Successful wealth management professionals understand that personal and professional integrity, as a basis for trusting relationships, is crucial in their dealings with clients.
Business ethics involve more than creating a professional impression. A professional relationship manager should carefully review the suitability of products for customers and inform them of all risks and finance charges before closing a deal, putting customers' interest before sales performance figures.
"Aside from making sure we are well groomed and act professionally, we show respect to our clients and foster a positive attitude towards our profession," says Angela Chan, vice president and senior relationship manager, Citigold Select Centre, Citibank Global Consumer Group.
Ms Chan is a finalist in the group B category of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers Outstanding Financial Management Planner Awards 2008. Participants in this segment of the competition need at least three years' work experience to enter, and Ms Chan successfully demonstrated her professional attitude, solid financial knowledge and strong presentation skills to the judges.
Citibank not only advocates integrity in training, but also requires staff to observe a comprehensive set of internal regulations. "These serve as useful guide for us to practise ethics at work," Ms Chan explains. "By following set steps and procedures, we ensure that our customers fully understand their financial portfolio."
Values and knowledge
While the bank sets internal standards regarding staff dress code and presentation in order to reflect its professional image, Ms Chan believes it is important for her to uphold her own personal moral values and principles.
"We need to possess sufficient financial knowledge and extend that of other fields to facilitate better customer communications," Ms Chan points out. She likes to pursue extramural studies and is enrolled in language courses and subjects related to professional qualification programmes. She also enjoys reading self-improvement books, believing it helps her strengthen her relationship building skills. "We all want to be successful, but it can be difficult to steer ourselves in the right direction at times. By learning from others' success stories, it helps me to fill in the gaps," she notes.
Taking part in the highly competition constituted a strong learning curve for Ms Chan, who found that the experience helped her improve her performance in several aspects. She says, "The competition is demanding in the sense that the judges are looking for all-rounded professionals. This gave me the opportunity to focus on stretching my potential to the full."
Ms Chan and her colleagues are sensitive to their clients' financial privacy and so avoid asking intrusive questions, but instead gaining information in a tactful way. "I have good communication skills, and my customers also appreciate the fact that I am sophisticated enough to handle complicated financial issues," she says, noting that customers trust financial planners who are sincere and have a sense of responsibility regarding their investment decisions and plans.
A proactive personality and a positive attitude are indispensible when communicating with customers. Professional financial planners should also take the initiative in providing customers with relevant market updates.
"For instance, people with mortgages are always interested in news on interest rates, while parents like to be informed about the various options regarding managing assets for their children or inheritance issues," Ms Chan remarks.
Not only do customers welcome positive thinking, but it is also a powerful motivator that helps frontline professionals to maintain quality service even when facing difficulties or customer complaints, she adds.
This is particularly important for wealth management professionals in a highly volatile financial market. "It is normal for the markets to experience ups and downs. Although the economic downturn is depressing, I maintain a hopeful outlook for the future, because the current troughs must at some point be followed by peaks," Ms Chan stresses. "As such, it is our job to help customers find solutions and to remain positive."