to achieve higher returns for our high net worth clients."

CITICfirst sets a new standard in wealth management. Mr Lau adds, "A thorough understanding of our customers' unique wealth management goals has led us to formulate investment solutions beyond the extraordinary, helping to take their financial aspirations to new heights. For example, we recently partnered with auction house Sotheby's to hold a seminar to advise clients on investing in high-end watches."

Talent network

Great products alone cannot attract and retain high net worth clients. As such, a 60-strong team of CITICfirst relationship managers (RMs) shoulder the responsibilities in fostering lasting relationships with customers. Mr Lau notes that the bank has plans to hire 30 more as six new CITICfirst Centres are due to open later this year, making a vast network of 17. "Our CITICfirst Centres are located in prime areas and tastefully decorated to create an engaging ambience for both or RMs and customers," he says.

The bank's RMs are experienced professional who hold sound academic record. More than 75 per cent of them were promoted from within; and over 90 per cent of them possess professional qualifications such as Hong Kong Registered Financial Planners or Certified Financial Planners — the highest percentage among banks in Hong Kong.

CITIC Ka Wah has a comparatively low RM-to-client ratio (250:1) than the industry average (400-500:1), enabling their RMs to provide truly personalised services to clients. To help in this endeavour, the bank is planning on hiring 35 CITICfirst associates this year, helping to handle administrative duties.

Meanwhile, all potential CITICfirst RMs must undergo several weeks' of interactive classroom training. "We offer a broad curriculum including company culture, product and system knowledge, compliance issues, and soft skills such as customer service and relationships building," explains Mr Lau. "To help our RMs excel in their positions, we invest heavily in formulating such needs-based training."

He emphasises that people are the most important asset of the bank and therefore the commitment in nurturing the 1,400 staff in Hong Kong. CITIC Ka Wah believes that each member of staff is a brand ambassador. The bank's dedicated people development team provides a framework of training for each position and sets a time frame for completing the specific training.

Rewarding experience

According to Mr Lau, CITICfirst surpasses traditional wealth management services. It was developed on a three-pillar platform, which defined a new standard of private wealth management by offering private banking service in a retail bank environment.

The first of these pillars is a solid "platform", which quintessentially encompasses a range of tools that helps analyse customers' risk tolerance, develop investment portfolios and track customers' investment performance. Mr Lau explains, "These include partnerships with world-renowned industry experts like Standard & Poor's on the S&P model portfolio, and Morning Star on the Morning Star Fund Data; as well as the innovative proprietary Wealth Tracker for real-time investment portfolio measurement."

The second, by definition, is tailor-made "products". CITICfirst offers a comprehensive suite of high yield products with different maturities suiting each customer's needs. For example, the bank structures private placement products within 24 hours. Last year, the bank launched 595 new private placement products, 244 of which are tailored to specific customer needs.

"People" makes the third pillar supporting the CITICfirst platform. In particular, customers receive highly attentive service along with customised and timely solutions from a dedicated RM.

Mr Lau notes, "Ultimately we are still a people-driven business. We make a great deal of effort in ensuring sufficient resources and support for staff, providing a favourable environment for them to grow and fulfil their aspirations."

The bank's effort has been recognised in various ways including top accolades like Retail Bank of the Year Hong Kong 2007 by Asian Banking & Finance Magazine; and also last year's Hong Kong Awards For Industries: Productivity and Quality from the Hong Kong Productivity Council. Citic Ka Wah was the only banking institution that has been awarded in this particular category.


Taken from Career Times 07 March 2008
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