Money Moves

Financial planners face tough challenges

By Julia Willshire

This is a fortnightly series of articles focusing on the banking and financial industries

The financial planning sector in Hong Kong has grown rapidly, but it has not been all plain sailing. As Ben Kwong, director of KGI Securities (HK) Co Ltd notes, "The overall business environment and the demand for increased professionalism have posed major challenges in recent years."

The industry has become highly competitive as the main players chase new business opportunities while, at the same time, having to manage corporate expansion and cope with the introduction of new products. "Another factor is that, nowadays, customers are better educated. They expect their advisers to offer a high quality of service and financial solutions which match their personal needs," Mr Kwong explains.

In order to survive and thrive, a company must constantly improve. This can only be done by keeping pace with the market, ensuring salespeople have up-to-date product knowledge, and enhancing the quality of customer service.

"The company's internal structure must be geared towards better cost control and being effective in a competitive environment," says Mr Kwong. "The range and type of investment products also has to be expanded and reviewed constantly to better serve customers' needs." He adds that close monitoring of levels of customer satisfaction and of the sales team's professional abilities is also pivotal to corporate development.

In Mr Kwong's view, the financial planning industry is all about people. Therefore, maintaining good relationships with customers is the top priority in guaranteeing a company's long-term success. Excellent interpersonal skills are, not surprisingly, a prerequisite for anyone interested in landing a job in the sector.

"The profession has grown from being one-dimensional to being multi-dimensional," Mr Kwong says. "Customers now require a lot from financial planners and the market requires a lot more. These are the challenges we face but, if you are good at what you do, you will be able to convert them into opportunities."

Taken from Career Times 17 September 2004, p. 2
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