Although uncertainties in the US sub-prime crisis have led to market jitters around the globe, Hong Kong's banking and financial sector remains robust, with a positive outlook for domestic growth.
David Lam, deputy chief executive, Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited (BOCHK), sees Hong Kong as a sophisticated international financial centre where markets are intricately linked to innovation in global capital markets.
"Over the years, we have built a mature investment environment with diversified vehicles, products and services. The local market is full of smart investors, who have experienced the ups and downs and now maintain more balanced portfolios in their financial planning," Mr Lam points out.
As a result of its strong links with financial centres in the world, particularly with mainland China, Hong Kong has become a golden gateway for China related investments. With free flow of capital and information, it has played an uplifting role in the mainland's orderly capital movement through measures such as the QDII (qualified domestic institutional investor), which allows mainland investors to invest in overseas equities.
In addition, Hong Kong's sophisticated stock market provides a wide spectrum of investment choices in terms of sector exposure and product variety for both local and foreign investors.
"On the whole, the superior infrastructure, market access and our pool of financial experts have distinguished us as an outstanding international investment platform. Being a magnet for high net worth individuals and attracting capital flow from the region will continue to bring us significant prospects," Mr Lam notes.
In response to this market buoyancy, Hong Kong's banking and financial industry has been nurturing talent pools to guarantee its long-term success and capitalise on thriving investment trends.
BOCHK considers high quality staff the basic building blocks for exceptional financial service. Therefore, the bank places a strong emphasis on staff training and development and offers comprehensive, professional training programmes to equip its financial planning staff with the skills to handle changes in an ever-evolving market.
Learning opportunities are also abundant, as a result of joint efforts by the bank and the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB). The curriculum includes the Certified Financial Management ProfessionalTM (CFMPTM) examination programme, customer relationship management skills and branch service management courses.
"Wealth management can be a lucrative job. Besides monetary rewards, the right people will also find an unobstructed career ladder which begins with relationship manager through to wealth management consultant, then investment consultant, and finally private banker," Mr Lam remarks.
"Working in financial planning is a tough job, though. It is easy to enter the field but it takes a lot to excel as competition is keen," he stresses.
One of the fundamentals for career success in the industry is genuine interest, according to Mr Lam. This is a powerful motivator which helps people acquire the necessary qualifications to enter the profession and subsequently decipher investments, insurance and other financial products.
In addition, lifelong learning is a must for financial planners to keep pace with the professional status quo. As in any people industry, financial planners need to know what is happening and how societal issues are related to customer demands.
"While we try to attain the highest returns for every client, we must balance the risks and comply with the code of ethics at all times. Good financial planners therefore need strong communication skills to explain why and how a portfolio is formulated," Mr Lam notes.
To achieve this, common sense, networking skills and teamwork are also essential for financial planners. Indeed, an individual's attitude will determine which rung of the career ladder a planner reaches.
"Today, banking services are streamlined and tailored to cater for an array of client needs. To provide quality financial planning services, our financial planners must be proactive. That is, they should take the initiative to examine a comprehensive scope of services and products and recommend the most appropriate ones for customers," Mr Lam adds.
He reiterates that banking and financial players should possess an optimistic outlook for future developments which is a key to survival when confronted with unseen challenges in volatile markets.
"Our main focus is to enhance the standard in the entire industry. Whereas banks are one of the forces supporting this drive, the HKIB also plays a major role in nurturing talent, providing a platform for experience exchange and forming a professional community within the industry," Mr Lam concludes.