Many professionals in the banking and finance sector start their career in a frontline position, but Anne Lee chose a different route which, she believes, has given her a better all-round knowledge of the industry.
Now a senior manager at Standard Chartered, Ms Lee oversees branches and priority banking centres in Central, Wan Chai and Tsim Sha Tsui. Her responsibilities involve business management of the branches, covering operations, staff supervision and generating sales revenue.
"I began in a support role," Ms Lee says. "The experience I gained there in managing operation risk, improving service quality and processes, and business planning has been a real advantage in my current sales management role."
Though not bound by a strict daily routine, Ms Lee has found that good time management is essential to ensure things get done. She begins each working day around 8am by catching up on news about world financial markets. "That's very important because customers expect us to be knowledgeable about the latest trends and movements," she says.
Departmental and other meetings follow, which are usually related to sales and services. There are also weekly branch visits to fit into the schedule. "Getting to know the staff and about their work is one way I can show support and encouragement," she says. "It is not enough just to have regular meetings with branch managers. Face-to-face contacts and compliments always work better."
The bank encourages employees to leave before 7pm, but Ms Lee finds it is often easier to talk to staff after hours. "We are simply too busy during office hours and must put clients first," she explains. Therefore, some internal meetings, particularly prior to a new product launch, are held when daily operations have been concluded.
In Ms Lee's opinions, it is important to understand customer needs, and the same principle applies whether the customer is internal or external. "It is equally important for management to understand staff needs and to offer appropriate advice," she says. "Our responsibility extends to identifying and developing talent, and we can only do that effectively by knowing our staff and gaining their trust."
Since financial planning remains a major focus in the field of consumer banking, Ms Lee devotes a substantial amount of time to building the bank's profile in this area. She can rely on a well-established product range and IT system, and can easily obtain the most up-to-date information directly from the wealth management and global market treasury teams.
"In a sizeable banking operation, it is also vital for all non-frontline staff to feel the pulse of the market and have access to the latest analysis," she says. "Our IT system also gives us an excellent platform to monitor clients' accounts."
In a bid to enhance standards of customer service, Ms Lee welcomes any kind of feedback. This can be from attending lunch meetings with customers or studying the results from data collected during customer surveys. Whatever the method, the main objective is to get a "total view" of the current situation and how the market is likely to change.
Recognising that effective leadership is one of the keys to business success, Standard Chartered has put in place a series of management and executive development programmes, with the help of leading professional institutions. As a result, Ms Lee is currently looking to obtain accreditation as a certified professional financial planner (CPFP).
This reflects her view that it is always important to look forward and plan for a better tomorrow. "The bank has offered me a lot of opportunities," she says. "I want to broaden my horizons by working in different departments and that means learning about areas that I'm not totally familiar with at the moment."
She adds that, these days, there is enormous room for career development within the banking and finance industry. Not only is the scale of operations expanding, but functions like financial planning are opening up new avenues and providing an additional option for people already working in the banking sector.
Ms Lee says that being courageous and creative has helped her to accomplish many of her career goals. She also notes that, to get ahead, it is necessary to be responsive to change. "You have to keep learning about the market situation and the company's direction in order to position yourself for career development," she says. "In the last few years, consumer banking in Hong Kong has developed rapidly, so there are opportunities and niches for people with many different types of talent."